Book review: Gardening, painting and dinosaur discoveries with Usborne

Keep little hands busy this half-term with a truly terrific round-up of Usborne’s super-creative activity books.

Thursday, 28th May 2015, 10:00 am
Gardening for Beginners
Gardening for Beginners

Usborne, the biggest and most successful independent children’s book publisher in the UK, is keeping boredom at bay with everything from magic painting and sticker books to wipe-clean drawing, lift-the-flap books and an innovative new children’s gardening guide.

Age 6 plus:

Gardening for Beginners by Emily Bone, Abigail Wheatley and Lisa DeJohn

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School’s out… so how about taking a bit of ‘gardening’ leave?

Even the youngest growers in the family will enjoy digging into this beautifully illustrated and foolproof introduction to the basics of gardening.

And don’t worry if you don’t have a garden in which to get started on the exciting projects because all the flowers, fruit, herbs and vegetables are grown in containers. A small outside space such as a balcony, or even a windowsill, will suffice for many of the plants here. And others can be grown inside.

This really is gardening for absolute beginners… whether you are a child or a grown up. Step-by-step illustrated instructions show how to grow flowers, herbs and vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, climbing beans, pumpkins, sunflowers and potatoes, giving children a fascinating lesson on where their food comes from.

Learn what flowers attract the bees, which plants help to keep other plants healthy, how to make your own compost from leaf mould or household leftovers, and even how to make your own plant food by leaving weeds in water.

Each project comes with a helpful introduction, a list of everything you will need, advice on where to grow, when to start, potential problems and when to expect your plants to be ready for picking or harvesting.

The robust, spiral-bound format and thick paper pages make the book eminently user-friendly and there is a helpful glossary to explain some of the useful gardening words. And you can learn even more about gardening by visiting the Usborne Quicklinks website at

So whether you want to indulge in your own home-grown strawberries this summer, enjoy the taste of succulent sweetcorn cobs or simply entice your kids into the fresh air, take a leaf out of Gardening for Beginners and get growing!

(Usborne, hardback, £9.99)

Age 5 plus:

Magic Painting Book by Fiona Watt and Erica Harrison

What child can resist the magic of a magic painting book!

All you need is water and the brush provided, and then abracadabra, marvel as the black and white pages turn into a rainbow of vibrant colours.

Enjoy the look of amazement on the faces of your little ones when they use the special brush to paint water over the illustrations and the colours are magically revealed. From butterflies and birds to a grand castle and a jungle full of tigers, the black and white pictures are transformed in seconds. A laminated flap to place behind your work stops paint seeping through to the next page and ensures perfect results every time.

This stylish, updated version of the magic painting books we all remember guarantees fun for creative kids and is perfect for harassed parents looking for a mess-free activity on rainy days.

Magic at your fingertips!

(Usborne, paperback, £5.99)

Age 3 plus:

Lots of things to spot on Holiday by Hazel Maskell and Sigrid Martinez

Now here’s a busy book for busy little hands and eyes. Join in the fun of a sun-filled adventure by spotting a bunch of cute animals as they enjoy a holiday at the seaside.

Pre-schoolers will love exploring a sandy beach, visiting a thrilling adventure park, going to the pool and taking part in woodland activities. Each exciting scene is packed with things to spot and there are puzzles, games, over 200 stickers to add to each page and lots of things to talk about too.

All the challenges of this look-and-talk book are ideal for developing children’s essential first skills, such as matching and visual discrimination, and will keep them out of mischief for hours.

Fun and learning in one big, beautiful book!

(Usborne, paperback, £5.99)

Age 3 plus:

Wipe-Clean Holiday Activities by Kirsteen Robson

Make a clean sweep of holiday playtime with this brilliant activity book packed with everything from counting and drawing to joining dots and solving puzzles.

Completely self-contained, the bright, busy, holiday-themed book is perfect for travelling as the wipe-clean pen means it can be used again and again. Each page has a different holiday scene, with activities and puzzles such as counting shells, drawing patterns on the sails of a boat and decorating suitcases.

The wipe-clean pages allow young children to learn, develop and practise essential skills such as counting, observation and pen control, and they can return to their favourite activities again and again.

From boats and birds and sand and sea to poolside antics and city tours, there are pages of challenges to enjoy. Spot the difference, do some counting, join the dots, follow the mazes, solve puzzles or simply draw. And then wipe it clean and start all over again!

(Usborne, paperback, £4.99)

Age 4 plus:

Lift the Flap Questions and Answers About Dinosaurs by Katie Daynes and Marie-Eve Tremblay

The launch of the new Jurassic World film from Universal Pictures means those magnificent dinosaurs are setting young imaginations on fire again.

So if your dino-mad children are plaguing you with some mammoth questions about the wonderful world of Tyrannosaurus rex and his prehistoric pals, why not let this brilliant interactive flap book provide the answers.

Entertaining, informative and brimming with exciting illustrations, there are over 60 flaps to lift, look and learn. Find out why dinosaurs have tricky names, if dinosaurs were smelly, whether dinosaurs could swim, the size of the biggest dinosaur, how bones turn into fossils and lots, lots more.

With its easy-to-follow answers, a guide to pronouncing some of the more difficult dinosaur names and helpful Usborne Quicklinks to specially selected websites to find out more about dinosaurs, there could be no better way to open up the inside story on those dazzling, dangerous dinosaurs.

(Usborne, hardback, £9.99)

Age 4 plus:

1000 dinosaur stickers by Lucy Bowman and Stella Baggott

Picture the world as it looked thousands of years ago… and then bring it to life with your own fantastic array of dinosaurs.

This bumper, bag-sized book is packed with one thousand colourful stickers to complete exciting prehistoric scenes of dinosaurs fighting, hunting or grazing on grass. And there is an extra batch of stickers to enable you to get creative and decorate your own pictures, hand-made cards or other belongings.

Fun but educational, the chunky book features the names and habitats of all the well-known dinosaurs, including Triceratops, Stegosaurus and Oviraptor, and will keep children busy and engaged for hours.

So make your own Jurassic world and get stuck into this giant-sized dinosaur adventure…

(Usborne, paperback, £9.99)