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Traditional books are wonderful, but there’s just something special about a pop-up book with impressive paper illustrations that “jump” out at you, or flaps you can pull or lift to enhance the story. (Yay for realism!) “Pop-up books provide a great multi-sensory experience that typical books can’t,” explains pediatric occupational therapist Diana Fitts of The Sensory Toolbox. “With a typical book, children use their vision and their hearing if the story is being read aloud to them. Pop-up books engage the sense of touch; when children lift the flaps on a ‘peekaboo’ page or grab a 3D character, they need to use their vision, hearing, and sense of touch all at once.” Incorporating three senses into one activity, adds Fitts, is a nice way to help children develop their sensory systems and tolerate multi-sensory experiences moving forward.
Here are 10 charming pop-up books to add to your at-home library:
'The Color Monster: A Pop-Up Book of Feelings'
With more than 300 positive reviews online, this book explores feelings through the use of 3D “monsters” in a variety of colors; according to Fitts, the story covers the important topic of “emotional regulation.” Feelings explored include happy, sad, angry, calm, fear, and love; one reviewer described it as a nice transition book to help a child connect with their conflicting emotions at any moment--and animated monsters are never NOT funny. “While kids get the great sensory benefits of the pop-up elements, they are also able to learn about their emotions through the story,” adds Fitts. Recommended age: 3-7
'One Red Dot'
Created by author and artist David A. Carter, this book mostly features pop-up sculptures that immediately ‘stand up’ when you turn the page; the artwork inside is manipulated by pulling a little paper tab (arrow), which makes the 3D designs move. It contains 9 spreads in total, and kids are encouraged to find one red dot on every page. The whimsy words inside hint where the dot ‘is’ per spread, and watching the pop-outs fold up neatly back ‘in’ the book when pages are turned is pretty cool. Adds one reviewer: “Not only is this book gorgeous, but it has just the right amount of pop up intricacy, so I can see giving it to a 3 or 4 year old.” Recommended age: 4-8
'Knick Knack Paddywhack'
This gem of a children’s book--it’s a literary award winner--follows the song “This Old Man.” It centers around a young boy and his beloved dog who embark on an outdoor, dream-like adventure set to the famed poem. The book itself is packed with punch, and has traditional pop-ups along with tabs to push and pull, flaps to lift, a dial to spin, and more. Says Fitts: “Sensory aside, pop-up books encourage kids to practice their fine motor skills. Playing with the various elements of a pop-up book can be a great way to practice hand skills and develop hand strength.” Recommended age: 3-7
'The Ultimate Book of Vehicles: From Around the World'
Kids who love anything that goes VROOM will get a real kick out of this one. There’s no actual story here, it’s a bunch of beautifully illustrated vehicles (including a spaceship--Hey, that counts as a mode of transportation!) with flaps, 3D pop-ups, wheels that spin, and more, that really enhance the machines on paper and bring them to life. Every page has something interactive for kids to explore. On the educational side, it also features vehicles from other countries; expanding kid’s cultural horizons. Rich in detail, it’s an impressive, durable book, but note it’s easy for the tabs, flaps, and 3D artwork to rip or be crinkled by small hands. Recommended age: 5-8
'Cookie Count: A Tasty Pop-Up'
This yummy pop-up book looks good enough to eat; and we mean it--every page features a realistic-looking dessert that just springs up in front of you, taunting you with it’s sugary goodness. With ten pop-up pictures of a baker’s bounty, kids are encouraged to count the mice they spot on each page. Good to note: One of the pop-ups is an intricate pinwheel that you might want to adjust properly before handing the book to your youngster. Says one happy customer: “The pop-up art in here is phenomenal. I have never seen anything like it. There are things that twirl as you open them, and an entire pop-up house! It’s gorgeous. I’m afraid to give it to my kids because I don’t want them to damage it because I love it so much.” Recommended age: 3+
'My Best Pop-up Space Book'
Many kids--including mine--are fascinated with space. They can’t get enough of the big world surrounding them, and if your kids are like my kids, love spewing out planet ‘facts.’ Thankfully, there’s an impressive sensory book about space for kids they’ll forever cherish. Consider this pop-up phenomenon your child’s first guide to the solar system. There’s a button on the book’s cover that makes a blast-off sound, so it’s a pop-up and more, which is always impressive vs. traditional board books. Pages include shiny stars, a full spread of the solar system, and more. There are pop-up surprises on each page. Recommended age: 3-5
'Where is Baby’s Belly Button?'
This basic pop-up book is an Amazon Best-seller--it’s one of those simple baby items you just NEED because it’s so practical and beloved by cuties worldwide. (My own daughters adore this book.) In a lift-the-flap manner it teaches toddlers booth Peek-a-Boo and where their body parts--in particular, the belly button--are located. The flaps are large, making them easy for young kids to touch and lift up-and-down, but they blend a bit TOO well into the illustrations, so you initially may need help your child find the lift flap within the picture to see which body part is underneath. (For example, under the hat are baby’s eyes.) “This book has single-focus pages for body parts, which is good for engagement with your child by having them identify parts on themselves and others,” says pediatric occupational therapist Tala Brinderson of Infinity Kids, Lake Forest, CA. “Pop-up books are great for young kids because they are interactive, brightly illustrated, and keep kids curious.” Recommended age: 1-4.
The “Spot” book series, featuring a loveable and nosey animated dog, has been around for generations. This is Book #1 in the collection with tons of lift flaps, which serve a greater purpose than just uncovering what Spot the dog finds with his nose behind a door, under the bed, and so forth. According to Brinderson, when kids lift flaps up and down, they’re zeroing in on their tactile input and understanding how to ‘use’ their fingers--and well as their imaginations. (Focusing on curiosity, ‘I wonder what Spot finds under the box?’) “Additionally, ‘Where’s Spot?’ helps with building language including core vocabulary and prepositions,” adds Brinderson. Recommended age: 1-3
'Creatures of the Deep'
A nature themed pop-up book with impressive 3D images of underwater creatures including an octopus, this book features photos from artist Ernst Haeckel. Seven 3D pictures feel like they’re really jumping out at you; kids and adults alike will explore underwater flora and fauna as well as sea life and round shells. It’s a remarkable art book with brilliant colors and details so vivid it feels like you’re swimming underwater. There’s no text copy inside; so children can just take in the magnificent photography and use their imaginations to create stories about oceanic life. The theme of the book is that there’s a unity among all living things; one reviewer called this book, “beautifully designed and informative.” We agree. Recommended for all ages.
'Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland'
There’s nothing like a classic, especially in children’s literature. Better for older kids, this Victorian-era themed version of Alice in Wonderland, stays loyal to author Lewis Carroll’s original story. The 3D illustrations are inspired by the works of John Tenniel, a famed Alice in Wonderland illustrator. It’s pricier, but that’s because it goes above and beyond your typical pop-up book. The rich 3D details are incredible--for example, in the famous Mad Hatter tea party scene, not only does the table pop-up, but so do the saucers. When Alice encounters the Queen of Hearts, a realistic card arch opens across the whole page like a rainbow. The text is on the side of the pages; the impressive 3D pictures in the center. Recommended age: 4-8