A book is my favorite thing to give as a gift, especially to a child! And one of my favorite ways to package that gift is with another connected item that will extend the experience and the meaning. I put a few of my favorite books together in this format last year (find that list here). Between the positive feedback on that first list, and my own delirious love of books, the list has really grown this year, spanning from board books to activity resource books. There’s really something for every age!
(This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Click on titles to find each book and/or item.)
Confession: I didn’t have a single Christmas present stashed away when I started working on this list. Sure, I know people who checked that whole task off their list back in October….but I am just not one of those people.
As I started working on this list, my husband helped me out by sitting laptop to laptop with me and ordering a few very thoughtful items from me to him. (Which, honestly, is how it has to be when what he really wants is technical equipment for climbing Mt. Rainier next summer. Out of my wheelhouse there. Nothing says “I love you” like a snug harness and an ice pick, right?)
Add to that a series of items on this list I have handpicked for a few people (little and big) on my Christmas list, and I am starting to feel like I’m doing all right after all!
Here are my favorite book+gift ideas for this year:
Ten Black Dots: This is one of my toddler’s current favorites. In addition to rhyming and number recognition, the dots that make up the picture are perfect for little fingers to touch as they count, building in that 1-to-1 counting concept (one dot, one number). Add with this book, the Do A Dot Art Marker Rainbow, 6-pack set. These markers mimic the dots in the book and are fun for young artists, with the perk of being washable!
Hug: Our whole family fell in love with this simple story of a little chimp looking for a “HUG”. That single word is repeated throughout the pages of the book, with much of the story being told by the pictures, until the last few pages, where we discover what it is that the little chimp is actually looking for: “Mommy!” This story would go perfectly with the Schleich Chimpanzee Mom with Baby Figure. The figure is high-quality and full of detail, but also highly durable and ready for play. For even more fun, add multiple figurines for extended play. You can easily go with a high-value set like this one from Learning Resources, which would make for great play in a sensory tub, but if you’re interested in building a high-quality animal collection, my favorite figures come from Schleich. My mother in law has built a collection of these animals and the grandchildren LOVE them. (In fact, this book plus gift just might be finding its way to her house!) Their details are superb, but they are still made from a durable material that allows for kids to actually play with them. For this book, I would recommend a series of African animal mamas and babies: Young Chimpanzee+Chimpanzee female, Female Elephant +Elephant Calf, Female Giraffe+ Giraffe Calf, Lioness+Lion Cub
The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear: This sweet little mouse finds a beautiful red, ripe strawberry and spends the entire story trying to keep it safe from the big, hungry bear. Not to be a story spoiler, but at the end of the book the little mouse slices the strawberry in two and shares it with the reader, so as to save it from the big, hungry bear (of course!). This Melissa & Doug Cutting Fruit Set can be sliced over and over in the same manner, much to a young child’s delight! It’s a perfect combo!
Good Night, Gorilla: This book is a classic! Pair this with a membership to your local zoo. Perfect for those who would like more experiences and less stuff!
Pete the Cat: The Wheels on the Bus: Pete the Cat has his own fan club, and some of the members live in my house. This book generally follows the traditional Wheels on the Bus song, but with Pete’s own unique spin. My toddler and preschooler were particularly fond of this one. Pair this book with the Green Toys School Bus and the wheels on the bus will literally go round and round, all day long.
The Pigeon Needs a Bath!: My now kindergartener is always up for “Pidgey”. In this new book, the pigeon needs a bath, but fights it with every breath. Once he finally makes it in, he doesn’t want to get out. Sound familiar? It does at our house! Pair this book up with some fun bubble bath and/or an exciting bath toy. This Sand and Water Wheel is obviously designed for both sand and water play, and is substantial enough to take to the beach or use in a large sensory table, but it’s gotten the most use at our house in the bath tub! (I’ve long contended that bath time can be much like getting IN the water table!)
My Truck is Stuck!: A rolling story of a poor truck, stuck in the road. One vehicle after another comes along (making this a fun, simple counting book too) trying to push and pull the truck out, but it just won’t go….until the tow truck arrives! Add this Melissa & Doug Deluxe 10-Piece Magnetic Towing Game for a sure win for anyone in the preschool range.
(Also in Board Book if you prefer : My Truck Is Stuck! — my 2 year old loves this book as well!)
Brontorina: One of my favorite stories — I just keep coming back to it as a recommendation! I wrote about it way back here. Purchase a tutu or follow this tutorial from No Time for Flashcards for a No-Sew Dress Up Tutu (the tutorial is for a toddler-sized tutu, but could easily be customized).
If I Built a Car: I find this book somewhat reminiscent of Dr. Seuss’s “If I Ran the Zoo”, and I love it for that! In this story, Jack imagines a car that stretches the imagination in amazing and wonderful ways. Think The Jetsons. Then mix that up with the most creative first grader you’ve ever met. You’ll get pretty close to the idea in this book! Pair this book up with this Car Design Studio, a mix and match car design template maker that my own car aficionado has really enjoyed!
Rosie Revere, Engineer & Iggy Peck, Architect: These two books are by the same author and both feature kids following their dreams and talents in spite of opposition. Pair Rosie with the Contraptions 50 Plank Set and Iggy with the Structures 200 Plank Set. These pieces are interchangeable, so you could get both books and both sets for an amazing amount of fun and learning. For a bonus, add the KEVA Wrecking Ball for extra excitement at clean up time! (Iggy could also be more simply paired with Grid Paper, and Rosie could also be upgraded to a larger KEVA Contraptions set.)
The Book with No Pictures: I know. It seems wrong to put a book with no pictures in the picture book section, but this book is fantastic! I wrote all about it just a month or two ago. (Right now, the book is priced as low as I’ve seen it!) Add these Create Your own 3 bitty books to let kids create their own unique books that play with words and reason like this clever book does — with or without the pictures!
Geronimo Stilton, Secret Agent (Geronimo Stilton, No. 34): Geronimo Stilton is my hero! He has captured my second-grader’s attention and turned him into a rabid reader. This is the one my son started with — and finished in one night! Word to the wise: buy several! My son goes through them so quickly I have to find a new one as soon as he starts the last one! (Though we have to take a break now and then because he’ll read them until midnight. My husband and I pretend to be concerned.) Thankfully, there are tons of books in this series (no need to go in order) about a mouse who goes on all kinds of adventures and then turns the stories into books. Written in a hybrid picture book/chapter book style, with occasional pictures and comic-book style vignettes scattered throughout, it’s a great jumping off point for newly independent chapter book readers. This particular book is focused on secret agents, so I’d pair it with some spy gear. The top rated secret agent tools at our house are these Spy Gear – Sonic Distractors, followed by the Spy Gear – Night Goggles (though more for fun dress up than for actual night vision function).
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda: My fourth grader grooves on this series that began forhim when he was in second grade. There are several books in the series, which do follow in consecutive order. The author is clever and witty and has a talent for capturing kids’ interests. It’s largely text, but with some doodling and comic book styling as well. You can pair this book with the series’ activity book, Art2-D2’s Guide to Folding and Doodling: An Origami Yoda Activity Book. As some of the characters are actually origami Star Wars figures, with instructions in individual books and even more instructions in the activity book, you may want to add some Origami Paper. Or maybe play off of the doodling vibe by simply adding a Universal Sketch Paper Pad
and some nice ink pens.
Fake Mustache: Or, How Jodie O’Rodeo and her Wonder Horse (and Some Nerdy Kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election from a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind: This book has the same author as the Origami Yoda series, so we picked it up on a whim. I read it aloud during a long car ride, and I think my husband and I were laughing as much as the kids were. Wacky and wonderful all at once, (as you might have guessed from the title)! Of course, you have to add some Fake Mustaches with this one, but be careful! All of the trouble in this book begins with one…fake…mustache.
Wonder: While this book is geared more for upper grades (I’d say grades 4-8) for independent reading, I read it aloud to my (then) preschooler, first grader, and third grader. And we all loved it! It’s an amazing, powerful book and opens all kinds of discussions about what it means to be kind and to be a real friend. One repeating theme in the book is Mr. Browne’s precepts — a collection of maxims he shares with his students throughout the year, and which they collect for themselves throughout the summer that follows. Playing off that theme, include with this book a nice Journaland a nice Pen Setso that your recipient can make a list of precepts as well!
Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 (Book 1): Another book series my 10 year-old son gets really excited about is the Michael Vey series. It’s fairly intense and is recommended on Amazon for ages 12 and up, so it’s a safer bet for the tween-teen crowd unless you know your younger reader is ready for it. It’s the story of a group of teenagers with special powers….and of course, the bad guys who want to take control of those powers! Michael Vey’s powers are electric, so it could be fun for tween readers to explore this Elenco Snap Circuits SC-300 Physics Kit along with the story!
I know. It seems strange for Lego to have its own section here, but in our home, Legos are still the no-fail gift, so pairing them with books makes it an automatic win-win.
The LEGO Ideas Book: This is a popular book with my boys. It’s full of amazing projects produced by master builders and amateurs alike. This isn’t a how-to instruction book, but more of an inspiration book. My boys LOVE it! Pair it up with ANY Lego kit, or get your collection started with the LEGO Bricks & More Creative Bucket.
Fire Truck to the Rescue! (LEGO City, Scholastic Reader: Level 1): LEGO also has a myriad of leveled readers, making it pretty easy to match a book with a set. They aren’t classic literature, but it’s quality reading practice, and it gets LEGO lovers excited to read! As just one example, put this Fire Truck to the Rescue book with the LEGO City Fire Truck . Easy.
The Hobbit: Pocket Edition: Now this one? This one IS classic literature! I don’t know which came first for my boys — a book that made the LEGO series cool or a LEGO series that made the book cool, but we’ll take it either way! My boys practically begged us to read this as a read-aloud, and they were totally sucked in! One of them just might find LEGO The Hobbit Riddles for The Ring under our tree this year.
The Lord of the Rings: 50th Anniversary, One Vol. Edition: Tolkein’s book has been deemed the “book of the millennium” by some, though honestly,the series is not really my thing. It is, however, my husband’s thing, and he is currently enjoying sharing it as a read-aloud with our boys. Even our kindergartener is excited about this book as a read-aloud option! We may capitalize on the current excitement for this timeless treasure with a LEGO set like The Council of Elrond.
These books are perfect for family gifts, as gifts for kids, or as gifts for teachers!
150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids: I just recently reviewed this awesome activity book here.
Pack it up with a Blacklight for some awesome glow in the dark activities, along with a Costco sized package of baking soda and vinegar by the gallon!
Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors: Love this book! Perfect gift for kids, parents, or teachers! Find the book review here. My favorite activity is the drawing machine! Find that activity on pg 127 and load up the necessary items with your gift! (It has a few basic electronic components that can easily be obtained at your local RadioShack.) Watch the DrawBot in action!
The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art and Creativity: Awesome book for anyone who wants to inspire young artists or simply infuse more creativity into a home or program. Add some basic art supplies like Melissa & Doug Easel Paper Pad and some Oil Pastels, and you’ll be off to a great start!
Whether you’re finishing up or just getting started, hopefully this list has given you some ideas for your gift list!
What’s YOUR favorite book to give as a gift?
Katie @ Wonderfully Made says
Amanda, I am new to your site (found you through Erica at letwhylead.com) and absolutely love it! I have two bright, precocious little ones and have been looking for meaningful, literacy-based gifts for them for Christmas and am so grateful to have read this post! I love not only the books you recommended, but also the wonderful, educational toys to go along with them. I plan to buy several of the books and products you included. Thank you!
books are also one of my favorite things to gift, that and craft/art supplies. My kids follow these guidelines for their Xmas list; something I want, something I need, something to wear and something to read. Thanks for a great list of books.
Erica - Let Why Lead says
This really is an amazing resource! I love that you included your personal experience / take on each book, as that’s what really sells me on a good story. Thanks again, lady!
Thank you so much for the Geronimo Stilton recommendation. We had never heard of them before. So after reading this post we went to the library and picked one up. My 7 yr old daughter devoured it! She said, “Thanks, mom, I love chapter books again, this is SO awesome!” She finished it in one day and we went back today and she got 10 more! Thank you thank you thank you!!!!!
Oh, I’m so glad, Leigh! That was the exact same reaction at our house! I had never heard of them, and picked them up on a teacher’s recommendation and my second grader literally stays up until midnight, reading the whole book in one or two sessions! It has definitely turned the light on for him!