Activity books for long journeys and school holidays

We’ve a week’s holiday from school coming up and will be travelling around the country visiting family, and this means we’ve several multi-hour journeys ahead of us. Journeys are my favourite time for enjoying stories and our bags always include:

  • our mp3 player loaded up with a new audiobook and some old favourites, along with a splitter, so both children can listen at the same time should they wish to
  • a couple of new magazines or comics
  • an activity book or two for busy fingers

  • Favourite audiobooks include the How to train your Dragon series, voiced by David “former Dr Who” Tennant, enriched with great music and sound effects, David Walliams reading his own stories (not surprisingly, he does really funny voices), and Tony “Baldrick” Robinson’s Theseus and Odysseus. New for our next journey will be The Silver Brumby by Elyne Mitchell (thanks to @HawthornPressUK for the recommendation).

    As we subscribe to several magazines and comics at home, reading choices for the train are made from what is available in the station newsagents so that the kids get to try something they wouldn’t have at home. Often they’ll chose a wildlife, craft or archaeology magazine. Technically these may be marketed for adults, but they are often much more engaging than those aimed at kids as they have more content, fewer adverts and less “plastic crap” on the front (a bonus from my point of view).

    When looking for activity books to take on journeys my first port of call is always the online shops of museums and art galleries; generally speaking these are good sources of slightly more unusual or quirky activity books. This holiday I’ll be taking DoodleFlip Dress-Up by Hennie Haworth, Stickyscapes London by Robert Samuel Hanson, and also Stickyscapes Paris by Malika Favre.

    activitybooks

    DoodleFlip Dress-Up is a mix and match, lift the flap fashion colouring-in book. There’s lot to choose from; maybe your creation will have the legs of a ballerina, the floaty dress of a hippy, the accessories of a pirate and the helmet of an astronaut (all figures are female). Prompts suggest ideas for filling several blank flaps with your own designs.

    doodleflipinside

    Whilst advertised as 3+, I think the style of illustration will appeal to much older children (say 8+); the designs are quite detailed and relatively small and also look more sophisticated than many colouring-in illustrations aimed at young children.

    The two Stickyscapes books are great fun. They are large concertina style fold out cityscapes of the two cities, and come with lots of reusable stickers. One side of each fold-out shows the “real and present-day” city, whilst the other side depicts an “imaginary and historical” version of the city.

    londonunfolded

    There’s lots to learn and explore in both sticker books. A key to each scene is included so you can identify landmarks around the city, and the stickers (a mixture of present-day, historical and fictional people, forms of transport and items you might find on the cities’ streets) come with explanatory notes, making this much more than “just” a sticker book.

    stickernotes

    I have just one complaint about these books: The population of these cities is far more diverse than the stickers would have you believe.

    londoninhabitants

    In the London book, there are perhaps three non-white people represented (out of a total of 33 modern day inhabitants and visitors), or to put it another way 9% of the sticker book modern day population is probably not white. According to the 2011 census just over 40% of Londoners identified themselves as non-white. Comparable figures are not easily obtainable for the French capital, but I suspect the demographics of this city are not accurately represented by the stickers in the Paris book, which could be seen to suggest a 100% white population.

    parisinhabitants

    Of course these books are just a bit of fun, and some will say I’m making too much of the hard numbers. But I’d disagree. Why wouldn’t we want the illustrations of these great cities to reflect their rich, mixed populations more accurately?

    Alas we won’t be visiting either London or Paris during our travels, but at least we’ll be able to travel there in our imaginations, suitably decked out in the highest of fashion as designed by my kids! What book or story resources do you pack when you’re going on a long journey?

    Disclosure: I received the three activity books from the publisher.

    8 Responses

    1. The best family audiobook we’ve listened to is The Quigleys by Simon Mason. The kids love it. The grown ups love it. It doesn’t seem to be on audible anymore.
      http://www.amazon.co.uk/Quigleys-Simon-Mason/dp/0754065863/ref=tmm_abk_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1423726113

    2. coucou zoe !
      I confirm your speculations are right !! Paris is of course not a white city at all but a mixed city with different people and different cultures and this is precisely what we enjoy in living in it…. I feel quite upset to see the diversity is missing but the dog poo is not !! isn’t it biased ? we do not have so much dog poo around ! fortunatly !!!
      I love the doodle dress book ! Children always enjoy “cadavres exquis”, and if you add colours ! what could be better ?!
      enjoy your holidays !
      sophie.

    3. ooo love these! I’m currenly working on an actiivty book to go with my first book, these are very inspiring, so thank you!

      I’m a children’s writer/ illustrator http://www.petitelibrary.com
      Charlotte recently posted..Clean Mouse Says Happy Valentine’s !

    4. Love the idea of those Sticky Scapes – think I might invest in them for our journey to Cornwall next month.
      Mary @ Over 40 and a Mum to One recently posted..Monkey swam a width of the pool #SSAmazingAchievements

    5. Wow. These are lovely activity books… I’ll look into them!
      The Happyape recently posted..I had a little turtle song

    6. Have you tried Just William, voiced by Martin Jarvis? They are fantastically funny as well as being an interesting way into the way that (some) families lived in another era…his Winnie the Pooh audio tapes are also brilliant….

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