Inside: Are your kids bored? Solve two things at once — get your kids reading and engaging in creative and independent play with these fun books!
Are your kids bored yet? Research shows it’s good to be a little bored (too much boredom may be a signal of a deeper need). Being bored is actually one of the normal resting states of the brain that we have become unused to in the age of screens and digital devices that we use to fill every ‘down’ moment.
Boredom is a necessary state before flow — that magical state when your kids delve into something and are completely engaged in it for a significant amount of time. That kind of play is where kids should be spending most of their time.
I love all of those. We have a bored jar and we create a family summer bucket list. Sometimes, though, kids need a little extra inspiration (don’t we all?), to truly get into a state of creative flow and independent play.
That’s where books come in. Books are the antithesis to boredom in and of themselves, but what if they could also inspire your kids to create something, do a project, or go on an adventure?
I’ve divided the books into categories based on the ideas the books could inspire. You don’t need all of these books — may be one from each section or a few in two sections that you know your kids would really love. Some of these books are geared towards younger kids and some are geared towards older kids. While I do include a few activity books, most of these books are stories that will spark your child’s own creativity and imagination.
51 Children’s Books to Inspire Creativity and Independent Play
Books about Creating with a Cardboard Box
Everyone knows a box is not just a box and that kids prefer the box to what was inside the box. We have a huge box that hangs in our garage that has been built on for years. Currently, it is something between a robot and a rocket ship.
Give your child one of these books and a cardboard box and see what happens. As one reviewer of A Box Can Be Many Things said, “Great book to inspire creative play. Be sure to have a large box available before you give the book to your child. They will immediately want to go and build something. Easy to read for my kindergarten granddaughter. Kept her interest and then inspired a whole afternoon of play.”
Cardboard Creations: Open-Ended Exploration with Recycled MaterialsI Am Not a Cereal Box: 10 Exciting Things to Make with Cereal BoxesWhat To Do With a BoxNot a BoxA Box Can Be Many ThingsBoxChristina Katerina and the BoxBig Box for Ben
Books About Drawing with Chalk
Inspire your kids to get creative on the sidewalk with one of these books and a box of sidewalk chalk. As one reviewer states about Chalk, “This is an adorable story. Love the sparkle in children’s eyes as their imagination soars with ideas to draw with sidewalk chalk after reading this book.”
ChalkSidewalk Chalk: Outdoor Fun and GamesChalk on the Wild Side: More than 25 chalk art projects, recipes, and creative activities for adults and children to explore togetherAmelia Bedelia Chalks One UpThe Chalk Box KidHieroglyphs
Books About Building Things
With the right inspiration, kids can spend hours building. Some of the benefits linked to playing with blocks are boosts in language development, spatial skills, math skills, divergent thinking, and social skills.
There isn’t a more open-ended toy that invites children to create whole worlds. These books are great for sparking some ideas for world-creation in your child. And for extra fun, take the blocks outside for a day.
As one reviewer of Dreaming Up, states “This was a great book to encourage children to build their own creations. The pictures that showed buildings that were like the children’s models serve as an inspiration to imagine and that dreams and creations can become realities.”
Books About Daydreaming and Imagination
Sometimes in summer or on vacation or quarantine when the days start to meld together, you feel as if you suddenly found more time. And in those slow hours, you start to let your mind wander.
These books help your kids get excited to simply let their imaginations guide their days. As one reviewer of Inside my Imagination states, “This beautiful book is sure to stimulate a child’s own creativity, and help her to believe that she can be whoever she wants to be.”
Books About the Backyard
“Go outside and play!” Those could be the best four words you could say to your kids. Because outside is where kids need to be (and we should join them because we can benefit too).
These books will help to inspire some magical backyard adventures — whether it be a fairy hunt, birdwatching, or building — adventure awaits just a step outside our door. As one reviewer states about Look Up! ” It was fun to read it to the kids and then make toilet paper binoculars that they take outside and can look for the birds in the book.”
Books About Drawing and Creating with Paper
Kids love to draw, cut, and create with paper. One of the easiest and best “gathering” activities we did with our scout troop this year was putting down a pile of colored paper and few paper airplanes on a table. When the scouts arrived they were instantly drawn to the table, folding, throwing and creating. The whole meeting could have been about paper airplanes!
As one reviewer states about Snippets, “We spent more than 2 hours cutting, coloring, talking, and laughing! The next day, and the following, and the following, for almost a month now, my son has started to build a whole Snippet City (seriously, I need to vacuum now!). A city complete with walls, houses, fire station, zoo, bridges, trees, roads, even signs. My son has gone crazy creative–and all he needed was paper, crayons, scissors, and…well…some time with mom!”
The Kids’ Book of Paper Love: Write. Craft. Play. Share.Snippets: A story about paper shapesHenri’s ScissorsLines That WiggleI’m NOT just a Scribble…Let’s Make Comics!: An Activity Book to Create, Write, and Draw Your Own Cartoons
Related: Books that Inspire Your Child to Become a Problem Solver, a Critical Thinker, and Change the World
Books About Having a Lemonade Stand
There is nothing quite so quintessentially summer as making lemonade and making a lemonade stand. And it’s a great learning activity too. Sugar, lemons, and sunshine = instant memories. These books will help inspire your kids to make their lemonade stand a reality. (I originally wrote this list as a summer book list and lemonade stands aren’t really appropriate right now — unless — you did them in your house on a smaller scale. That could be a fun afternoon activity).
As one reviewer writes about The Lemonade Stand, “My daughter adores this book and has been having fun this summer creating recipes to sell in her own lemonade stand. A fabulous book to get kids working and earning!”
The Lemonade Stand Cookbook: Step-by-Step Recipes and Crafts for Kids to Make…and Sell!When Grandma Gives You a Lemon TreeLemonade StandPeg + Cat: The Lemonade ProblemThe Berenstain Bears’ Lemonade StandOLIVIA Opens a Lemonade StandAwesome Adventures of the Lemonade BoysAlex and The Amazing Lemonade Stand
Books about Summer
And finally, here are some books that are simply about summer — which is inspiring in its own right. Summer goes by all too quickly, especially with kids. These books are a good reminder to soak it in and be mindful of the season (again I wrote this originally about summertime, but these could still be fun to read and dream away about summer while we are all stuck at home).
I wrote this to inspire kids to find their inner creativity and to play independently, but I hope you will be inspired to slow down, savor, and be creative right alongside your kids.