The Nature Activity Book by Rachel Haydon and Pippa Keel

The Nature Activity Book by Rachel Haydon and illustrated by Pippa Keel is an activity book that all homes in NZ should have on the shelf. Not only is it the perfect activity book to engage all ages of kids when we all have to stay at home, it’s also the perfect book to get the whole family outside and exploring nature. Whether you are stuck in your own back yard or discovering part of the country you’ve never been to, this book helps you enjoy nature using all five senses. This book helps you become a waewae kai kapua- an adventurer.

There are 99 brilliant activities in this book that are fun, informative and reflective. The activities are split into sections, including Experiments and Inquiry, and Sense and Mindfulness. Activities range from collecting items such as leaves and feathers, listening out for the sounds around you, and making nature scavenger hunts, to making dyes from fruits and vegetables, making bird feeders, and observing clouds. Just flicking through the book makes me want to get outside and do the activities. I love that there are activities to keep kids busy but also activities to help kids slow down and be mindful. There are plenty of activities that involve you just sitting or lying on the grass, listening to and looking at what is happening around you. Some activities kids could do independently, while others would be more fun as a family. Each of the activities use materials that you have around home, like scissors, bamboo skewers, or a sponge. Rachel and Pippa give you a helpful list of materials at the start of the book but they suggest that you can improvise or find alternatives.

The Nature Activity Book is not one of those cheaply produced activity books that you’d find at Kmart. This is a beautiful book, with quality paper and it has been wonderfully designed. Pippa’s illustrations fill the book with flora, fauna and wildlife that gives it a very Kiwi feel. There is plenty of space to write, draw, colour and collect the things you find. There’s a great glossary and even suggested websites to visit to find more information about bees, day walks and native deciduous plants.

One of my favourite aspects of the book is that Rachel has seamlessly woven te reo Māori and tikanga Māori into the activities. I learnt so many useful te reo words while reading through the activities, like mīharo (awe and wonder), kapua (clouds) and waewae kai kapua (adventurer). One of the sections of activities focuses on how kids can take action to look after our natural world and be a kaitiakitanga or guardian of the land.

Get a copy of The Nature Activity Book for the kids in your life now. It is an invaluable resource for all Kiwi families.

Doodleville by Chad Sell

Imagine if all art was alive. Superheroes could move through the pages of a comic, a landscape painting could change depending on the time of day and Mona Lisa’s mood could change. This is a reality in Drew’s world in Chad Sell’s magical new graphic novel, Doodleville

Drew is a doodler and since she was little she has been doodling funny creatures that come alive. All art in Drew’s world is alive and when her Art Club visits the Art Institute she sees how amazing art can be. She sneaks in her own doodles though who create havoc in the paintings, including stealing a baby’s hat from one painting. Drew creates Levi, a dragon-like creature, for her art project but this cute, friendly creature turns dark and starts to hunt the other doodles. As Drew let’s her fear and uncertainty take over Levi wreaks havoc and it’s up to Drew and her friends to stop Levi.

The idea of art coming to life is so cool and Chad certainly makes it feel like his characters are alive and moving. The action of the story moves so smoothly through the illustrations and Chad doesn’t let panels limit how the story flows. I love the character designs as they’re cartoony but have really expressive faces.

My favourite thing about Chad’s stories is the diversity of his characters. In Doodleville, Ameer and Zenobia are black, and it’s possible that Beck and TJ are gender diverse. Zenobia’s doodles are the Magical Butterfly Boyfriends, two princes from warring kingdoms who are in love. It’s great for kids to not only see themselves in graphic novels but also to see other kids who are different from them.

Chad promises readers that this is just the start of Drew’s story so we’ll see more of her and the gang in the next book.

Learn to draw from Oliver Jeffers and Jeff Kinney

If you’ve run out of things to keep your kids entertained in the last few days of the holidays why not get them drawing.  Who better to teach them than Oliver Jeffers and Jeff Kinney!

Oliver Jeffers teaches you how to draw a moose.

Jeff Kinney teaches you how to draw Greg Heffley

Jeff Kinney teaches you how to draw Manny Heffley