Best Children's Books About Playing

44 Children's Books About Playing

Updated Jan. 19, 2019
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!

A Ball for Daisy book
#6
A Ball for Daisy
Written and illustrated by Chris Raschka
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

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

Bruno's Box book
#7
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
#8
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.

One More Dino on the Floor book
#9
One More Dino on the Floor
Written by Kelly Starling Lyons and illustrated by Luke Flowers
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

It's a hip-hopping, foot-stomping, hand-clapping, finger-snapping good time when the dinosaurs go out on the dance floor! One by one (and all the way up to ten), the dinosaurs get their groove on in this delightful counting book! With bright and colorful illustrations and fun, rhythmic text, young readers will be tapping their feet to the Jurassic beat!

Hide and Seek book
#10
Hide and Seek
Written and illustrated by Polly Noakes
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

A meadow is the perfect place to play hide and seek - there are bridges to creep under and masses of wildflowers to use for cover. In grass high enough to conceal a bear, the protagonist must use all of her senses to track her animal companions! She can smell them, and hear them, but she can’t quite find them. Can you spot the stealthy wolf on each spread? Will the girl find her friends, or will the wolf find her first?|Readers can join in the game of hide and seek by searching for the wolf on each spread.|The protagonist uses her senses to determine where her friends are hiding. The book can be used to promote the benefits of focusing on the sounds and sights around you.

Bad Kitty Does Not Like Video Games book
#11
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.

We Love to Play book
#12
We Love to Play
Written and illustrated by Kate Stone
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

Mouse, Deer and Bear are never bored. Whether they’re in the garden, on the beach, or out for a ride, these friends know how to make the most of the day. This fun new board book format is perfectly complimented by playfully rhyming text and colorful illustrations.

Miss Fox's Class Shapes Up book
#13
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.

TouchThinkLearn: Wiggles book
#14
TouchThinkLearn: Wiggles
Written and illustrated by Claire Zucchelli-Romer
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

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!

The Pocket Guide to Games book
#15
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.

Unstoppable Max book
#16
Unstoppable Max
Written and illustrated by Julia Patton
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

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.

Ta-Da! book
#17
Ta-Da!
Written by Kathy Ellen Davis and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

What makes a good story? One little girl thinks it's a princess with magical powers that can—ta-da!—overcome any obstacle. Her friend thinks it's—dun dun duh!—a combination of dragons, pirates, and fire that cause total chaos. But as their stories intertwine, these two young storytellers soon learn that a good story needs both conflict—dun dun duh!—and resolution—ta-da! An irresistible celebration of imaginary play, storytelling, and the joys of collaboration, this gorgeous picture book features two strong voices throughout, making it the perfect read-aloud.

A Hop Is Up book
#18
A Hop Is Up
Written by Kristy Dempsey and illustrated by Lori Richmond
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

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!

Nellie Belle book
#19
Nellie Belle
Written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Mike Austin
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Nellie Belle, a puppy, has fun from morning to night.

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.

Madeline Paper Dolls book
#21
Madeline Paper Dolls
Written by Ludwig Bemelmans and illustrated by Jody Wheeler
board book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

For everyone who loves paper dolls, here’s an irresistible treat—Madeline and Pepito, straight from the old house in Paris, with outfits for school, party time and play. Featuring two punch-out dolls and six pages of cut-out clothes and accessories, there’s even a very French armoire to keep clothes in when you’re finished playing!

County Fair book
#22
County Fair
Written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and illustrated by Jody Wheeler
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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.

Playdate book
#23
Playdate
Written by Maryann Macdonald and illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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

When the World Is Full of Friends book
#24
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.

It's Good to Have a Grandma book
#25
It's Good to Have a Grandma
Written by Maryann Macdonald and illustrated by Priscilla Burris
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Children and grandmothers love playing together, eating together--just being together. Every time is a special time, for both. This book captures the special moments without sentimentality, but with warmth and love.

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected] with your book and list suggestion.