By Yi-Chin Lan

Observation is an important science skill that includes far more than simply looking at an object. To observe, one needs to pay close attention to many details and then compare and analyze them. Here are nine picture books that you can read with your kids to help them sharpen their observation skills.

  1. Spot It: Find the Hidden Creatures, by Delphine Chedru
  2. Spot It Again: Find More Hidden Creatures, by Delphine Chedru (ages both suitable for Years 3-6) Scour the rich repeating graphics to find creatures such as the hamster who has lost her ball, soccer-playing earthworms, and a showy peacock. The brief clues provided in the text require your child to make comparisons in order to find the hidden creatures.
  3. The Where’s Waldo? Series, by Martin Handford (ages 3-6) Perhaps one of the most famous children’s book characters, Waldo always carries a walking stick and wears a red and white striped shirt, a bobble hat, and glasses. Handford frequently disguises Waldo by placing him in crowded scenes and surrounding him with other red and white striped objects. Little ones must pay close attention to find their real target. Spend some time developing a few strategies with your child to find Waldo quickly.
  4. Changes, by Anthony Browne (ages 4-6) You can always find something attention grabbing in Anthony Browne’s work! A good way to start reading this picture book is by asking your child what she notices about the book’s cover. The story begins as Joseph’s dad announces, “Things are going to change.” Invite your child to carefully observe the illustrations and see how many “changes” she can find. After you have finished the book, ask her which change she thought was the biggest.
  5. Who Is Driving?, by Leo Timmers (ages 4-6) In this book children are tasked with the challenge of figuring out which animal will be driving a certain vehicle. Children must decide which of four different animals (e.g., a lizard, a gorilla, a pig, and a donkey) wearing different types of clothing is appropriately dressed to drive a particular vehicle (e.g., a race car). Before your child guesses, ask him what clues he notices. Then turn the page to find the answer and discuss the results.
  6. The Odd One Out, by Britta Teckentrup (ages 4-6) Before you begin reading, you might discuss with your child what the word odd means. In this beautifully illustrated picture book, readers need to find the “odd one out.” Each page offers a clue, for example, one page says, “Some cuddly pandas have put on a show, jiggling bellies as white as the snow. In among all of this hullabaloo, which panda has lost its shoot of bamboo?” As the pages progress, the animals become smaller and more numerous, making it that much harder for your child to find the outlier while also encouraging her to make more careful comparisons between animals.
  7. Good Night, Gorilla, by Peggy Rathmann (ages 3-6) In this picture book, the gorilla takes the zookeeper’s keys and starts to unlock each animal’s cage. The color of each cage suggests which key the gorilla will need. Help your child notice this clue by asking: “The gorilla has five different keys. Which one would unlock the elephant’s purple cage?” The tile patterns below each cage also provide opportunities for asking your child to make observations.
  8. The I Spy series, by Jean Marzollo (ages 3-6) This series provides numerous opportunities for you to help improve your child’s observation skills. You might say something like, “I spy something round, pink, and shiny,” and then ask your child to figure out what it is you see. Or give your child hints, such as, “I spy four things that all have a letter on them,” so that your child can carefully look for objects with those commonalities.
  9. I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen (ages 4-6) A bear looking for his (or her?) lost hat asks each animal he encounters, “Have you seen my hat?” Each animal’s answer then appears in a different color (e.g., green text for the frog). The cover of this picture book holds the most important clue—the color of the title is the color of the missing hat. Before opening this book, ask your child: “Why is the title red? What might that mean?” Encourage him to use that idea to successfully discover who stole the hat.


Yi-Chin Lan received her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Texas at Austin. When she worked as a kindergarten teacher, she read her students at least three books a day. Her favorite picture books are Miss Rumphius, Guess how much I love you, and Not a box. She can be reached at