How many times have you tried to sit down and read books with your little one, only to find they don’t have the patience to sit in your lap to read the book? These are books that get your kids involved, literally hands on, while you’re reading. Megan of Chickadee Lit has amazing taste for books, and even gives us different kinds of books (and her favorite suggestions) for each age and stage your child is in!
Raising readers is one of my top priorities as a mom. I hope that my kids will look back on a childhood filled with snuggles, stories, and shelves stuffed-to-overflowing with wonderful books. Reading opens minds and transports our children beyond our backyards. It also happens to be tons of fun.
My kids love books they can chew, pull, lift, push, poke, shake, and more.
Interactive books are an important part of our collection because they are engaging and because they target key developmental skills.
My kids are still small, so we are all about flaps and finger plays right now. As they grow, though, a slew of interactive books will be there to entice and support them.
Here are a few of my favorite hands-on books that appeal to kids from birth to middle school.
Hands On Books for Newborns and Infants
Cloth books are a baby-shower staple for a reason. They promote attachment, engage the senses with a variety of textures, and are easy to grab and hold.
Many soft books make crinkly sounds, have hard surfaces for teething, and incorporate mirrors to take advantage of baby’s fascination with human faces.
Plus, they are usually machine washable, which I always appreciate.
We are especially fond of the cloth version of “Are You My Mother” by P.D. Eastman (affiliate link) because it has an adorable little bird that my son loves to grab and chew.
As infants gain the ability to make new sounds, sit up with support, and reach for objects, books with textured panels can inspire new interactions.
Parents can talk about the pictures and listen as their babies “talk” back.
Babies can be encouraged to touch the panels with different parts of their bodies, like cheeks and toes.
We are partial to “Peter Rabbit Touch and Feel” (affiliate link, book shown above) which features Beatrix Potter’s original illustrations.
Hands On Books for Toddlers
What’s hiding underneath? Older babies and young toddlers delight in books with peek-a-boo surprises because they are developing an understanding of object permanence (the scene under the flap is still there after the flap is closed) and mastering the pincer grasp (grabbing with their index finger and thumb).
The Roger Priddy book “Playtown” (affiliate link) is one of the best lift-the-flap books we own. It has about 75 flaps and minimal damage after several years of use.
Gotta love a lift-the-flap book that actually has its flaps, right? The action is spread across seven brightly-colored and detailed scenes, and there are plenty of details to discover.
Hands-on rhymes aren’t just amusing for toddlers; they promote social, language, and fine-motor skills.
The board book “Fingers for Lunch” by Brandt Lewis and Cori Doerrfeld (affiliate link) is one of our favorite finger play titles. Each page has a funny little poem and a scene featuring a blue monster, his pet dinosaur, and a few of your wiggling fingers. CHOMP!
If that’s just too gross for you, check out “The Game of Finger Worms” by interactive master Hervé Tullet (affiliate link).
Hands On Books for Preschoolers
Who sails on water, cruises under the stars, and drops anchor to stop?
Simple riddles and jokes are hilarious for preschoolers because their language and social skills are becoming more sophisticated.
“Who’s That On the Go” (affiliate link) is a durable lift-the-flap books that uses riddles, has colorful illustrations, and gives my preschooler the giggles. It is part of a series by author/illustrator Tad Carpenter.
Cause and Effect:
Around age three, kids begin to make logical guesses about what could occur next and reflect on what caused something to happen.
This makes Nick Bromley’s “Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite” (affiliate link) a near-perfect interactive read aloud for preschoolers. Readers try a variety of strategies to help the Ugly Duckling get destructive Mr. Crocodile out of the the book, including rocking him to sleep, drawing on him, and shaking him right off of the page. Kids won’t be able to predict the uproarious ending, though. Watch out!
Hands On Books for Elementary School
Did you know that seek-and-find books are more than entertainment?
They help kids sharpen their ability to concentrate, their visual discrimination skills (critical for learning to read and telling a “b” from a “p”), and their figure-ground perception (which helps kids find information they need on the teacher’s white board).
“Look! A Book!” (affiliate link) is a truly zany seek-and-find. Kids will pore over Bob Staake’s colorful two-page spreads to find hidden objects, and a jaunty rhyme scheme and strategic cut-outs add to the fun.
The Shine-A-Light series from Usborne imprint Kane Miller is in an interactive category of its own. Bright light reveals hidden objects in the illustrations.
For instance, when you hold a flashlight behind a flower pot in “Secrets of the Vegetable Garden” you can see seeds germinating below the soil.
These nonfiction books contain an impressive amount of information, and the pictures support kids as they move from learning-to-read to reading-to-learn, which is a typical mid-elementary milestone. They also make great source material for research writing.
(This would be great in a night time reading nook!)
Hands On Books for Middle School and Beyond
Workbooks can be good for more than just spelling and multiplication. They can also empower us, help us reflect, and bring change to our lives.
“The Positivity Kit: Instant Happiness on Every Page” by Lisa Curry (affiliate link) is a workbook that invites readers to focus on the good things in life and is suitable for tweens, teens, and adults.
Share this book with the whole family to build deeper connections as older kids navigate new pressures.
Early adolescence is all about independence and identity, and tweens and teens benefit from opportunities to reflect, experiment and create.
That’s why I love “Doodle, Imagine, Draw” from Parragon Books (affiliate link). This sketch book boasts over 150 creative prompts, including invitations such as, “Draw your journey…” and many inspirational quotes.
I’m Megan Lingo: veteran teacher, Educational Therapist, and lifelong lover of books. I read to my three kids every day. Just because I love them. And their books. And how quiet they are when I’m reading their books. Connect with me on Instagram, Facebook, or my brand-new blog Chickadee Lit, where I write about reading for kids and families.