Seek and Find books have come a long way since I Spy and Where's Waldo! Although those classics remain wonderful books to keep your kids busy, I've found some interesting new seek and find books that will give your kids' visual perception skills a workout, teach them patience and encourage them work towards a goal. Since some of these books are more suitable for older kids and others are best for preschoolers, I've roughly sorted them by seek and find difficulty.
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Seek and Find Books for Preschoolers and Up
You can literally turn any book into a can-you-find book for toddlers. All you have to do is say, "point to the doggy," or whatever object you want them to locate. But preschoolers like something a bit more challenging! These books encourage kids ages 3 and up to use their perception skills to find hidden objects, but the task is not too overwhelming. I've put the easiest books at the top of the list, they get harder as you continue down. And, yes, all of these will also be enjoyed by elementary aged kids.
Seasons by Philip Giordano. I love this unique take on the seek and find book: turn-seek-find! Each two page spread is filled with bold, colorful graphics and has two wheel for little hands to turn. One wheel displays a grey-scale object like a robin or a mushroom. The other wheel turns to display one of two colors (each season has different colors). Little eyes then spy the corresponding object in the appropriate color. Great fun and a must for seek and find book lovers.
Yoo-Hoo, Ladybug! by Mem Fox. A lady bug hides in different interior locations. After each initial illustration in which children hunt for the spotted beetle, they turn the page to see a close up of the little ladybug. The text is simple, but fun to read aloud. This is a great first seek and find book for preschoolers.
Where's Walrus and Penguin? by Steven Savage. This wordless book is a followup to Where's Walrus? This time Walrus escapes from the zoo with Penguin and once again they hide in plain sight all around the city. Walrus and penguin are not hard to spot but the clever use of color and shape make spotting them a delight.
Have You Seen My Lunch Box? by Steve Light. In scenes that many children will find familiar, a boy gets ready for school. Along the way he must locate his lost belongings amongst the clutter in his house. Thanks to Light's use of color in his mostly black and white illustrations, the objects in this story are not hard to find. This is not a classic seek and find book but nevertheless kids will enjoy pointing out the boy's lost socks, pencil case and other everyday objects they have probably also experienced losing!
The Lost Picnic by B.B. Cronin. This one is so cute! The story goes that granddad is taking his little folks on a picnic but along the way the food gets lost. The colorful illustrations offer much to examine and young readers will want to keep flipping back the pages to make sure they've found all the food.
Have You Seen My Dragon? and Have You Seen My Monster by Steve Light. What could be more glorious than the idea that a magical dragon or a cute monster is on the loose? Intensely detailed drawings take readers on a journey all over the metropolis or the amusement park with a child looking for the creature. Each book is a vehicle for introducing concepts. The search for the dragon requires counting to twenty; the search for the monster is a discovery of 20 shapes.
Where's the Baby? by Britta Teckentrup. Teckentrup has a series of "spotting books" with very pleasing graphics. In this one, a rhyme accompanies each page in which the reader is asked to find the baby in a group of animals. Other books in the series challenge little detectives to find pairs, the odd one out, or other difference.
Bear's Springtime Book of Hidden Things by Gergely Dudás. This is a very cute book and part of a seasonal series. Bear heads out to find spring themed items like rain boots and caterpillars, chicks and baskets. The search and find aspect is the perfect level of challenging to hold a child's interest, but not so difficult to be frustrating.
Who What Where? by Olivier Tallec. This is another series of books with a special twist. These clever, horizontally-oriented books ask the reader to solve a mystery about the scene depicted in each illustration. Below each scene is a line up of whimsical characters to chose from. Children will love to examine the humorous pictures and figuring out the answer will require keen observation skills and a careful perusal of the scene as the answer is not always obvious. Helpful adults might be able to ask leading questions for the first couple of pages, but kids will enjoy working it out for themselves. Highly recommended!
Little Bear's Big House by Benjamin Chaud. I love this series of oversized books about Little Bear's adventures! It is so much fun to try and find Little Bear in each enormous, detailed two page spread. In this installment Little Bear discovers an empty house and wants to go exploring. Unlike the majority of seek and find or I Spy-type books, Chaud's Little Bear books also have very engaging stories. Highly recommended!
Catch Me: A Seek and Find Book by Anders Arhoj. This seek and find book, along with its predecessor, Find Me: A Hide-and-Seek Book, are great fun. The eyes on the front and back covers are actually cut outs and I had a laugh holding it up to my face and peering out at my kids to take them by surprise. (I'm a little nuts sometimes.) The story, with its playful illustrations reads both backwards and forwards which is a fun way to get kids thinking differently about narrative. Big Meow the cat and Little Woof the dog scamper along the pages, waiting to be found.
Seek and Find Books for Ages 5 and Up
Most preschoolers who enjoy the following search and find picture books. Some of them are more difficult then others but as your child gets more at locating hidden objects in the illustrations they may want to tackle the harder books. Elementary aged kids, kindergarten and up will certainly be able to take on any of these challenges! And of course, parents will enjoy the nice break to finish that cold cup of coffee, interrupted only occasionally by an elated, "I found it!"
Around the World with Mouk by Marc Boutavant. Originally published in France, this seek and find book follows Mouk the bear on this adventures around the world. The very vibrant illustrations show Mouk encountering and learning about different cultures. The story asks readers to search and find items in the illustrations and comes with reusable stickers for an extra interactive experience.
Pierre the Maze Detective: The Search for the Stolen Maze Stone by Hiro Kamigaki and IC4DESIGN. This a-mazing (<<< see what I did there?) book includes 15 highly detailed mazes for readers to travel through. The story and intricate illustrations offer up clues to solve mysteries and an engaging story keeps kids reading. If you are looking for a book that kids will examine for hours, this is a pretty good bet! Bonus: it's a series!
Look for Ladybug in Plant City by Katherina Manolessou. Plant City is a wondrous place, and any ladybug would love to get lost in it. While younger kids may enjoy helping the detectives find the elusive ladybug, older kids will appreciate the visual jokes and fantastical elements in the illustrations.
Adèle & Simon by Barbara McClintock. This is one of my all time favorite books for kids. Adèle and her little brother, Simon, travel through the sights of Paris on their way home from school. Absent-minded Simon loses an item at every turn and readers are challenged to find the lost items in the elaborate drawings. Terrific end maps detail the children's journey through the city.
Spot, the Cat by Henry Cole. Here's another selection with intricate line drawings, this time in black and white. I knew that any book with such a clever title would be a good pick and I was right. Spot, the cat leaves his home ventures out into the city. Out and about on his adventures, he travels though familiar sights, like markets, bridges, a park, etc. His owner, a boy, is out looking for him and kids will love spotting how the two just miss each other in this wordless story.
Dinosaur Detective's Search-and-Find Rescue Mission by Sophie Guerrive. A dinosaur detective is headed around the world to find lost animals. Each intricate two page spread asks readers to help find the mystery location of each animal as well as a collection of other objects. I liked how Guerrive gave the lost animals and objects specific descriptions. "A cat wearing a blue collar with a gold ring," or "a cow wearing a green dress," for example.
More fun books to keep your kids busy: