I’ve found that this time of year is often when my wanderlust kicks in hard. I yearn to be somewhere else, exploring new places, eating new foods, and learning new things. And I’ve found the same to be true in my kids. Whether it’s long car rides over the holidays, roadtrips taken to warmer climates, or plans for travel in the coming year, winter is often when we – as a family – get a touch of cabin fever and need to escape.
So if the same is true for you, then this week’s Stack Overflow column has you (or, rather, your kids) in mind. Most of these books are perfectly suited to long roadtrips and lazy afternoons alike. They’ll all scratch the itch caused by the travel bug. And they also make great holiday gifts.
The Cities Book (Lonely Planet Kids)
Lonely Planet Kids makes some of the best travel-related books for kids (as evidenced by the number of titles on this list). Just as their guidebooks are some of the most reliable books for everyone from families to shoestring backpackers to and luxury vacationers, their relatively new Kids imprint really appeals to the inner world traveler in even the youngest members of the family. The Cities Book follows on the heels of their phenomenal The Travel Book, but it obviously has a somewhat narrower focus. The oversized book travels through 86 cities around the world and is jam-packed with photos, facts, and interesting tidbits about everything from famous and funny landmarks, unique holidays and festivals, city-specific foods and treats, and amazing places to explore. Every page is gorgeous, and this book is guaranteed to inspire wanderlust and curiosity among your kids.
Under Earth, Under Water by Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinski (Big Picture Press)
Don’t let this image fool you; this book is huge. It’s divided in half, so begin from one end to explore the mysteries of the underwater world. Begin from the other end to dig underground and see what’s in store. From one end, kids will learn about sinkholes, scuba diving, deep-sea fish, offshore oil drilling, shipwrecks, and the ocean floor. From the other end, they’ll learn about edible roots, underground utilities, subway tunnels, archaeological remains, and Earth’s layers. Packed with fascinating information and beautiful illustrations, this book captured my heart because almost every spread includes cutaway views and cross-sections…which I adore.
LEGO Factastic: A LEGO Adventure in the Real World (Scholastic)
LEGO books recently entered the world of nonfiction books, and they’ve made quite a splash. Using the minifigures to teach kids about the real world is actually kind of genius. Factastic is the biggest of the bunch (so far) and covers a wide range of topics, from science and technology to history and nature. Kids can explore ancient civilizations (and the remains still found in places such as Egypt, China, and Italy), far-flung corners of the globe, inventions and tech that have shaped life on the planet, and important explorers and scientists who have made it all possible. And LEGO minifigs are there as our guides. If you have LEGO-obsessed kids, this is a great way to help them explore the wonders of our world.
My Travel Journal (Lonely Planet Kids)
So you’re actually on an adventure with the kids. They’re definitely going to want to record some of their thoughts and experiences. This travel journal is perfect for roadtrips, long plane rides, weekend excursions in the woods, and every kind of adventure in between. Kids are prompted and encourages to draw and write about their most exciting moments, the food they ate, the people they met, the places they saw, and what made them “giggle, gasp, or groan.” What made you smile today? What are the strangest things you’ve seen on a menu this trip? How are you going to make sure your journey is fun-filled, not dullsville? Grab one for each kid, each trip, and then keep them as incredible memories of your family adventures.
My Family Travel Map (Lonely Planet Kids)
This one’s for kids or families that have a few more miles under their feet. It’s a world map to which kids can add stickers that chart their travels. Been here! I live here! Going here soon! What mode of transportation did you use while there? What was the weather like? What wildlife did you see? It comes with more than 180 stickers, so kids can really fill out the map. The flip side of the map is filled with facts an information about each country! Even if you haven’t traveled internationally or been to a wide range of places, kids can still use the map and facts as inspiration (perhaps paired with The Cities Book or The Travel Book) so make a “bucket list” of places they’d like to visit someday.
Boredom Buster: Games for the Road (Lonely Planet Kids)
On the road again? Maybe it’s just a quick weekend trip or a few hours to grandma’s house. Not a big enough trip for the travel journal, but the kids still need something to keep them occupied? Let Boredom Buster come to your aid. Really, this book should just be kept in the car at all times. It’s packed with games, story starters, conversation ideas, puzzles, riddles, and solitaire activities. Put this one into their hands, and you’re not likely to hear those four dreaded words anytime soon: Are we there yet?
100 Things to Know Before You Grow Up (National Geographic Kids)
Long trips and books of interesting facts go together like peanut butter and jelly. Not every kid wants to dive into a novel or listen to an audiobook for hours on end. I get that. National Geographic Kids is fantastic for these kinds of books. Their Weird but True books are a phenomenon for a reason. This book, which forms a sort of partner to 100 Things to Do Before You Grow Up, is a great way to pass the time, get inspired, and learn a few things in the process. Spend a few hours in the car (or on a plane), and they might come away knowing how to fold origami, pump gas, write a check, resolve conflict peacefully, tie basic knots, identify a planet in the night sky, be a critical thinker, or respond when someone hurts your feelings. As you can see, the range of topics is impressive, and almost all of them truly are things every kid should know how to do by at least middle school.
125 True Stories of Amazing Animals (National Geographic Kids)
For some kids, there’s no better way to explore the world than with animals. And this collection of true stories from animals around the world fits the bill. Kids learn about pig athletes in Russia, a squirrel raised by a dog in Seattle, a brave mother orangutan in Malaysia, and an incredibly friendly boar in the Bahamas – along with more than 120 others! Packed with photos and plenty of “Wow! Did you know…?” moments, this book is another great addition to the travel bag.