Press Here - A Book You Can Play!

Ages: 3 and up
Cost: ~$12 (Amazon link)
Math Ideas: Functions
Questions to Ask
    What do you think the next page will look like?
    If we made our own Press Here book, what could we tell the reader to do? What would happen?

Have your kids ever tried to "play" a book the way that they play a game?

My son has this little game with an alphabet book where he will deliberately tell me the wrong letter to make a funny word. So on the "H is for Horse" page, I ask him which letter he sees, and he'll respond "Z," which forces me to say "Z is for Zorse," at which point he falls out of the bed laughing every. Single. Time.

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On other nights, my two older kids work together to recite the entirety of The Book with No Pictures by heart. Which is tough to do when you're too young to read and the book, as it advertises, has no pictures! (By the way, this book was written by Ryan from The Office, and it is hilarious. Check it out.)

And of course I've shared in the past about how my kids turned How Many?, the greatest math book of all time, into a guessing game.

These little games make bedtime into a special part of the day for me. I can get as worn down as any parent, repeating the same book word-for-word over and over. But when my kids find a little game in the middle of a book, they bring a spark of novelty that livens up the whole room.

So I'd love to share the most playable book I've ever read: Press Here.

How to Play

Press Here is a book by the French author Herve Tullet. Tullet is a prolific author, so I haven't checked out all his work, but I've seen enough to know that he's a singular talent.

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The book starts simply: A single yellow dot, paired with instructions to "press here and turn the page"

One dot quickly becomes two, then three, then several. And as you press, tap, smush, tilt, blow on, and manhandle the dots in the book, all sorts of delightful things begin to happen.

I can't quite put into words how fun and surprising this book is the first time you read it. You'll just have to experience it for yourself. 

Where's the Math?

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Much of the math in the book comes from exploring functions. As kids read the book, they start to notice that the dots behave differently, based on how the reader interacts with them. Press them lightly, and they might change color. Press them harder, and something else happens. Press them repeatedly, another thing still.

The math in the game comes from creating hypotheses and then testing them by looking at the next page. Each time your child interacts with the book, you can prompt them to make a prediction about what the next page will look like. Then you can test their prediction against the evidence on the next page. 

This can lead you and your child to talk about how the dots function. And functions, by the way, are a major math concept in middle and high school.

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A function is a relationship the behaves according to certain rules, but whose output changes depending on its input. So in this book, the dots behave in predictable ways, but their behavior is determined by the way you interact with them. If you change the input, they change the output.

Of course, your three-year-old doesn't need to know the terminology for function, input, output, etc. As long as they see a cause-effect relationship between their actions and the dots, they are gaining the mathematical foundation for understanding functions.

Questions to Ask

The first time through the book, you and your child have no idea what might happen next, so I highly recommend that you draw out the experience with lots of "What do you think will happen next? Why?"

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But don't worry, this isn't a book that kids bore of easily. It's one of the most fun, interactive reading experiences on the shelf, so they're going to want to read it again. In fact, you'll probably get to read it many times, and there is still plenty of interesting math to talk about, even if you know what comes next!

On one page, your child taps a blue dot five times, and on the next page five blue dots appear. You could ask "What would happen if we touched the blue dot ten times? If we touched it one time, would it stay the same, or would it change somehow?"

If the book tells your child to push hard on a button, ask them what would happen if you pressed as lightly as possible. If the book asks you to tilt the book to the right, ask about tilting the book to the left.

All these questions get your kids thinking about how changing the input (how they interact with the book) might alter the output on the next page.

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If you're looking for a weekend art project, make your own Press Here book! You can add new colors of dots, new shapes, new ways to interact with your pages. Let your kids be as creative and silly as possible. Start the book with a green triangle and instructions to "Lick here and turn the page."

Whatever strange and wonderful ideas your kids come up with, they'll have done so by developing their own functions. Of course, to them, it's just a game.

Click here to buy Press Here on Amazon