So I am not sure about your children, but my 11 year old spends way more time online then he did before all this COVID-19 business. School is online and play is online – both solo and with friends.

And kids need their friends. I used to be pretty strict on screen time, but I have obviously relaxed it a bit. However, at some point there is just too much screen and I suggest he runs laps outside or use his brain in another way.

Activities for kids

We spent an enjoyable two days doing a beautiful butterfly puzzle from Raincoast Books ($19.99, MudPuppyKids), including staying up a bit too late one night to work on it. He knows me well. I get consumed by puzzles and tend not to be able to stop and before you know it, he has stayed up an extra hour. Smart kid.

This is a good quality puzzle, with pieces that came apart easily and didn’t tear. The colours were vivid and offered a good challenge. I liked that it was 500 pieces so it was completed fairly fast, important when you have kittens who love to eat puzzle pieces as much as they love to dig up plants that don’t belong to them. The other thing I like about this puzzle is that it offered a picture of the completed puzzle so while my son could look at the box lid, I could look at the sheet.

Front cover image of Build Your Own History Museum with various historical symbols and artifacts
Kids will learn information about various time periods and build five pop-ups.

Lonely Planet Kids Build Your Own History Museum, 5 amazing pop-ups to make and display ($26.99, Raincoast Books) also helped my son skip the screen and use his brain. This hard cover book tells the reader a crate full of archaeological finds arrived at the museum. The reader is asked to follow the instructions, build the item and find the room to display it in.

The museum includes information from various time periods including Mesopotamia, Egypt, one of my favourites, Maya and Vikings, among others. The book offers a number of short facts and illustrations about each time period, bringing it to life and making it feel as through you were walking through a museum. In five time periods, the reader can build a structure that affixes to the page.

My son did get frustrated building a replica temple to Athena. The columns may have been heavy, but it was the instructions that caused my son to suggest if it didn’t work he was going to tear it apart and just glue it down. He was successful – without the glue – as the temple popped from the paged when I opened it.

There was lots of information I didn’t know about such as homes in the Indus Valley, in Southern Asia 4,000 years ago, had a bathroom where people washed and used the toilet. Waste was flushed down the drains into a underground water system.

Interesting fact: “This made the Indus Valley cities many years ahead of their time: the city of New York didn’t have a sewer system until 1868.”

Front cover image of My Nature Sticker Activity Book Inventive Animals with various birds, fish and bugs
Stickers, activites and information help you learn about some pretty cool creatures.

One book my son didn’t get into was My Nature Sticker Activity Book Inventive Animals (by Clementine Sourdais, $11.99, Raincoast Books) featuring 74 stickers, 26 activities and 1 quiz. He is too old for this series now, although he has participated in the activities in other books . In this series, Sourdais offers information about an animal and then invites the reader to participate in an activity such as colouring in a section of the book or adding branches to raise the dam in the pages about beavers, aquatic engineers.

Interesting fact, male puffer fish use their “bodies and fins to dig geometric shapes, called rosettes, in the sand. These fish measure only a few inches in diameter, but their rosettes can have a diameter of six feet.”

Apparently these shapes take seven to eight days to make and the goal is attract a female, who lays her eggs in the centre of design. The sand sculpture slows the water’s movements, keeping the eggs safe. Amazing.

The only thing I don’t like about this book is the background. It often looks textured, which makes colouring not as fun.

A copy of these books were provided by Raincoast Books for an honest review.
The opinions are my own.