I have to be honest: boredom isn’t something I’ve personally experienced in a long time. With a full-time job, running my own business (which often becomes a second full-time job), writing for various online outlets, cohosting a weekly podcast, and – oh yeah – being a father and husband, I don’t come across very much “down time.” I’m sure there are more than a few of you out there who can relate.
Still, it’s nice to sometimes slow down and have something on hand to decompress or make the quiet times a bit more enjoyable. And I think we can all agree that it’s always nice to have something on hand to give the kiddos when they suddenly decide that they’re “soooo booooored,” even though they have a house full of stuff.
Here, then, is a roundup of several recent books that can mostly be classified as “activity books,” but they all break the mold in some way and become a bit more special than your run-of-the-mill sticker book.
I don’t know precisely when adult coloring books became a “thing,” but they seem to be everywhere now. So I suppose it’s only fitting to start off with a few “adult coloring books” that have widespread geeky appeal. And it doesn’t get more geeky than this. These Harry Potter books are a surefire way to please any Potterphile, and – as with most of this new wave of adult coloring books – the images are gorgeous and incredibly detailed. So if you (or your kids) have an insatiable urge to break out the colored pencils and bring to life Hogwarts, Hermione, the Weasley home, Dobby, the Merpeople, Griphook, or dozens of other characters, creatures, or places from the Wizarding World….then these are most definitely the books for you. The final few pages of each book also feature photos and concept art from the films “to inspire your creativity.”
In a similar vein, The Little Prince Coloring Book is also primarily geared toward an adult audience, but artistically inclined kids should also get a kick out of it. The images are a bit less detailed than in the Harry Potter books – almost to the point that you might get away with calling them minimalist. The illustrations are all based on and derived from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s originals. There are a lot of repeated patterns and half-finished pictures here. In other words, there’s lots of white space for you to fill. Most pages also feature lines from the book, which lends a poetic feel to the book that most coloring books lack.
Targeting a decidedly younger audience than the previous coloring books, these new titles shout their intention on the cover: Never be bored again! And they’re pretty much perfect in the hands of a 5-8 year old. Imagine a mashup of a freeform doodle book, Dr. Seuss’s My Book About Me, Mad Libs, a traditional activity book, and a comic book…and you’re in the ballpark. These books sort of defy an easy description except to say that they’re all kinds of fun. Perfect for lazy afternoons, roadtrips, and restaurants, the Super Monsta Friends books are some of our new favorite standbys. They don’t just encourage kids to get creative; each page pretty much pulls the creativity out of them by default. With lots and lots of giggles.
This one is more of a typical doodle book (which we LOVE), but the illustrations are provided by 43 different artists – so each page presents a new style. This keeps the entire book fresh for kids and also inspires them to think of artistic approaches that they might not otherwise use. That monster family in need of new hairdos might require a simple pencil sketch. The baby alien missing a spaceship? That might call for watercolors. And finger paints might be broken out to create a beast’s dancing buddy. Doodle books are my favorite evolution of the traditional coloring book, and this one has some seriously good art to fire up kids’ imaginations.
Finally, this slim volume is perfect for kids who might be intrigued by the abstract images found in modern art. In addition to some fun activities, the book introduces kids to several modern and contemporary artists (and their work): Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dali, Henri Matisse, Alice Neel, Yves Klein, Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha, Sophie Calle, Ellen Gallagher, and Meschac Gaba. The activities associated with each artist encourage kids to expand their minds and imagination and try to create art in the style of that artist. For example, create a collage of familiar objects in unusual combinations to evoke Dali, or mix your own colors and paint whole pieces of paper a single color to follow in Matisse’s footsteps. The book mostly presents ideas and suggestions, but for kids who are bent toward modern art and artists they might find in a museum, this little book is filled with great ideas.
Need more arts and crafts? Check out this Stack Overflow column.
(Disclosure: GeekDad received review copies of these books. All opinions remain our own.)