Gift Ideas for Kids + Teens who love play

Today our theme is ‘play’ in all its forms: performing arts, sports, stories that encourage play, and even books you play with! Have fun! The only extra you’ll need to pair with these books is time spent with your children.

dance betsy snyderI Can Dance by Betsy Snyder
| board book, ages: infant to 4 |

Use your fingers to make your “legs” do all types of dancing. From break dancing and ballet to disco, synchronized swimming, and tap. Rhyme introduces kids to different forms of dance and gets them up and moving.

Terry: This is a book my daughter would have played with for HOURS! For those worried that this is a “girl book” based on the cover, don’t. There are boys dancing, and characters of color allow all children to see themselves as dancers.

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See also I Can Play | I Can Explore | I Can Dream

baby garden lorena simonovichYou Are My Baby: Garden by Lorena Siminovich 
| board book, ages: infant to 4 |

This unique board book is actually two books: a larger book and a smaller book cut out of the lower left quarter of the book. The story is told by turning both sets of pages at the same time, with the larger section showing a mother animal and the smaller section showing the corresponding baby animal and the sounds it makes.

Parent reviewer: My daughter (11 months) really enjoyed this book. While I read the story and turned the big pages, she turned the corresponding small pages. It really captured her attention because it is so unusual-looking and because she enjoyed turning one set of pages as I turned the other. I really enjoyed this book because it is so unique. I have never before seen a board book that is cut into two separate books like this.

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lets play herve tulletLet’s Play! by Herve Tullet
| picture book, ages: 2 to 7 |

Yellow Dot is bored. It needs your help to get moving. Time to have some fun and explore the world! Kids won’t be able to resist helping Yellow Dot!

Terry: Yes, I freely admit that at 50+ years old I was following Yellow Dot’s instructions: running my finger along the page and repeating the magic phrases. Just as I was thinking “this is getting a little boring” new things showed up to re-engage my curiosity. Brilliant! What a fun book for engaging kids – especially those who like to “do” stuff as they read.

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See also Press Here and Mix It Up, both by Herve Tullet

dixie wins raceDixie Wins the Race by Grace Gilman
| easy reader, ages 5 to 8 |

Emma is in a relay race, and Dixie is there to cheer her on. It is hard for Dixie to sit still when the girls run by with the stick! Dixie cheers for Emma – so loudly that Emma falls and drops the baton. Oh, no! Who will finish the race?

This is a beginning reader about the friendship between a girl and her dog. The first time you read it, you get as antsy as Dixie. The author does a great job building the story with action and a bit of suspense, yet repeating sight words consistently enough to help new readers keep going.

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diva dlorese by laura sassiDiva Delores and the Opera House Mouse by
| picture book, ages 3 to 9 |

Delores is the new diva, and she is living up to her name. When the Opera House Mouse tries to help her, Diva Delores sees him as a small pest, and treats him accordingly. Then, with just a day to go until showtime, she is starting to get nervous. As she takes the stage, she forgets her song. Will Mouse help her after the way he’s been treated?

This is a wonderful book!! young readers will have fun with the musical “interludes” at the bottom of the page that signal the transition to the next scene. Get ready for your reader to sing Delores’ part by page 5. This is a great story of perseverance, doing the right thing, admitting to your mistakes, and friendship.

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Jackie & Me [Baseball Card Adventure Series] by Dan Gutman
| chapter book, ages 10 and Up |

jackie and me dan gutmanJoe Stoshack (Stosh) is tired of the insults about his Polish heritage. When Bobby Fuller, a pitcher for the opposing team starts up again, Stosh loses his temper. He wants to teach Bobby Fuller a lesson, but that backfires. For charging the mound, Stosh is banned from Little League. The next day Stosh receives an assignment to write a report on an influential African American. He goes to his baseball cards and picks Jackie Robinson.

That sends him back in time to witness Robinson’s first game in the Majors. Jackie takes Joe to see the Opening Day game, where he becomes an African American bat boy and is partnered with “Ant,” who steals that baseball card. After he gets the card back, he travels to 1947, where he is a Caucasian fan watching the World Series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees. When Ant spots him, Stosh is forced to return to the present, this time for good.

Time has passed and the League lifts Stosh’s ban. Once more, Stosh faces off against Fuller, but he has learned his lesson. Stosh ignores Fuller’s jeers and gets a single, managing to successfully steal second, third, and home base to make the winning run.

Teen reader (15): I personally recommend this book to any reader: girl, boy, and even an adult. This book awakens in me such an amazing feeling in ways not many other books have or, maybe, ever will. The courage that ran through the blood of Jackie Robinson, painted by Gutman’s words, is infectious to its core.

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There are 11 titles in the Baseball Card Adventures series. See them all on

Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly
| chapter book, ages 9 to 13 |

blackbird fly by erin entrada kellyApple Yegko likes lists. She keeps IF lists – three Interesting Facts about the people in her life. Her favorite list is her playlist of Beatles songs she copied from a cassette of her dad’s. She can’t share it with her Mom, who shuts her down when she tries to talk about her dad’s death. She can’t share the list from school, either. Apple is on the Dog Log (self IF #1), an unwritten list of the so-called ugliest girls in school. Apple and her Mom came to the US from the Philippines for a fresh start. Her classmates think she’s too different (IF #2), and her mom tells her she’s “too American.” Why is life so hard and mom so embarrassing(IF #3)? With the help of two friends, Apple may find her IFs after all.

Kids who feel like outsiders and/or who dream of being in a band will relate to Apple. This middle grade novel offers a realistic and thought-provoking look at life as a middle school teen. The story is vivid and pushes all your buttons, from empathy to outrage. The characters speak authentically, giving the reader the chance to ask themselves “is that me?” or “what would I do in that situation?”

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Encore / Overtime / Extra Innings

As previously mentioned, pairing a book with an activity can create a gift that can be enjoyed now and also add some “delayed gratification.” If opportunities present themselves, why not match the book with a musical, dramatic, or sports event? Sure, you can go see someone else “play” (check local listings for free events), but why not plan your own outing …

  • Get a backstage tour at a local theater.
  • Find out if your local orchestra or chorus offers tours or lessons.
  • Make a date to hit balls in a batting cage or indoor golf range.

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