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Activity Books for Creative Kids and Teens

Keep kids' minds and hands busy with cool stuff to do at home that's not homework.

Sure, kids like to text and scroll, but that's not all they can do with their hands. And eventually, even devices get boring when you're forced to stay home during a global pandemic. Spice things up (and, let's face it, keep kids busy) with activity books that offer inspiration for things to do, ranging from creative journaling to Tai Chi. Whether they want to learn something new or hone a craft, these resources offer no shortage of ideas. For more, check out our lists of Books for Kids Who Love Math and Science and Art Books. All are available to order online.

Little kids

Fun and Easy Crafting with Recycled Materials: 60 Cool Projects That Reimagine Paper Rolls, Egg Cartons, Jars and More! by Kimberly McLeod

Make hats, jewelry, puzzles, masks, mazes, and even an indoor garden using everyday supplies you have around the house.

Harry Potter Origami by Scholastic.

Fold 15 origami pieces from Harry's wizarding world, including objects, creatures, characters, and settings from the Harry Potter movies. Step-by-step instructions show you the way. Includes illustrated sheets of paper designed for each craft.

Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors by Rachelle Doorley

You'll find 55 experiments that encourage creativity, foster tinkering, and offer a kid-friendly introduction to science and art.

Big kids

Art Making with MoMA: 20 Activities for Kids from the Museum of Modern Art by Cari Frisch and Elizabeth Margulies

Discover the tools, techniques, and ideas used by contemporary and modern artists whose work appears in the MoMA collection in New York City. Each project is based on the work of a specific artist, like Diego Rivera or Wassily Kandinsky, and includes step-by-step instructions and reproductions of the artist's work.

This Book Is a Planetarium: And Other Extraordinary Pop-Up Contraptions by Kelli Anderson

The pop-up constructions in this book include a working planetarium that can project constellations onto the ceilings and walls, a musical instrument with strings to strum, a message decoder, and more. Loads of fun for kids and adults alike.

The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs by America's Test Kitchen Kids

Kids experience hands-on learning in the kitchen as they find out how to make snacks, meals, and desserts. Includes step-by-step photos of tips and techniques.

The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz

This empowering collection is packed with information and projects for kids -- not just girls -- to try. You'll find crafts, science, sports, and life skills, like tips for public speaking. Illustrations, charts, and graphic instructions throughout help readers of all levels.

The Double Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn, Arthur, and Cameron Iggulden

Written like an encyclopedia covering topics such as history, poetry, law, sign language, and navigation, this fun-loving book also teaches kids of all genders how to pick locks, make a cup of coffee, write a thank-you letter, make a rubber band gun or a pencil catapult, and play chess. It's packed with colorful charts, maps, and illustrations that help kids learn.

Exploralab by the Exploratorium

This book from San Francisco's quirky science museum the Exploratorium shows kids that science is all around you, with more than 150 fun activities. Includes a magnifier, polarizing filters, glow-in-the-dark ink, and more.

A Kid's Guide to African American History: More than 70 Activities by Nancy I. Sanders

Learn about African American artists, inventors, and heroes through activities, songs, and games. Design an African mask, play the rhyming game Juba, invent Brer Rabbit riddles, and do more as you learn things about African American history not covered in history books.

A Kid's Guide to Asian American History: More than 70 Activities by Valerie Petrillo

Find out how to do calligraphy and Tai Chi, fold an origami cat, and build a Japanese rock garden among activities, games, food, clothing, celebrations, and folklore. The book spotlights Asian American people descended from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, India, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia and covers important Asian American people and events in U.S. history.

A Kid's Guide to Latino History: More Than 50 Activities by Valerie Petrillo

Build Afro-Cuban bongos, create a vejigante mask from Puerto Rico, play Mexican lotería, and learn some Spanish words through fun activities, games, and crafts. Lots of information about Latinx culture and the people and events that have shaped Latin American history.

Maker Lab: 28 Super Cool Projects by Jack Challoner

Build a spurting volcano, race balloon rocket cars, construct a lemon battery, make sticky slime, and more -- all with regular household supplies and step-by-step instructions. These projects show kids how fun science and inventions can be.

Older kids

The How-To Cookbook for Teens: 100 Easy Recipes to Learn the Basics by Julie Morrison

Learn the basics of cooking and baking from scratch, with pro tips, knife skills, and recipes for specific diets like vegetarian or gluten-free. Go from fundamental to fancy as you gain confidence.

Wreck This Journal: Now in Color by Keri Smith

With offbeat prompts, the artist-author gets journalers' creative juices going by encouraging them to poke holes in pages, add photos and deface them, paint pages with coffee, color outside the lines, and more.

Write Yourself a Lantern: A Journal Inspired by The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Fans of the award-winning YA novel The Poet X (about finding your voice) will enjoy the artful full-color pages and inventive prompts like "Write the the last two paragraphs of your biography" and "When was the last time you felt free?" and poetic tips like "The first words of the poem unwrinkle themselves."

Regan McMahon
Regan has been reviewing children's books for more than 20 years. A journalist and former book editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, she cites as one of her toughest assignments having to read and review the 784-page Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on deadline in 48 hours. Regan is also a published author whose book Revolution in the Bleachers: How Parents Can Take Back Family Life in a World Gone Crazy Over Youth Sports grew out of her experience keeping up with two athletic kids. She earned a B.A., teaching credential, and master's degree in the teaching of French at the University of California at Berkeley -- reflecting a passion she's had for all things French since reading Eloise in Paris as a child.