The book to get you back into play

Alice with her children Emily and Tom. Picture: ROB CAREW 198713_04

By Danielle Galvin

Like many great ideas, Alice Zsembery’s book ‘Real Kids, Real Play’ was born from a gap in the market.

When the Stonnington mum welcomed her second child, she quickly discovered she needed to entertain her 2-year-old son who was climbing the walls as the newborn slept.

And she wanted a way to keep him engaged that didn’t involve a screen.

Real Kids, Real Play has more than 150 quick, easy and “old-school” activities to keep 0-5-year-olds busy and stimulate their creativity.

“I had a 2-year-old boy literally pulling the house apart and I was stuck with what to do with him,” she explained.

“Like many parents these days, I bought him everything he could ever want or dream of, under the misconception that would keep him occupied but he wasn’t actually engaged or doing any activity.

“It was kind of then that I was looking desperately to find something to keep him entertained.

“All I could find was books on crafts, and my 2-year-old boy was just not interested in doing craft.”

In her own words, Alice, a maritime engineer and port planner, is not all that creative.

That’s why she needed a resource she could quickly turn to.

What she wanted was a book that had it all – activities using basic household items that could be quickly and easily set up.

“I was looking for a book that had activities I could do at home with him, it was really simple. I was surprised I couldn’t find it anywhere,” she said.

“That was when I really saw a gap for a coffee table book or reference book, where you could be guaranteed you can do the activity and set it up in a few minutes and that it would be engaging.

“It was one of those cases of, it doesn’t exist and I believe in it strongly so I thought I’ll do it myself.”

Alice says it has been a labour of love creating the book. She tried and tested 200 or more activities with her own kids, determined to ensure that the activities met all of her criteria.

“There’s so many misconceptions and pressures on modern day parents,” she said.

“There’s this myth that the more your child has, the better set up they are or that kids need to entertained constantly or that the best toys are the most fancy.

“Kids need to exercise their own imagination.”

The beauty is in the fact that the book is a simple concept – Alice wanted to see a return to the way many of us used to engage in creative, unbridled play.

The book has become a resource for early childhood professionals and has been endorsed by Maggie Dent.

“There’s quite a big market for people like my mum who have to think about entertaining grandkids,” she said.

“I get a lot of feedback from people that it’s how they used to play when they were little – which is really lovely.”

The other benefit to the book is the fact it finds ways to reuse and recycle basic items.

Alice is passionate about the fact that parents sometimes put too much pressure on themselves to get their child every toy – and so often young children end up with a room full of toys they never play with.

She believes there’s a lot to be said about less is more.

Real Kids, Real Play is available in all good bookstores and online at