Recipes for Play: Creative Activities for Small Hands and Big Imaginations!

By Rachel Sumner and Ruth Mitchener

Where was this book during our recent long, hard, cold winter?! I could really have used its infusion of fun, engaging activities sometime around mid-February, when my own creativity was stumped—possibly frozen from the low temperatures—and I finally gave in to more cartoons than I usually allow. If only I’d have had Recipes for Play: Creative Activities for Small Hands and Big Imaginations!

This activity book starts with the premise that all kids are natural explorers—that they come hardwired with curious minds and fingertips, and they want to know what the world around them is like. The authors also believe that playing is not just a way to pass the time for kids; instead, it’s the main way young children learn.

I agree wholeheartedly.

Also in the introduction is an explanation about how the book is geared towards children’s senses. Each of the activities has one or more small photographs of either a ear, nose, eye, hand or mouth, telling the parent/caregiver/teacher that activity’s focus. Sometimes that’s a little obvious, but…sometimes that’s not a bad thing.

The activities in the book are divided into three main categories:

  • Indoor Play: salt dough, rainbow rice, papier mâché, painting with marbles
  • Outdoor Play: touch tub, painting windows, ice excavations, ideas for water play
  • Takeaway Play: lacing cards, wallet stuffers, photo book, playing with ribbons

There are many things I like about this activity book. First, there’s the “mess factor” rating for each activity. Really, I think it’s a “patience-o-meter” that answers the questions most moms ask before starting an activity: “How messy is this going to be? Am I going to have to use my patience up in one activity?” The book rates the clean up time and mess factor on a low, medium or high level. I find that very helpful!

Second, activity books like this one are fantastic for first-time parents who are new to this bust-out-an-activity-on-a-Saturday-afternoon (or right-after-breakfast-on-a-Tuesday-morning) thing. But it’s also great for parents like me with three (or more!) kids who might be wrapped up in older children’s needs and wants, and have forgotten that our youngest just want to play with water or make messy art.

Third, I love how the activities are broken up into indoor, outdoor and takeaway play. While the boundaries are fuzzy for each of these categories—if I want to be really brave I could let my son play with water inside—the takeaway activities that allow kids to be curious and engaged in something while sitting at a table or waiting somewhere is beyond practical. There are so many moments we wait with our kids, especially younger siblings, and now we have a gentle nudge and some great suggestions to use that time to play a little with our kids.

I think this is a fantastic book. At just about $10, it’s a necessary part of any mom’s winter (or, really, any season) survival kit!

Publisher: The Experiment


Available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million!

MSRP: approximately $11.00

Ages: 2-6 years

Readability: 5

Illustrations: 5

Kept My Children’s Interest: 5

Appealed to Advertised Age:  5

I Would Purchase for My Child: Yes

I Would Purchase as a Gift: Yes

Overall Rating: 5

All ratings on a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high).

Meet the Reviewer!

Kate Schwarz is a full-time mom and wife living in Great Falls, VA. In addition to being a reader to her three small children, Kate is a writer, distance runner, Crossfitter and blogger of raising kids with books at


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