Puppet Books are great to engage older babies and toddlers, and because the puppet is attached to the book, you don’t have to worry about losing it either. Our favourite new puppet book is the adorable Hugless Douglas Needs A Hug, full of lovely illustrations and with the cutest Douglas puppet. The puppet is made for grown ups to operate, and for little hands to stroke and cuddle. We love Hugless Douglas here, and this book has been a huge hit.
For little ones who want to operate their own puppets, Child’s Play have a huge range of puppet activity books. Older babies and young toddlers will be able to stick their whole hands in to move the bunny in Bib on, Bunny and the monkey in Monkey and Me, plus the familiar settings will appeal. As always with Child’s Play, the children depicted are from various cultures and look fairly androgynous meaning that every child will be able to find a picture they can relate to in one of the books in the series. Older toddlers and pre-schoolers can improve their motor skills and learn as they play in titles like What’s The Time, Mr Wolf? Grown ups can operate the puppets with fingers (if they’re ever allowed to!) and the three titles that we tested got a huge thumbs up from the four and six year olds, so they have great longevity in use too.
Anything by Jo Lodge
We first discovered Jo Lodge several years ago via Mr Croc. The few Mr Croc books we had were literally loved to death over a couple of years and after much fixing and re-fixing eventually went for recycling. This year we discovered Little Roar and Icky Sticky Monster too. Jo Lodge engineers her own books, and they are bright, colourful, attractive to small children and great fun. Little Roar is suitable from the youngest age, with chunky tabs to pull and turn. We used to have a fantastic Mr Croc board book suitable for the youngest hands too, Up and Down, but it appears to be out of print. I’m sure similar are still available. The Mr Croc pop-up and tab books are very innovative. Ours may have broken, but that was from a lot of use and not because of quality. The last page of the books is usually Mr Croc popping up to get you, which my two found utterly hilarious (and still do!) Icky Sticky Monster is more suitable for pre-schoolers and is the first from Nosy Crow, with two more coming out next summer. Hachette publish Mr Croc and Little Roar, plus a new series of crinkly cloth books for the smallest hands. I am not kidding when I say anything by Jo lodge is the perfect gift for babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers and up…
Explore and Play
The Little Explorer and Little Driver ranges from Child’s Play are excellent for imaginative play on the go, with a small character attached by ribbon that you can put in and out of pockets on each page, to pretend to control different vehicles. The character card is shaped and double sided so the child can choose boy or girl characters. These are not only wonderful fun, but great for motor skills development too. There are also dress up books in the same theme. With chunky card pages, and see through pockets, these are great quality and durable books for lots of fun play.
A board book that’s also a mask? What a wonderful idea! The Look At Me range are a series of books you can hold over your face to pretend to be a robot, or a monster; an alien or a clown. Due to the shape, a child or a grown up can play pretend. Great fun.
Pull, Twist, Poke, and Push
Books with flaps to lift and tabs to pull are always good fun with small children, but some are quite complex for little hands. Peekaboo Little Roar has tabs suitable for very small hands, and there are a range of Tiny Tabs books from Nosy Crow that are also good for babies. For older toddlers, Ian Whybrow and Axel Sheffler’s The Tickle Book (Macmillan) is full of tabs to pull and things to move, and Nick Sharratt’s Octopus Socktopus (Scholastic) is another enormous hit here. For preschoolers, Child’s Play’s Ten in the Bed not only teaches counting backwards from ten, but you get to turn a wheel to get a child to fall out of bed each time (and the children represent a variety of cultures, making this perfect for any child)
I couldn’t do a list of the best touchy-feely-pully-pushy-twisty-movey-interactive-novelty books for younger children without mentioning Child’s Play’s books with holes series. There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly was published forty years ago, and it’s one of the first board books I bought for Mighty-Girl when she was born. But there’s not only the Old Lady. We also have Old Macdonald, and I find it so clever how the holes, pictures and text are positioned. The children, of course, just think it’s lots of fun. Books with Holes come in all sorts of formats from small board books to gigantic books for sharing.
For more innovative, interactive, and intelligent book gift ideas please see Gifts for Curious Children (non fiction) and Great Gifts for Children (age 4+)
Disclosure: Many of the books listed were supplied for review by Hachette Children’s Books and Child’s Play International. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.