Whenever we visit a bookshop we stop by the children’s novelty shelf, to discover the ingenious books that have been transformed into interactive objects through paper engineering or the addition of scanimation, holographs or textured elements to ‘touch-and-feel’.
One of the most simple and appealing examples of paper engineering is lift-the-flap books, in which a hidden part of an illustration can be revealed by turning over a card or paper ‘flap’.
There is nothing like watching the joy on a child’s face interacting with one of these books!
Kids love lift-the-flap books from around one year of age. They especially love that they can ‘control’ the reveal by lifting the flap for themselves: they can ‘share’ the reading experience with you, ‘showing’ you what’s under the flap and naming it for you. (This is also good for their fine motor skills.)
Does it matter that after the first or second reading your child knows what’s under the flap? Not one bit: they’ll continue to be amused by the ‘trick’, and will often have a favourite ‘flap’ that they’ll return to over and over again.
Sometimes, flaps are used as tools for teaching early concepts, for example where the child lifts a flap to match the written word to the object. (Usborne publish a range of these.)
But our all-time favourites are flap books which encourage shared reading time, with noises to make or a story to read, and playful ‘hide-and-seek’ elements.
Some things we look out for in lift-the-flap books:
- Durability: flaps will inevitably become tatty and possibly torn after repeated readings, but those made with card rather than paper will last longer. Flaps that are recessed into the page rather than glued on top last longer, too.
- Books based on topics and themes that our kids love: for little ones this might include animals and animal noises, or familiar objects from their day-to-day life.
- For little ones, we look for repetition of text which supports early literacy and adds to the game (the question ‘Is he …’ in Where’s Spot?; or the repetition of ‘They sent me a … he was too … I sent him back’ in Dear Zoo)
- For older kids, the guessing game can become slightly more sophisticated. Part of the illustration might be peeking out from behind the flap, encouraging them to ‘guess’ what’s behind.
- A touch of humour is great for all ages. For very young readers, the humour will be gentle, like the hippopotamus squeezed inside the piano in Where’s Spot? or the absurd string of suggestions for pets in Dear Zoo. For older kids, the humour and reveals might be cheekier.
You can view a list of some of our favourite lift-the-flap books here.