The Dos and Don’ts of Reading to your Babies and Toddlers
- Create a special environment. Build a fort or a tent and invite your littles to share a story with you inside of it. Or put glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling and read with a flashlight as if you were camping.
- Move around! Does the book feature running, jumping, hiding, wind, snow, rain, big things, little things? Use your hands and body to show the movements and sizes and encourage your littles to do it, too.
- Ask them to tell you the story. You can do this before you read it or after. It’s fun to hear their version – is it the same one you shared with them? Or does it reveal something super interesting that’s on their minds?
- Ask them to guess what happens. Let them predict the story – you can even do this for children who aren’t talking that much yet by offering them options. Do you think A will happen or B?
- Share a personal story. Does one of the illustrations remind you of something in your life or childhood? Share it with them. They’ll love to hear about when you were a kid!
- Gift a book! Grab a new book or even one that is already home. Put a bow around it and leave it in a special place for them to find. Do they love to hang out near a play kitchen? Or in a certain part of their room or yours? Hide it there and let them discover it. For extra fun, add a note or drawing for kids that don’t read yet that hints at something from the book.
- Ask them to be in the story! Which character would they be? What would they do? What would they name the characters? Are they happy? Sad? Angry?
- Make crazy voices and sounds! Could one of the characters whisper and another me super loud? Does one have a low voice and another a high-pitched voice? What kinds of sound effects might make sense? Ask your kids to make the sounds, too.
- Touch the pages. Are their lines that they can trace with their fingers? Special things in the images to point out? Is there a food on the page? Can you pretend to eat it together?
- Focus on a single page. It can be tempting to speed through a book, but what if you took the time to enjoy the illustrations on a page. As adults we’re so used to text, I’d bet you will find something exciting if you take an extra minute to enjoy the illustrations with your littles.
- Don’t get upset if they “ruin” a book! I don’t know about you, but I am definitely guilty of cringing when I see a page about to be ripped or a pop-up illustration being pulled on too hard. But, while it’s great to teach kids to be careful and responsible, we have to remember that they’re kids! And we don’t want them to feel like books shouldn’t be touched or to associate reading with being scolded or making mom, dad or caretaker annoyed. Part of the experience of a book is exploring it with our hands and for the little ones – mouths and feet even! So if it does get a little damaged, think of it as evidence that it was well-loved!
- Don’t read out of obligation. Kids are so much smarter than we sometimes give them credit for – when we’re exhausted and don’t feel like taking the time for a bedtime story, they can read into that emotion. Try telling them that mom or dad has had an extra long day and ask if they’d be willing to read you a book or tell you a story instead. Even kids that can’t actually read will enjoy being the parent for a night.
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