Over holiday breaks from school, use books to introduce your child to something new or broaden your interests as a family. Here are some ideas:
"Mummy Mazes" (Workman, 2010) is a book of 28 poster-size ancient Egyptian mazes to decipher and color. Elizabeth Carpenter, the author and illustrator, is founder of Mazeology, a games and toy company. Geared for children ages 9 to 12, the book leads kids on hunts through mummies, monuments, murals and masks.
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Hint: Buy a set of colored pencils to go with the maze book, which is compact enough for traveling.
"10-Minute Puppets" (Workman Publishing, 2010) by Noel MacNeal, a puppeteer who has been a performer on "Sesame Street" for more than 20 years. He includes step-by-step instructions on 30 puppets, including how to turn an envelope into a talking bird, make a spider out of a glove, a snake out of sock, or a bunny or ghost out of a cloth napkin. Just as "Sesame Street" puppets have lots of lessons to teach, parents can use them to teach their kids.
Hint: Begin a collection of socks that have lost their mates, worn-out gloves, pipe cleaners, buttons, bags, Mr. Potato Head pieces and fabric remnants to make all kinds of puppets. Recycle boxes to make stages.
"Do Something! A Handbook for Young Activists" (Workman Publishing, 2010) by Nancy Lublin, CEO of www.dosomething.org, an Internet-based youth-service organization. There are 41 projects for kids ages 9 and up.
The spiral-bound paperback, created like a colorful journal, starts with questions to help kids "find their thing." Then they can create a manageable project: Petitioning for healthier lunches at school, holding a coat drive for a homeless shelter, or running a poster campaign against animal cruelty. The book, also helpful for kids learning to write research-based papers, shows how to map out problems, track down information and interview experts.
Hint: Kids who need community-service hours also will find good ideas.
For short science projects using everyday materials, one choice is "365 Science Experiments" (Hinkler Books, 2010), written and tested by teachers, for children ages 4 to 12. For example, your child can learn how magnets work through objects such as little toy cars, paper clips and a track built out of cardboard, or have fun with the static electricity of balloons.
Hint: Give your child a scrapbook to record results, and magnets, a mirror and a flashlight to draw him or her into the experiments.