Remember Mad Libs from your childhood? These make-your-own-silly-stories for ages 8 and up are still being published after more than 35 years. And now there’s Mad Libs Junior, for young readers ages 5 to 8, with themes younger children will recognize: Candy Land, My Little Pony, Curious George and Scooby-Doo. Kids can play by themselves or with others, all the while getting a refresher lesson in parts of speech.
A creative activity called Crayola Color Explosion takes the old scratch-art concept, removes the flaking and the mess, and leaves the magic appeal of color bursting through black paper. The set comes with a stencil, three markers and a resealable storage bag. Ages 6 and up.
Klutz, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, makes dozens of engaging activity books for the preschool set and beyond. My 6-year-old daughter has spent our last couple road trips enjoying Kids Travel: A Backseat Survival Kit. It’s chock full of games, puzzles, mysteries, quizzes, trivia and art projects for ages 6 and up. New this spring is Made You Look: A Book of Puzzling Pictures with hidden pictures, matching games, needle-in-a-haystack searches, mystery photos and more for ages 8 and up. The Chicken Socks series is for children as young as 4; especially portable books are Crayon Rubbings, Hand Art and Amazing Lacing.
The makers of Cranium came up with a creative card game that can be learned in five minutes and played in just ten. Action-packed Zigity is fortwo or more players and features twist and turns so you never know who’s about to win. The cool see-through cards are stored in a collectible tin—perfect for tossing in a carry-on bag. Ages 8 and up.
With Brain Quest, kids have a ball showing what they know and learning what they don’t. Each colorful pack of cards, held together with a grommet in one corner, offers several dozen curriculum-based, grade-appropriate questions and answers. Readers can play on their own; preschoolers with mom, dad or an older sibling. Purchase by the age (picture-based cards are for kids as young as 2) or by the theme. I particularly like Brain Quest for the Car, for ages 7 to 12, with a whopping 1,100 questions to help keep kids engaged for hours!
I adore the Mudpuppy travel products; their gorgeously illustrated magnetic play scenes and dress-up dolls are pleasing to the eye and they typically depict multi-cultural images. My Travel Journal for ages 7 and up is a colorful, spiral-bound notebook with 100+ pages for children to fill in blanks about their trip: “Today I did this…” or “The funniest thing that happened was…” Engaging and educational mazes, crossword puzzles, word jumbles and more help keep children occupied, too.
Spin the wheel, move your spaceships and collect probes on this magnetic travel game called Space Orbit 9 by eeBoo. When I pulled this slim game board out of my magic bag on a recent trip, my husband pointed out with a quick current-events lesson that our universe now has 8 planets, since Pluto got demoted. Nevertheless, the kids (ages 4 and 6) and I had fun playing it, and the activity certainly saved the day as we had to pass a good hour as we waited for a delayed plane to arrive. Available at Madallie.com, a fabulous online store with dozens of travel products—from gear to games—for kids of all ages.