Nanomaterials have some disadvantages in application as Li ion battery materials, such as low density, poor electronic conductivity and high risk of surface side reactions. In recent years, materials with core-shell nanostructures, which was initially a common concept in semiconductors, have been introduced to the field of Li ion batteries in order to overcome the disadvantages of nanomaterials, and increase their general performances in Li ion batteries. Many efforts have been made to exploit core-shell Li ion battery materials, including cathode materials, such as lithium transition metal oxides with varied core and shell compositions, and lithium transition metal phosphates with carbon shells; and anode materials, such as metals, alloys, Si and transition metal oxides with carbon shells. More recently, graphene has also been proposed as a shell material. All these core-shell nanostructured materials presented enhanced electrochemical capacity and cyclic stability. In this review, we summarize the preparation, electrochemical performances, and structural stability of core-shell nanostructured materials for lithium ion batteries, and we also discuss the problems and prospects of this kind of materials.