Review: Kumon Workbooks for Toddlers

Toru Kumon was a Japanese high school mathematics instructor who founded a teaching method in 1954 based on how he tutored his son. Today, the Kumon Method is taught in franchise education centers around the U.S., sort of like Sylvan Learning Centers—basically an after-school tutoring program.

I picked up two Kumon toddler workbooks at an educational toy and teacher supply store last weekend. They are simply great. I hate to call them workbooks because my almost-three-year-old daughter considers them fun.

Each book is printed in color with computer-generated illustrations. Many reusable wipe-off tracing books I’ve seen have about 12 pages for $4.  We picked up the 80 page (40 pages double-sided) Kumon books for just $7 each. The catch is that the books are printed on regular paper, intended for single-use-only. Read my separate article How to Make a Resuable Tracing Book [part 1 and part 2] for instructions on making paper books into reusable ones (part 2 contains that tidbit).

The Kumon worksheets start out simple and grow more detailed. Eighty pages allow for several skill levels to be traversed gradually as your child advances through the workbook. The age ranges for the two books reviewed here are 2- to 4-years-old.

Two thumbnail images from My First Book of Tracing.

Two tracing pages of varying complexity. One weaves through a zoo, the other swerves around a space roller coaster.

My First Book of Tracing is an introduction to using writing instruments. Each page contains a starting and ending point for a dry erase pen or wipe-off crayon to follow.

More than 40 pages are richly illustrated (as shown in the image at right) with single-activity curving or jagged tracing paths carved through them.

The backside of these pages contain more traditional shape and line drawing activities, one to four per page, sometimes simple, sometimes more complex.

Two thumbnail images from My Book of Easy Mazes.

Two mazes of varying complexity, shaped as a puppy and a fire truck.

My Book of Easy Mazes contains 80 basic mazes, one on each side of a page, in flat two-color designs. Half the mazes are abstract geometric shapes while the other half resemble basic objects, such as a puppy, umbrella, tea kettle or baseball cap.

My daughter enjoyed the tracing book, but when I introduced the maze book it became her clear favorite. Many of the tracing pages leave no room for deviation—you are running your pen over a predefined path. It’s a good exercise and I noticed her lines become smoother as she progressed through the book her first time.

Meanwhile, a maze gives you a destination, but the freedom to explore several paths in order to find the correct route. My daughter breezed through the first 40 mazes, requiring only a few reminders to not jump over maze walls. Although she "breezes," she still frequently pursues dead ends, not looking ahead to see what is coming. So, there is room for her to hone her skills. And really, the point here is for her to become comfortable and practiced in drawing in a controlled manner.

We’ve only had the books three days, but she has asked and chosen to practice with them for easily six hours. About half that time was with a parent tracing alongside her on the opposing page in the book (which is super easy because we removed the pages from the book and placed them in binder sleeves). We’ve also been building forts and doing other typical fun things, but drawing in a coordinated manner has captured her interest for the time being. I’ll definitely be buying her the next book in the series, My First Book of Mazes (yeah, the title is confusing. We own My First Book of Easy Mazes).

  • List of Kumon workbooks (most are available through; sale links are at the Kumon web site).
  • Part 1: How to Make a Reusable Tracing Book for a Toddler
  • Part 2: How to Make a Reusable Tracing Book for a Toddler


2 Responses to “Review: Kumon Workbooks for Toddlers”

  1. scurvyann says:

    Wow – these look GREAT. I just ordered some on Amazon (…and they have a 4-for-3 deal going on now – hurrah!) Now it is off to the office supply store for dry erase markers & plastic sleeves! Love the site and all of your great ideas. Keep’em coming! –Scurvyann

    April 4th, 2007 at 10:08 am

  2. Janina S says:

    I just got a couple of Kumon’s 2-year-old books and both my 2-year-old and I love them. They are beautiful, set clear objectives, make one feel accomplished and allow for a continuous refining and development of one’s fine motor skill. The books naturally and easily push you from one to the next level of challenge. We will faithfully work with them from now on. They make the learning exciting, effortless and fun!

    May 11th, 2009 at 11:20 pm

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