It’s vacation time. If they haven’t yet, parents soon will be hearing the all-too-familiar “What can we do?” or “Are we there yet?” These books can help answer those questions. Some of them are good for activities close to home; others can be used on longer car trips.
THIS IS THE VAN THAT DAD CLEANED, by Lisa Campbell Ernst, Simon & Schuster, $15.95; ages 3-7.
Although the dad in this book cleans the van because it needs to be done, the story also applies to getting ready for vacation. The tale tells how dad cleans the van and the children get it messy again with french fries, ketchup and last year’s candy corn. The story ends with the kids cleaning the van. It would be fun, as you travel, to write your own version of how the van gets cluttered. You might also want to try other books by this author. I especially enjoyed Stella Louella’s Runaway Book.
FROG’S JUNGLE ADVENTURE and MEET THE WORDTHINGS, by Jacqui Moody Luther, illustrated by Paul Nicholls and Richard Codor, Running Press, $9.95 each; ages 4-8.
As you follow the animals through each of these rhyming stories, you can spell out words using the magnetic letters to fill in the spots on each page. The letters are stored in a plastic box attached to the side of each book. Most of the words are animals or are related to transportation.
SANDCASTLE IN A BOX, by Ted Siebert, illustrated by Mark Fputzman, Running Press, $12.95; ages 5 and up.
Is a trip to the beach part of your summer plans? Siebert is a professional and award-winning sand sculptor. He includes many suggestions on how to build better sandcastles. A tool bag is included, which contains a cylinder and cone for the tops of the castle. To smooth out the edges, a palette knife and brush are used. Siebert, who lives in northwest suburban Woodstock, also gives a few helpful reminders, such as to bring sunscreen and to remember to build your creations far enough away from the water so the tide doesn’t wash out your hard work. Instructions are also included for projects at home. Don’t forget your shovel and sand pail—and have fun.
LITHGOW PALOOZAS! BOREDOM BLASTERS: TRAVEL EDITION and RAINY DAY EDITION, by John Lithgow, illustrated by Adam McCauley, Running Press, $14.95 each; ages 8-12.
Actor-author John Lithgow explains that a “Palooza” is a “whole bunch of ideas to noodle with.” Using your imagination and a few supplies, you can create some fun. Besides the supplies in the kit, it is also recommended you bring paper, pencils, pens, crayons, dice and cards. One example of a Palooza is to make up a list of items everyone can watch for as they travel: cows, a cemetery, a moving van, someone sleeping and so on. Check off items as you see them. Several variations of alphabet search games are also included here. And besides looking for letters on license plates, how about finding items along the route that begin with every letter of the alphabet? A family will be able to travel a great distance before it exhausts all the ideas in this book.
THE FAMILY CAR : HUNDREDS OF MILES OF FUN!, edited by Greg Jones, illustrated by Michael Gelen, Running Press, $12.95; ages 6 and up.
The playlist includes music for 33 folk tunes—19 of them are on the accompanying CD. Many of the songs have more verses than we ever learned, such as “Yankee Doodle” with 12. You may be tired of the song by the time you get to the end of that one.
NATURE EXPLORER: DISCOVER AMAZING BUGS AND PLANTS IN YOUR YARD AND BEYOND!, by Paul Sterry, Running Press, $19.95; ages 8 and up.
Whether you walk along the seashore or a nearby pond, in the forest or your own backyard, you can find bugs, plants and animals. The book gives the reader ideas of what to look for in seven different habitats. Tools are included to gather mud, grass and water to investigate for living organisms. Don’t forget to listen and observe how sounds vary in each location.
SUMMER CAMP MAD LIBS JUNIOR, by Roger Price and Leonard Stern, Price Stern Sloan, $3.99; ages 8-10.
Is there a camper in your family? Pack this book in her suitcase for a fun activity during afternoon rest time. The tablet contains 21 different camp stories. The camper can fill in the blanks for each story from the list of words on the top page. A symbol appears under each blank space to distinguish whether a noun, adjective or verb should be used.
LICENSE PLATES ACROSS THE STATES: AND OTHER TRAVEL PUZZLES AND GAMES, by Tony Tallarico, cover and sticker illustrations by Cameron Eagle, Penguin Books, $4.99; ages 9-12.
Bring along a pencil or two and have fun with puzzles, including word searches, mazes, trivia questions and games about the 50 states. The center page is a map of the United States with license plate stickers to place on each state as the plates are seen on cars while traveling. Answers are included on the last page just in case you get stuck. The inside covers are blank—a good place to write down words from fun vanity plates. Tony Tallarico also has many books similar to the Where’s Waldo? series that could keep kids busy.
Judy Belanger is a retired elementary learning resource center teacher who lives with her husband in Addison. They have two grown children and four grandchildren. She continues to substitute in grades K-6 in the school where she taught.
Let us plan your weekend with the best family events and activities in Chicagoland.
Start the week right with deals, prizes, parent life hacks and more delivered straight to your inbox.
Need last-minute ideas for a weekend of family fun? No worries. We've got you.
Get the inside scoop on the people, places and things we are loving right now.
Resources, tips, inspiration and more for parents of children with special needs.
Score exclusive offers from our fabulous advertisers.