Think your kids won’t be excited about getting books for Christmas? Think again! These fun-filled activity books and interactive stories will captivate your kids with daring adventures, mind-bending puzzles, and fascinating facts.
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If you want to buy your kids a book for Christmas, but you’re not sure they’ll be thrilled about unwrapping a thick novel, I have the perfect idea for you…Give them an interactive book filled with puzzles and fun activities to do!
I’m not talking about just a dollar-store book of simple mazes and empty tic-tac-toe grids. I’m talking about brilliantly creative books that draw readers in by weaving together adventurous stories with puzzles to solve, codes to crack, and activities to explore.
Over the past several years, I’ve discovered more and more of these types of books, and my busy boys have loved exploring them with me! I have collected enough of them now that I thought it was time to share a list of our favorites!
Why interactive books?
- They’re a great way to motivate reluctant readers who don’t want to “just” sit and read.
- They make fun gifts that kids are excited to unwrap and explore.
- They build problem-solving skills and creativity.
- They are screen-free fun to keep kids occupied during the cold winter months (or blazing hot summer days).
Whether you’re seeking an alternative to screen time, or looking to improve your kids’ reading habits, these interactive books are a perfect choice for a holiday gift!
Pro tip: I like to buy extras of these when they go on sale to give as birthday party gifts for my kids’ friends, especially if it’s a child you don’t know well. I’ve found that parents love them because it’s not more junk, and the kids think they’re super fun!
Interactive Stories and Activity Books
We found this book at the library recently, and it was the first book the boys wanted to read when we got home. On each page, you read the clues, solve the mystery, then lift the flap to reveal the answer!
This book kept my ten-year-old son busy for hours last Christmas break. It goes along with the Explorer Academy novels, but you don’t have to be familiar with them to use this book (we haven’t read them). It’s a great book for teaching kids about all the different types of codes and ciphers. My son learned so much!
These fun mystery stories are each told in short chapters that each end with a puzzle the reader has to solve by finding the clues in the coordinating full-page, color illustrations. The stories are fun, the illustrations are beautiful, and my son was just telling me the other day that we need to buy more of these books!
This fun story is a fun mash-up of Choose Your Own Adventure, I Survived, and a drawing/activity book. Kids get to be the star of the story as they explore history and doodle their way through epic adventures. The books are packed with interesting facts, and I love how they bring history to life by helping kids to imagine (and draw) themselves into the stories.
If you read Choose Your Own Adventure books when you were a kid (I did!), you’ll love these books! Just like the old classics, these books put kids in the driver’s seat of the story, while also teaching them interesting facts about science and history. There are a bunch of different scenarios to choose from, too. Choose your fate, but choose wisely!
When I saw that this book was by the author of one of my favorite non-fiction books for kids (Atlas of Animal Adventures), I knew it would be a winner. Beyond the fun concept of using the pop-out spinner to “decide your destiny” (as the cover states), it’s a beautiful, high-quality book that really is gift-worthy.
This book has been a long-standing favorite at our house. It’s a creative twist on search-and-find books with illustrations that are divided into a grid-style map. Kids learn about coordinates, math, logic, and more as they try to help the gnomes complete a daring mission! My youngest went through a phase where we had to read it every night for several months, and he still pulls it out regularly to look at. In fact, we are gifting him another book in the series for Christmas this year. It’s one that appeals to a wide variety of ages, from preschool on up!
Sometimes big, thick books of activity ideas leave my kids feeling overwhelmed, but this one is just so inviting! My boys pick it up regularly when they’re bored, and they’ve found so many fun challenges to try. It reminds me of a book version of an old VHS I had growing up called 101 Things for Kids to Do. Did anyone else have that movie? The 90’s were great.
Novels with Fun Puzzles to Solve
The books below are full-fledged novels that require more reading, but they also include fun mysteries and puzzles for kids to solve. They’ve been some of our favorite family read-alouds! Keep in mind, you’ll want a physical copy of these books (rather than an audio or digital version). It makes it easier to flip back and forth to put the clues together. They’re all recommended for ages 8 and up.
I hope you already know the Mr. Lemoncello books, but in case you don’t, I’m here to tell you…your kids will love these! I read the first one aloud to my kids during our homeschooling year of 2020, and we were immediately hooked! They’re funny, action-packed novels that invite readers to solve puzzles alongside the characters in the story as they compete to escape from the coolest library in the world!
I read this book back in college (my roommate and I read it aloud together all in one sitting…NERDS!), and I’ve loved it ever since. A couple of years ago, I read it to my kids as well, and they instantly became obsessed with pentominoes. It’s a puzzle, wrapped in a mystery novel, disguised as an adventure, and delivered as a work of art…and it’s fabulous!
This book is the perfect choice for young readers in your life that want a bit of a challenge! It’s a bit of a longer book (almost 500 pages), and the vocabulary is more advanced, but it’s still a fun, action-packed story that will have kids matching wits the characters in the book to solve the riddles along the way. I also just discovered a companion activity book to the series: Mr. Benedict’s Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas, and Curious Conundrums. I thoroughly enjoyed snuggling up with a fluffy blanket this week and testing my own wits against the book’s challenges.
Pin this list for later!
Want more Christmas gift ideas? Here are some of my favorite, NO-JUNK recommendations: