If you are familiar with The Little Learning Hub, I am sure you’ll know that at the centre of everything is a regular Mom (me!), just trying to do the best for my son. We were due to go away on holiday a few weeks ago and I wanted to grab an activity book to take with me. I had packed a ton of Little Learning Hub Activities and our busy book, but I wanted a back up that could live forever in our ‘restaurant’ bag. As a side note, if you don’t have one, the idea is to put a few colouring pens, a book or two, we have a spinning top in ours and so on. It lives in the car and only ever comes out when we are heading into a restaurant. It prevents us relying on screens and keeps meal times running smoothly.
I headed onto a large online retailer, I am sure you can guess which one, but I was – quite simply – horrified by what I found. I cannot tell you how many top ranking books I found that were aimed at preschool/reception aged children and yet had activities that were in no way age appropriate. Some, had activities which were not only teaching the wrong thing, but were actually teaching old and outdated strategies. Others were just page after page of ‘copy this letter a hundred times’… and what child ever wants to do that?!
Ultimately, I decided that none of the options I could find would be suitable for Arlo, so I decided to create my own. As you know, I would only ever publish an activity I would use with my own son, so I got started creating something I knew he would love!
It has been a really hard process, with a ton of learning curves along the way, but I am genuinely proud of the final result. It is a book that focuses only on skills from the curriculum (so you know your child is getting exactly what they need) with activities that are bright, inviting and simple to complete (so it feels more like fun than work!).
To celebrate the release of my book, 75 Activities For Kids (click here to view the UK edition or click here to view the USA edition), I have written this blog post to hopefully help other parents choose a good quality book for their child. It is particularly important because, if a book teaches your child an outdated method for example, undoing that can be significantly more difficult than you might think. It really is important we only ever give them an activity book for kids that suits the curriculum and the current teaching methods.
Here are 10 things to look out for!
Look for age-appropriate content
The biggest issue I found when searching for a book was the sheer number of books which in no way related to the age range they were aimed at. I even found one preschool book for 3-5 year olds which contained division sums! When searching for a book, you need to be aware of exactly which skills your child should be learning. If you are a Little Learning Hub member, you can consult the Development Toolkit (click here) to find exactly which skills your child needs. Otherwise, it would be worth talking to your child’s teacher or Googling ‘Year 3 curriculum’ for example.
You need to make sure that any book you choose is only covering the topics your child will be taught. This is because, while it probably is possible to teach formal division to a 5 year old, it would bypass the foundational skills they need and so the fundamental understanding will be missing. This leads to huge difficulties as the maths concepts get more difficult throughout primary school.
If in doubt, always ensure that the book has been written by a qualified teacher, such as myself.
Check the learning strategies
Another important consideration is the way in which these skills are taught. If your book does have the correct curriculum skills, are they taught in the same way your child will be taught at school?
I am sure we have all seen or heard of parents trying to help their child with their homework, only to find that the method they use is now completely different from what they were taught at school.
I have come across this a few times in my career and let me tell you, trying to get a child to unlearn something and relearn a different way is so difficult and something that is to be avoided at all costs!
Again, if in doubt, speak to a teacher on the current methods used!
Consider the book's format
The format of the book is also important. Is it a workbook that requires writing and drawing? Or is it a more interactive book that uses puzzles and fun activities? Different children have different learning styles, so it’s important to choose a format that your child will enjoy. Many books are just pages of writing things over and over which I have yet to find a child who enjoys. In my experience, a child will learn more effectively if the activities are fun and have a purpose.
Look for books with diverse topics
Children are curious by nature and love to learn about new things. Look for educational activity books that cover a range of topics. This will keep your child engaged and excited to learn. Some popular topics include science, nature, history, and geography. Choose a book that covers a topic your child is interested in.
For example, in my book, I have listed 25 English, 25 Maths and 25 Wider World Understanding activities, so your child is getting a well rounded curriculum. Don’t forget, a child continues to develop English and Maths skills through other activities, too.
Check the quality of the book
When choosing an educational activity book for children, it’s important to consider the quality of the book. Look for books that are well-made with durable pages and binding. The book should be able to withstand the wear and tear of regular use. Check the quality of the paper and make sure that the colours are bright and vivid. A good quality book will not only last longer but will also be more enjoyable for your child to use.
Read reviews and ratings
You might be tempted to look for books that have high ratings and positive reviews. Reading reviews can give you a better idea of what to expect from the book and can help you make an informed decision, however be aware that many of the people reviewing the book will not be educators themselves and therefore, they may be unaware of issues we have already discussed such as incorrect methods or topics used.
Choose books with clear instructions
Instructions are an important part of any educational activity book. Look for books that have clear and concise instructions which help kids understand the task. The instructions should be easy to follow and understand. If the instructions are too complicated, your child may become frustrated and lose interest in the activity. Make sure that the instructions are appropriate for your child’s age and skill level. Of course, for younger children, you may need to read the instructions to them but they should still be short and concise, so your child can remember them easily.
Consider the cost
The cost of the book is also an important consideration. Educational activity books can range in price from those available in the pound shop to £20 or more. Consider your budget when choosing a book. Keep in mind that a higher price does not always mean better quality. Look for books that offer good value for the price and remember that it is worth paying a little more to get a book written by an educator as you are benefiting from their years of knowledge and experience.
Choose books that encourage creativity
Finally, look for educational activity books that encourage creativity. These books should provide opportunities for your child to think outside the box and come up with their own ideas. This can help your child develop important problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Look for books that include open-ended activities or prompts that allow your child to express themselves creatively. These types of activities can be especially beneficial for children who may struggle with more structured activities.
Take your child's interests into account
Lastly, take your child’s interests into account when choosing an educational activity book. If your child is interested in animals, choose a book that focuses on animal science or wildlife. If your child is interested in art, choose a book that includes art activities. By choosing a book that aligns with your child’s interests, they will be more motivated to learn and engage with the content. If you want to encourage your child to gain experience in a range of topics, provide books that cover a range of topics in one.
In conclusion, choosing a good quality educational activity book for your child requires careful consideration. Look for books that are age-appropriate, have clear learning objectives, and come in a format that suits your child’s learning style. Check the quality of the book, read reviews and ratings, and choose a book that offers good value for the price. Look for books that encourage creativity, cover diverse topics, and align with your child’s interests.
By choosing the right educational activity book, you can help your child learn and grow while having fun.
75 Activities For Kids
Plus, as a thank you, I will be sending a personalised activity book to anyone who leaves me a review! Simply send a screenshot of your review to firstname.lastname@example.org along with your child’s name and I will send you your FREE personalised bundle!