"Mom, can you get the little house down?" My boys were won over instantly with this dollhouse! Three story building, eight rooms, six people, two pets, and a whole collection of furniture... a world of play awaits with the Slot-Together Victorian Dollhouse from Usborne.
Ever since joining Usborne Books & More, I have been curious about the little slot-together kits - this dollhouse and a theater. I have always love little things, and I've loved constructing my own toys. But would my two boys? Would they destroy it? Would they get bored?
I decided to take the risk and invite my boys (3.5 and 5) to help me put together this house. They were so excited! All the pieces come on foam boards and just need to be popped out, so no extra tools required. The enclosed book gives step-by-step instructions for building first the house, then the people and furniture.
And my boys were enchanted for the whole two hours we spent constructing everything from start to finish! They were eager to help, followed directions as I handed them down, and were careful with the little foam pieces. That's a win in my book! And, once construction was completed, the boys loved moving the pieces around and opening and closing the front wall to see everything inside. ("We have to close it now, the house is sleeping!")
There is so much to love about this kit: it's a great project, the pieces are well-made and so beautifully detailed (though some pieces benefit from Elmer's Glue reinforcement), you can tell your own stories as you play, and you can learn fun tidbits of historical info from the accompanying book.
"Mom, can we do it again?" You know you have an engaging book in your hands when your toddlers can't get enough of it! There's a Mouse About the House, a book written and illustrated by Richard Fowler, is a clever book that combines storytelling with fine motor development and reading preparation.
To use this book, you take the little cardboard mouse out of its sleeve on the front cover and slip it through the slot. This transports the mouse into a playroom, where you learn that he is on a search for food. A dotted line directs the mouse from one slot to the next, where he slips through a crack in the floor to the kitchen. Slots in each page take you on a tour of the house as the mouse looks for food. But watch out for the cat, the parrot, and Mr. and Mrs. B!
I wasn't sure what to make of this book at first, as it has a very 1980's feel - but oh boy, is it fun! My boys really do "read" through it over and over. The reason the book develops reading and fine motor skills is that you have to be pretty intentional to get the mouse through each slot, and the movement is always from left to right across the page. Fun way to get kids practicing essential skills without even realizing it!
"You found me!" This is the text on the final flap of each page as you flip, flip, flip to reveal different animals. But, if you want to be a corny parent, this is also the book talking to you after you have stumbled across it on the Usborne Books & More website. It's a hidden gem I stumbled on myself, and I want to help you avoid that problem!
Flippy Floppy Jungle Animals (a Kane Miller book by Anton Poitier and Sophia Touliatou) is a board book with four thick pages, each of which contains four flaps. The premise here is that on the left side of each page sits an animal - elephant, lion, hippo, or tiger - asking, "can you find me? I'm hiding somewhere!" On the facing page (the one with the flaps) is a jungle scene.
With each flap you turn, the scene transforms into a different animal, until, on the final flap, you see the animals have collectively turned into the "hiding" animal. It's a little difficult to put into words, so take a look at the sequence with the tiger:
Clever, eh? I wondered if it would be a short lived favorite in my house because there are only four scenes, but my boys love going through the book on their own and exclaiming in a sing-song voice, "you found me!" once they reach the final flap. And there are fun details to notice, like the alligator lurking under the water and little birds that make appearances on each page.
The illustrations are whimsical and vibrant, making the book beautiful even for the sake of talking about different animals and ecosystems. If you're a fan of Count to 100, you'll recognize the artwork - the books share an illustrator. :)
It's that book that shows the transformational, and playful, power of art!
Buy Flippy Floppy Jungle Animals here! (board book, $12.99)
If you like this one, Kane Miller has two others in the collection! Check out Ocean Animals and Farm Animals.
Here's a quick video preview, too!
"Mom, a digger!" "Mom, an excavator!" "Mom, look! A grader!" I have two boys. One is 3, the other is approaching 5. I hear about construction machines all. day. long. It's gotten to the point now where, even if I'm out by myself, I'll point out construction machines I pass on the road. So when I saw that Usborne was releasing a brand new lift-the-flap book about construction sites (Look Inside Construction Sites, by Stefano Tognetti and Rob Lloyd Jones), half of me thought "wow, perfect!" and half of me thought, "oh man, another construction book for our collection?"
But I have to say, I love this book and am so glad we added it to our collection. Like all of Usborne's lift-the-flap books, this one is packed full of information. The illustrations are colorful and detailed, a blend of informational (like workers carrying a pipe to the site) and playful (like workers standing around drinking tea). This book would be worth it just for the surface content, but of course, the flaps add layers of engagement and detail that make it even better.
From here, you get to see elements of building a skyscraper, examples of "super machines," the process of building a bridge, components of building roads and tunnels, and finally a glimpse of the demolition process. And each page has a different, creative layout of flaps to pile on the layers of exploration.
Ok, maaaybe my boys' fascination of construction sites has rubbed off on me. Or maybe I just can't resist a good book. :) My guess, though, is that it's a combination of the two; Construction Sites teaches fascinating nuggets of information on each page and does it in a way that you can't help but read every caption and pore over every flap.
Hi there! I'm Christine - Usborne Books & More independent consultant, kids' book fan, English teacher, mom of two boys.