Play Smart by Gakken book review (and GIVEAWAY!)

24 Aug


I have three children, ages 10, 8, and 3. I often find myself in situations that involve a lot of waiting, especially with my 3-year old. Waiting for her older siblings while they participate in piano lessons and other extracurricular activities. Waiting at the airport. Waiting at the dentist’s office. Waiting for dinner to be made.

And waiting is HARD for a preschooler! I don’t want her to have too much screen time, and I also want her to be mentally stimulated . One of the best solutions I have found for these WAITING situations are these workbooks by Gakken called Play Smart.


Want to win all 6 of these books? Keep reading!

The workbooks are full-color on every page and the paper is very nice. They are age-appropriate, fun, and have STICKERS! My daughter honestly can and has worked on these books for hours. We use them when she needs to be sitting quietly in church. We used them on the airplane when we went to Japan this summer. And we work on them when her siblings are at school. We totally love them and I can see her skills improving with every book we complete.


The following is from the Gakken website:

Gakken Play Smart Workbooks are bestsellers in Japan where 1 million Play Smart workbooks are sold each year, and the books have been enjoyed by tens of millions of children. The winning Play Smart formula:

• Puts the emphasis on fun – so much so, that children have no idea that they’re building important skills while they trace lines and shapes, cut and paste objects, solve mazes, create crafts, and tackle other simple, enjoyable activities.

• Includes parent involvement: Extensive research asserts that young children learn the most, have the highest rates of literacy, and the most developed math skills, and even social skills when there is parent involvement in the learning process. Every single page of the Play Smart workbooks includes “notes to parents” offering advice to help each child progress.

Has been proven to strengthen kids’ reasoning, decision-making, and concentration skills, which helps them prepare for the classroom – and for life.

• Includes age-appropriate trying, cutting, pasting, and drawing activities to build fine motor coordination and other important skills. 

• Uses  stickers within the context of certain activities and also as rewards for completed work.

We made a video of us working on the Play Smart Animal Picture Puzzlers for Ages 3+.

These books are in ENGLISH but I try to speak to my daughter in Japanese as we work on the pages together. I love seeing some Japan-inspired pictures on some of the pages.


I can’t wait for you to check these books out. I have teamed up with Gakken to host a GIVEAWAY! One lucky winner will be sent the full set of Play Smart Picture Puzzler Books– 6 workbooks total!  To enter, simply visit this site: then tell me in the comments below which Play Smart book would be perfect for your child! Then, for a BONUS entry, follow @gakken_playsmart on Instagram: then leave another comment saying you’ve followed them. Don’t have a toddler or preschooler? Please share this giveaway with someone who does.

This Giveaway will begin on August 24th and conclude on Friday August 31st at 9pm EST. At that point, a winner will be announced and must contact me within a week to claim their prize. This giveaway is only open to residents of the United States. 

The winner is Lindsey!! I will be emailing you 🙂 おめでとう!

No worries if you don’t win… these books are affordably priced at $6.99 each. They are available on Amazon (free shipping for prime members). Gakken even has a few FREE pages you can print and try out if you just can’t wait! Free printables HERE! Stock up for all those times of WAITING :).


Disclosure: I was sent some free Play Smart books by Gakken to try out and review. I have tried some of their other workbooks in the past, both from Japan and from the U.S. and LOVED them, so I was happy to write this blog post and host a giveaway. If you purchase these books through my Amazon links, I will receive a small percentage of the sale to help keep this website up and running. Arigato!

15 Responses to “Play Smart by Gakken book review (and GIVEAWAY!)”

  1. Lorrie Grimes August 24, 2018 at 3:53 PM #

    Ahh!! I have to pick one?!? They all look great!

  2. Lorrie Grimes August 24, 2018 at 3:54 PM #

    Gakken is officially followed by me! 🙂

  3. Allie Seal August 24, 2018 at 4:02 PM #

    All of these look great! I think my daughter would love Play Smart Skill Builders 2+ (the whole series of 2+ books, really) because she loves stickers and matching games right now. Thank you for hosting this giveaway!

  4. Allie August 24, 2018 at 4:05 PM #

    I have also followed them on Instagram! The link to my account is the URL in this comment.

  5. Gary Armstrong August 24, 2018 at 5:59 PM #

    I hear Gakken is starting a new push into North America.

    The 4+ books would be great!

  6. Ivy Taylor August 25, 2018 at 2:21 PM #

    Play Smart School Skills looks like it would be great for the pre-K work we’re doing this year. Thanks for sharing, those work books look great!

  7. Ivy Taylor August 25, 2018 at 2:22 PM #

    I followed on Instagram 🙂

  8. Lisa S August 26, 2018 at 3:04 PM #

    They are all so cute! I think the brain booster 4+ would be perfect for my son! Thanks for the opportunity to enter. I also followed them on instagram.

  9. attack of the russianscissors August 27, 2018 at 1:04 PM #

    Play Smart Brain Booster 3+ would be perfect for my 3 year old. I actually downloaded and printed some of the free ones and she loved it! The cute characters and different skills kept her engaged! It definitely helped to make learning fun. This is a great educational giveaway. I am also following them on Instagram.

  10. Lee Trifone August 27, 2018 at 8:57 PM #

    My daughter would really enjoy the Animal Picture Puzzle for 4+ for sure. She likes these kinds of activities very much.

  11. Miki House August 29, 2018 at 12:52 PM #

    I would love to try the 2+ books! My son is almost 3, and we’ve tried a couple other books that just don’t seem to hold his attention. I think the “notes to parents” section would be very beneficial to me to help him learn, and the Japanese inspired pictures are a bonus!

  12. nestwithmama August 29, 2018 at 5:15 PM #

    I love the Play Smart early learning book. Would be perfect for my two young children

  13. nestwithmama August 29, 2018 at 5:17 PM #

    Also followed on instagram

  14. Lindsey August 31, 2018 at 7:43 AM #

    Play smart brain boosters if I have to choose just one. They all look great!

  15. Lindsey August 31, 2018 at 7:45 AM #

    I follow Gakken on instagram too.

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