Little T was a sit-on-my-lap kind of baby who would quiet down and listen attentively every time I opened a book.
Little Sir, on the other hand, was one of those very active toddlers. He would cuddle with me for a few minutes and then run around as I read to him. Sometimes, I would continue reading, but most of the time, I would close our book and just watch him move about.
I was reminded about these experiences during the most recent run of The Learning Basket’s “You Are Your Child’s First and Best Teacher” workshop. I talked about the importance of reading to really young kids, and parents were interested to know about how they could read to wriggly babies and toddlers who can’t sit still.
Here are some of the tips that I shared; these helped Little Sir become the book-loving little guy that he is now.
1. Just keep reading
Some kids learn while they are listening AND moving. Even though it is disconcerting for us to read to someone who doesn’t seem to be paying attention, we should know and accept that people learn differently from each other.
In the Kindermusik classroom, for example, kids are not expected to sit still all the time. Some of my students prefer to move about during sit-down activities, such as instrument exploration and story time, and then eventually join the group again once they got their “wiggles” out. Parents are surprised to hear their kids singing the songs or recounting the story read in class when they did not seem to be listening most of the time.
However, we should also try to gauge whether our child is more interested in something else during story time. You can always close the book and try again another time.
2. Read during your baby’s down time
I breastfed my two kiddies and realized early on that sleepy time was the best time to read to them. They drifted to sleep listening to me read to them.
After a bath is also a great time for reading at least one book; the baby is calm, cozy, and receptive. Identifying your baby’s down time will help you easily squeeze in a book or two into your baby’s day.
3. Welcome interruptions
Three-year-old Little Sir constantly “interrupts” our reading time with questions, comments, and funny sounds. He prefers to count, identify objects, copy a character’s facial expressions, and basically make up his own version of a story.
I used to be bothered about this. I wanted to read every.single.word in our book to feel that I did my job well. However, according to research, any kind of interaction with a book is already helpful. A relationship with a book is established when a child is allowed to explore it in his own terms.
With that realization, I became more open to my son’s questions, comments, and funny facial expressions. I now welcome the interruptions and engage him in the way the makes sense to him. We frequently stop to talk about colors, shapes, places, faces, and feelings.
4. Pick books about their favorite topics
My boy, like many other boys, is just crazy about vehicles. Reading about things that he is interested in was like a magnet that eventually established his love for books. Once I identified a book that he really liked, I took it upon myself to read it to him over and over. After all, kids thrive on repetition, even though grown-ups might balk at it!
5. Don’t let your child eat a book
One of the questions that we frequently get is about kids who like to grab and munch on books when being read to. Though there are cloth books and board books that are quite safe for such activities and that will actually help them explore with their different senses, it is best to teach little ones that books are not for eating.
When we see kids attempting to chew a book or use it as a hammer, we should gently take the book away while explaining, “books are for reading” or “we don’t eat books.” We should then offer a replacement activity that is aligned with what they seem to want to do: a toy hammer or a block for hammering and a teether for chewing.
Reading to little kids who would rather run around than sit with you can be a challenge. However, reading to them consistently and finding ways to get their attention will eventually pay off.
You may also read these two tips on reading to toddlers: