Bookish Ways to Keep Your
Kids Entertained

by Miranda Rosbach

Photo credit: pixdeluxe/Getty Images

No matter the reason, when the kids are home they’re going to need to be entertained. Which means it’s helpful to have an arsenal of activities at the ready that can engage kids both physically and mentally. Luckily, there are dozens of book-related activities to keep kids entertained for at least a little while! If nothing else, it will certainly demonstrate to your kids how much you value books and the myriad of ways they can entertain and inspire.

We’ve put many of these eight activities to the test in our home and they’ve been fun to tweak over the years. They are designed to be used over and over, and will require some degree of flexibility in viewing books as objects with purposes beyond just reading. Perhaps your kids will come up with a few bookish activities on their own after seeing what you can do with a book!

  • #BookFaceFriday

    This beloved hashtag has taken the social media world by storm — and for good reason, too. This activity is simple and can be done with a variety of backgrounds, so get creative and find a colorful mural or other landscape in your community to make a picturesque backdrop. Gather a few favorite picture books that feature character faces prominently on either the cover or one of the interior pages. Try to match your outfit to what the characters are wearing and have either the child or an adult hold the book up to create a book face image. This can be done standing up, sitting, lying down, or in a number of other positions. Snap a photo and have fun creating something new. If you want to share it online, be sure to tag it with #bookfacefriday so that others can see your creation.

Photo credit: bookbloom/Instagram
  • Create Color-Coded Shelves

    This rainbow book-themed activity coincides nicely with spring cleaning. Simply clear off your children’s book shelves (and maybe dust while the shelves are empty), and start piling the books into color-coded columns. Once the books have been sorted, put them back on the bookshelf in rainbow order. If you have an outward facing book display in your home (like a picture ledge), this is a great time to highlight books that have similarly colored covers. Often, you’ll be surprised how the spine color doesn’t necessarily match the book cover.

  • Read-A-Thon

    One of my fondest memories from elementary school is having a designated read-a-thon a couple times a year. This is easily recreated at home with a pile of cozy sleeping bags, couch cushions, or a tent. Gather some beloved books to read together and individually. Just make certain to stock up on special snacks for the duration of the read-a-thon and spell out the expectations of the time you’ll be doing this activity as a family (2-3 hours perhaps, or longer). Audiobooks are also great for this, as is reading a book together that has a movie adaptation you can watch later (Roald Dahl books come to mind!). Build a craft into the day with a bookmark-making station or a book-themed tasty treat. Whatever you do, make it fun and your kids will beg for another read-a-thon soon.

  • Turn an Old Book Into a Hidden Treasure Box

    This age-old activity is great for older children and takes a couple days from start to finish. Find an old book that you’re okay parting with (preferably one that has a thick spine) and simply glue the pages together using Mod Podge. Hold the pages together with clamps or rubber bands while the book dries. The next day, trace a rectangle on the first interior page of the book and use a utility knife to slice through the pages to create a hollowed-out nook. Sneak some hidden treasures inside to hide in plain sight.

  • Make a Book Store Using Old Dust Jackets

    Trade in the idea of a lemonade stand for a custom-built indie bookstore of your own. A couple summers ago, my husband got a new lawnmower and we had a large box at the ready just begging to be made over into something magnificent. Taking the hundreds of dust jackets I’d saved over the years, we spray-glued them to the exterior of the box after we’d made a sizable window for my daughter to “sell” books from. The best part was that the packaging of the lawnmower came with some sturdy cardboard pieces that worked perfect for book ledges. If your box doesn’t come with this, it’s easy to instal acrylic or other lightweight bookshelves through the box into a piece of wood on the exterior. Make it your own and maybe hang a few twinkle lights inside to heighten the overall ambiance.

  • Stock Little Free Libraries

    You’ve likely seen a little free library at your neighborhood park or somewhere on your morning jog. Over the past decade they have proliferated across the globe, making books accessible to people the world over. Whenever we pass a little free library we can’t help taking a peek inside. Since most of them are crammed with adult books, it’s fun to mix things up and stock them with children’s books. Simply gather together books that your kids are ready to donate and map out a route of some little free libraries nearby. This is also something fun and affordable to do while on a road trip.

Photo credit: Photography by Mangiwau/Getty Images
  • Create a Hanging Bookshelf with Books

    Find three similarly sized books (we’ve found Yuval Zommer’s Big Book series to work great for this) and drill holes into the four corners of all three books (about 1 ¼ inches in from the corner). Using any color nylon cord or rope, pull the rope up from the bottom of the pile, knotting the cord both underneath and on top of each hole. String the cord the length you want to separate each “shelf” from the others (generally 12-16 inches apart). At the last book bring the cords together to create a looped and knotted place to hang the shelf. Insert a small hook into the ceiling using the width of the book as a measuring guide and then hang your new “book shelves.” Place toys or other objects on the shelves.

  • Play a Card Game Based on a Book

    Books inspire many different companion items these days, and one that’s great for an at-home activity is card games. From Go Fish: A 3-in-1 Card Deck, illustrated by popular children’s book author Oliver Jeffers, to the Duck & Goose Matching Game, inspired by Tad Hills’ beloved series, little readers will delight in seeing their favorite characters within the cards.