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12 Activity Books You Should Buy Before Your Next Long Car Ride

You want your kid to explore all sorts of mind- and skills-expanding activities. You don’t want them living in your house as adults, asking for permission to build bunk beds so they have so much more room to do activities. These 12 books will get them into actually useful things, like math, mazes, and architecture, as opposed to just hanging out in your basement, pretending to to be John Bonham.

Usborne Travel

Usborne produces a number of different activity books, but this one is specifically geared toward occupying your wee ones and distracting them from the mindless hours stuck in vehicles on the next family road trip. It’s travel themed and filled with puzzles, code-cracking problems, places for doodling, stickers to sticker and a bunch of other stuff with which your kid can “decorate” the backseat.
Ages: 6 and up
Usborne Travel by Rebecca Gilpin, James MacLaine and Lucy Bowman ($12)

This Is Not A Maths Book

Europeans’ propensity for calling “math” “maths” is confounding. Fortunately, unlike the english language, which is rarely guided by logic, math or maths is just the opposite. The problem is no one really likes doing it because it’s boring — that’s not opinion, that’s science. However, this book sneakily disguises math by making it about drawing sweet geometric designs. Your kid will be so into it that their teachers might think they’re into devil worship. HAIL MATHS!
Ages: 8 and up
This Is Not A Maths Book by Weltman ($7)

Made By Dad

Dads are suckers for anything that has do with tinkering or putzing, so it won’t be hard  for you and your kid to get your MacGyver on with this book in hand. Made by Dad is a cheekily written compilation of awesome and entertaining DIY gadgets and gizmos. Thanks to author Scott Bedford, a creative director by day and Webby Award–winning blogger, you finally have a reasonable excuse for not taking out the recycling.
Ages: 4 and up
Made By Dad by Scott Bedford ($14)

Junk_RethunkScrapkins: Junk Re-Thunk
Pretty much the same thing as above, but with 100-percent more adorable junk-based characters to encourage your kid when they ask, “Why are we rooting through the neighbor’s trash again?”
Ages: 6 – 10
Scrapkins: Junk Re-Thunk by Brian Yanish ($8.99)

Project Kid

This book is billed as a way to get your kids to “unplug,” a term that is not only overused by confusing (unless your kid actually spends all their time staring at a land line). The 100 craft projects on offer will give your kid more than just some warm fuzzies about spending QT with pops — they’ll come away with some pretty nice-looking and even useful stuff. Like a sunglasses case. Or a headband that makes it look like there’s an arrow going through their head.
Ages: 8 to 12
Project Kid by Amanda Kingloff ($18)

Animalium Activity Book

Animalium, not to be confused with adamantium, the indestructible metal fused to Wolverine’s bones, is a the companion activity book to the the original book of the same name that’s basically a natural history museum you can take anywhere. This book isn’t just packed with facts and figures, it also has puzzles, drawings, and plenty of other fun and educational things that promise to be more entertaining than Night at The Museum 3.
Ages: 6 and up
Animalium Activity Book by Katie Scott ($6)

The World of Moose: Fill Me In

Somewhat disappointingly, entering the “World of Moose” has nothing to do with abandoning a domestic life and living out your dream of becoming a majestic horned beast-man. Instead, it’s about entering the zaney mind of Moose Allain, a former architect and professor at the University Of North London and The Royal College Of Art’s School of Architecture. The pages are filled with silly but often intriguing pictures that inspire more than just coloring within the line.
Ages: 6 and up
The World of Moose: Fill Me In By Moose Allain ($7)

Maps Activity Book

Another companion activity to book to a best-selling original, this one takes the exploration encouraged by zany illustrated maps a step further. Figured out where Death Valley is? Great, now draw some examples of animals that survive there. Yes, that’s the Amazon Rainforest — can you figure out what colors the toucan’s beak should be? Sorry, by “you,” we mean “your kid.” Stop playing with your kid’s activity book.
Ages: 6 and up
Maps Activity Book by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski ($6)

Paper Zoo

So far most of the books in this have been geared toward slightly older youngster, but the littluns need activities other than trying to get as sticky as possible or making the best mud cake. In Paper Zoo, your kid uses colored sheets of paper, which they can slide into blank cards with animal-shaped windows. So, if you’re kid wants to make the duck blue, he can make the duck blue. That’s Quacktastic!
Ages: 3 and up
Paper Zoo by Oscar Sabini ($17)

Pierre The Maze Detective

It’s been said before, but Waldo, that smug bastard is played out. It’s Pierre The Maze Detective’s time to shine. With a much cooler profession than getting lost in strange places, Pierre has to track down Mr. X, who has stolen the powerful Maze Stone. With 15 full-spread illustrations of detailed mazes, your kid will almost certainly get sucked into helping Pierre crack the case.
Ages: 8 to 12
Pierre the Maze Detective by Hiro Kamigaki ($13)

Drawing In The Sea

You might not know that another word for water is Adam’s Ale, which is just one of the things that you and your kid can learn together from this unique, illustrated activity book. From designing tattoos for sailors to learning about latitude and longitude, Drawing In The Sea contains an ocean of maritime knowledge (you can use that one on your kid).
Ages: 6 and up
Drawing In The Sea by Harriet Russell ($15)

The Amazing Story Generator

Sort of like those fridge magnets with random words you would normally create crude and vulgar poems from, this book lets budding young writers create their own randomized story prompts. With hundreds of settings, characters, and plots to mix and match, it’s even great for parents suffering from writer’s block (or looking for a new drinking game).
Ages 8 and up
The Amazing Story Generator by Jay Sacher ($11)