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Playing: Books For Kids

This list of the best kids books about playing is sure to include a new favorite for the voracious young reader in your life! From Little Hoot to Miss Fox's Class Shapes Up there's something here for everyone's tastes. Do you have a favorite book about playing? Let us know!

Little Hoot book
#1
Little Hoot
Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Jen Corace
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

It's not fair! All Little Owl wants is to go to bed at a reasonable hour, like his friends do. But Mama and Papa say little owls have to stay up late and play. So Little Owl spends all night jumping on his bed, playing on the jungle gym, and doing tricks on his skateboard—but he's hooting mad about it! Children who have a hard time going to bed will love this fun twist on the universal dilemma.

What To Do With a Box book
#2
What To Do With a Box
Written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Chris Sheban
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-8

If you give a child a box, who can tell what will happen next? It may become a library or a boat. It could set the scene for a fairy tale or a wild expedition. The most wonderful thing is its seemingly endless capacity for magical adventure, a feature imaginatively captured in cardboardesque art by Chris Sheban and rhythmically celebrated in this poetic tribute by renowned children's author Jane Yolen.

Hiding Heidi book
#3
Hiding Heidi
Written and illustrated by Fiona Woodcock
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A beautiful and enchanting story by exciting new talent Fiona Woodcock, about a little girl with an amazing gift for concealing herself. Meet Heidi—if you can find her, that is! Heidi is the best at hiding: in school, at the playground, or in the park. Heidi’s friends know how much she loves hiding, so they always let her play and win. But Heidi learns the importance of sharing the limelight with other people when being too good at hiding makes her miss all the other fun her friends are having—and how much more fun it can be when you appreciate what your friends are good at too! She learns Freddie is great at bouncing on hippity-hops, Katie is sensational at roller-skating, and Lizzie is incredible at climbing. Heidi then realizes that she has fun doing the activities her friends like, even if she isn't the best.

Let's Dance, Little Pookie book
#4
Let's Dance, Little Pookie
Written and illustrated by Sandra Boynton
board book
Recommend Ages: 1-5

Let’s do the Pookie Shimmy (Oh, yeah!) in this toe-tapping board book from the beloved and bestselling Sandra Boynton. Say hey, Little Pookie! You’re a wonder to see. Come on, my little Pookie, Won’t you dance with me? Are you ready to do the piggy-piggy shake? Then put on your snazzy sneakers and join the dance party as Little Pookie boogies to a Pookie-Pookie beat. With Sandra Boynton’s signature charm and piggy pizzazz, this fabulous story proves that every Little Pookie loves to shimmy!

I Can Be Anything book
#5
I Can Be Anything
Written by Jerry Spinelli and illustrated by Jimmy Liao
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

When I grow up, what shall I be? This exuberant book offers up everything from a paper plane folder to a puppy dog holder, from a silly joke teller to a snowball smoother. Newbery-Award winning author Jerry Spinelli's simple and charming rhymes are accompanied by internationally-renowned illustrator Jimmy Liao's vibrant and fantastical illustrations. This book is an imaginative joyride about hopes and dreams, and a reminder of all the possibilities life has to offer. So, what do you want to be? Remember—you can be anything!

  1. Are You a Cow? - Are you a COW? Are you a DOG? Are you a DUCK? Are you a FROG? A clever chicken narrates a playful inquiry in this charming and hilarious story perfect for Boynton fans new and old. As readers answer the chicken’s questions, they’ll gain animal recognition skills as well as an important understanding: No matter who we are, it’s great to just be ourselves. From the author and illustrator of such bestselling classics as Moo, Baa, La La La! and A to Z, this cheerful, witty board book is sure to delight children and parents alike with Sandra Boynton’s trademark sense of humor.

  2. A Ball for Daisy - A wordless picture book shows the fun a dog has with her ball, and what happens when it is lost.

  3. TouchThinkLearn: Wiggles - Little fingers twist and turn, zig and zag, moving on, over, and through pages filled with fluorescent die-cut dots and playful, grooved paths. This brilliant application of the groundbreaking TouchThinkLearn format compels the youngest learners to explore and engage with their world in a hands-on, multisensory way. The premise is simple: Hear an instruction, repeat its words, and playfully trace out its action. Multiple modes of perception combine to inspire and instill a deeper understanding of essential concepts and language. TouchThinkLearn: Wiggles offers a priceless way to play, read—and have fun—together!

  4. A Hop Is Up - Wiggly, giggly preschoolers will love the action in this picture book with its catchy sequence of movements and directions -- hop up, bend down, spin round, jump over -- that are endlessly fun! A young boy and his energetic puppy take a walk in their neighborhood, where they encounter and interact with lots of friends along the way! Dempsey's poetic and playful text is brought to life by Richmond's rich, kid-friendly illustrations. It all comes together for an inspired story that will have everyone on their feet!

My First ABC book
#10
My First ABC
Written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

K is for Katie and O is for her baby brother, Olly, as Shirley Hughes's beloved pair introduce ABCs in everyday settings that little ones will recognize. From airplanes high in the sky to zzzzz for sleepy time, Katie and Olly's daily pastimes offer plenty of ways to learn their letters. There's L for the leaves you can wade through when they fall from the trees, P for the play-group where it's fun to jump on big cushions, and V for the vacuum cleaner that vroom-vroom-vrooms when Dad cleans the carpet. Narrated in Katie's voice and depicting the simple pleasures of a familiar world, My First ABC shows both upper- and lowercase letters and ends with an alphabet on the final spread illustrated with an alternate set of images.

Bruno's Box book
#11
Bruno's Box
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-6

'My name is Bruno, and this is my box It's not just an ordinary box though, I can be whatever I like'. Leap into Bruno's world, where you can be a racing driver, or an astronaut, a pirate or even a dinosaur.

How to Be a Cat book
#12
How to Be a Cat
Written and illustrated by Nikki McClure
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

In this tender board book, a kitten practices the basics of feline behavior over the course of a day. A single word of text per spread teaches readers "how to be a cat"--how to stretch, clean, pounce, feast--while the striking paper cuts illustrate the kitten's attempts to imitate an adult cat's mastery of each skill. At times, the kitten triumphantly succeeds, and at other times the kitten struggles, in vignettes that range from whimsical to profound. A celebration of all things feline, How to Be a Cat also tells a universal story of mastering life skills, and of the loving relationship between parent and child.

Unstoppable Me book
#13
Unstoppable Me
Written by Susan Verde and illustrated by Andrew Joyner
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-6

This lyrical picture book about a little boy with boundless energy celebrates the exuberance of an active child. I am movement Heat Static electricity Fueled by food And powered by PLAY! Unstoppable Me is about the sort of energetic child we all know and love—full of fun and play and a bit exhausting! In this book, we see an unstoppable little boy run, jump, and soar through his day. He takes a little time to refuel, then he's back at it—zooming and zipping around. This poetic, joyful book—filled with illustrations as bright and energetic as the boy himself— is a celebration of the active child.

The Pocket Guide to Games book
#14
The Pocket Guide to Games
Written and illustrated by Bart King
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-14

A bestselling compendium of more than 100 active and quiet physical games that can be played by youngsters, oldsters, and anyone in between. The tradition of game playing without computers, joysticks, boards, or game pieces is celebrated in this collection of games that can be played by all ages. With tools such as balls, beanbags, broomsticks, and ropes, parents and teachers can organize dozens of hours of fun and challenging activities for parties, summer camps, neighborhood gatherings, and school groups. Includes active games and quiet games in a range of variations including: Bull in the Ring Cross Tag Do This, Do That Kaleidoscope Lady of the Land Old Buzzard Potato Race Shadow Tag, and more! Bart King taught middle school for many years. He's written 28 books, including The Big Book of Girl Stuff, The Big Book of Boy Stuff, The Big Book of Superheroes, The Big Book of Gross Stuff, and Bart's King-Sized Book of Fun. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

  1. Unstoppable Max - Max is a four-year-old whirlwind who doesn't have an off switch! His socks are odd, his bedroom is chaotic, and his mind is so full of imaginative schemes that following even the simplest of instructions can end in mayhem. Max's bedtime routine, so seemingly simple, becomes a military operation for Max with many obstacles to overcome - tidying his bedroom, putting on his pyjamas, and feeding his pet goldfish! Illustrated with non-stop energy by exciting new author/illustrator, Julia Patton.

  2. County Fair - It’s an exciting day for Almanzo as the Wilder family visits the county fair in this second My First Little House Book adapted from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic Farmer Boy. There are contests, races, and good things to eat, and Almanzo can’t wait to see what the judges think of his special pumpkin. Jody Wheeler’s luminous illustrations bring Laura’s beloved farmer boy to life.

  3. Be a Star, Wonder Woman! - "Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Marston."

  4. Play! - Phil and his buddy, Puff, a stuffed puffin, do everything together. They hide and jump and crawl and growl! They wash and share and wiggle and giggle! Frida and her friend, Fox, a stuffed fox, do everything together, too. They love to play! But when Frida and Fox ask Phil and Puff to play, Phil and Puff are not so sure. Play? Will Phil and Puff and Frida and Fox play together? This sweet and spare picture book by Linda Olafsdottir captures the delicate negotiations and simple joys of toddlers.

You're Just What I Need book
#19
You're Just What I Need
Written by Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Julia Noonan
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Join the fun as a mother and child play a loving game of hide-and-seek in this charming hardcover reissue of Ruth Krauss's delightful story, originally titled The Bundle Book. As baby hides beneath the soft blanket, Mother tries again and again to guess what in the world the bundle could be. Brought to life with soft and playful full-color artwork by Julia Noonan, this heartwarming classic is perfect for parents and young children to share.

Madeline Christmas Activity Book book
#20
Madeline Christmas Activity Book
Written by Ludwig Bemelmans and illustrated by Jody Wheeler
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Now children can celebrate a Parisian Christmas with Madeline, Pepito and all their friends. In this activity book, children will have hours of fun using the seventy-five reusable stickers to fly the twelve little girls on magic carpets over the banks of the Seine, decorate a Christmas tree, or tuck the girls into bed in the old house in Paris. Sixteen pages of Christmas crafts and games, including an ornament to make, and the entire text of Madeline’s Christmas are included. When children are done, they can simply put the stickers back on their sheets to play with Madeline and her friends year round.

Soccer Expert book
#21
Soccer Expert
Written by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Deborah Hocking
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Max knows a lot about soccer. After all, he's been playing it for almost three weeks! So he's pretty much an expert. Here Max shares his one-of-a-kind helpful tips including how to warm up (stretch, twirl, somersault), who's who on the field (the ref is the guy in yellow with the whistle-you should not bring your own whistle), and what to do with your hands since you can't touch the ball (wave at fans, hide them in your shirt, play itsy-bitsy spider).But could Max possibly be forgetting something very important? Full of humor, energy, and warmth, Max Explains Everything- Soccer Expert is the perfect read aloud for novice players as well as for fellow "kid experts" on the game.

Blocks book
#22
Blocks
Written and illustrated by Irene Dickson
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

Ruby has red blocks and Benji has blue blocks…until Benji takes one of Ruby’s red blocks and the blocks CRASH down! But now they each have blue and red blocks to build and build . . . until Guy comes with green blocks!

Bad Kitty Does Not Like Video Games book
#23
Bad Kitty Does Not Like Video Games
Written and illustrated by Nick Bruel
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

All Kitty wants to do is play her favorite video game. But Kitty has been playing her video game for FIVE hours. Now it's time for Kitty to: go outside, draw a picture, read a book, do anything other than play video games. Kitty doesn't want to do any of these things. . . but eventually she does anyway, and discovers that some things are way more fun than video games.

  1. Ninja! Attack of the Clan - Maxwell is a strong, courageous, silent ninja who wants somebody to play with, but it seems Mama, Papa, and little sister Cassy are all too busy.

  2. Playdate - A picture book with minimal text and maximum impact, as portrayed through both the well-chosen words and the fun-filled, evocative illustrations.

  3. Big Box Little Box - With bright, bold illustrations, this stylish board book stars one cool cat and will have readers laughing with delight, perfect for fans of Pete the Cat. Big box, little box Shoe box, hat box . . . Perfect for a cat box! Join one cool cat and lots of fun boxes in this charming take on curiosity and friendship.

  4. Lazybones - Good ol’ Lazybones, Robert Exelby Perdendo, is the master of all things lazy. Long walks in the park?! Psh! Who needs them? But when all attempts to avoid his latest dreaded “walkies” fail, Lazybones soon discovers something new and exciting along the way—a lovable pug ready to play!

Bumpety, Dunkety, Thumpety-Thump! book
#28
Bumpety, Dunkety, Thumpety-Thump!
Written by K. L. Going and illustrated by Simone Shin
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

Two toddlers go on a bumpety berry hunt in this darling picture book that’s perfect for preschoolers. Wagon on gravel goes bumpety-bump. Pebbles in the pond fall plunkey-plunk. Toes in the grass dance thumpety-thump. Bumpety-plunkety-thumpety-thump! Join two sweet siblings as they explore their backyard, get deliciously creative in the kitchen, and then spend a cozy evening preparing for bed. Along the way they’ll get muddy and messy and hungry and sleepy—just as all little ones do.

When the World Is Full of Friends book
#29
When the World Is Full of Friends
Written by Gillian Shields and illustrated by Anna Currey
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

When the world is full of friends, the fun and laughter never ends. Albert, Tom, Flossie, and Pipkin love to play. And while they have fun inventing games together, their biggest wish is to have friends to share them with. One day, something magical happens. A family of squirrels moves in across the stream! They could be the perfect friends--but how will they cross the stream? With a little help from Father Rabbit, Albert, Tom, Flossie, and Pipkin will discover just how wonderful it is when the world is full of friends. This touching story from the revered team behind When the World Is Ready for Bed and When the World Was Waiting for You will warm the hearts of readers young and old.

Miss Fox's Class Shapes Up book
#30
Miss Fox's Class Shapes Up
Written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Anne Kennedy
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Miss Fox’s students are too tired and cranky to get through the day! It’s up to Miss Fox and her new wellness regimen to help them eat better, exercise, and get more sleep! Kids will learn ways to stay healthy and bring fitness into their everyday lives.

    Did you enjoy our children's book recommendations? Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!