There are so many wonderful benefits of reading to a toddler. But knowing how to read to a toddler can be a difficult task and it’s one that I wasn’t prepared for as a parent.
I’ve always had this perfect vision of snuggling up under a blanket and sharing a story with my child. However, the reality of reading with my toddler is very different.
My 1 year old wriggles and squirms to get free when sharing stories. On the rare occasion, he would listen to a story, he’d often turn the pages to close the book! I’ve often avoided storytime many times because of this.
However, over the last few weeks, we’ve managed to make reading a calming and enjoyable time for both of us. Here are my top tips on how to make your toddler read books with you and some of the things I took into consideration when reading with my little one. Hopefully, they will help you too.
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1. Make Books Accessible
Before you start reading, it’s important to make sure your toddler can access books of their own accord. Give them opportunities to look at books by themselves throughout the day by putting some out with some of their toys. Make sure you change them regularly to keep them interested. This is a great way to make sure you read with your toddler every day and you may even find they start bringing you books to read.
Timing is everything when it comes to sharing stories with a toddler. They’re always on the move, wanting to explore everything and anything. They probably won’t appreciate a story when they’ve been taken away from their play. So try to read to them during quiet, calmer periods like just before bed. Bedtime stories are a great way to end the day and it’s a perfect time to share stories with your toddler. Because they’re tired and are more likely to relax and listen. During snack time or before nap time are also ideal times for reading stories.
3. Choosing Books
Choosing the right books is another way of how you can make your toddler read books with you. They will lose interest if books are too long or if there are too many words. Choosing shorter books and ones that match their level of understanding will help them enjoy the book.
Toddlers like feeling in control so involve them when choosing the story. If you’re worried that they will choose something that’s too long, or beyond their level of understanding, try giving them a choice of 2 or 3 preselected books.
4. Limit Distractions
Limit distractions when reading with your toddler. Turn off the TV or radio so that you can give your little one your full attention. This will also help to keep them focused too.
5. Snuggle Up Together
Make sure you’re both comfortable before you start reading. Having them sit on your lap and snuggle up under a blanket with their favourite comforter, teddy or toy.
Sitting in the same chair and position helps prepare my toddler when sharing stories with him at bedtime. He sits on my knee with one arm behind my back so that we’re cuddling. I’ve recently found that he wriggles and squirms around if he sits with his back to my chest. I think he likes to watch me reading to him!
6. Make Reading Fun
You play a big part as to whether or not your toddler enjoys a book. Toddlers are copycats and are very aware of your emotions. So if they see you’re enjoying a story and having fun, they will want to have fun too. So read in a sing-song voice, use silly voices, make different noises, and add sound effects where possible.
7. Make Stories Interactive
Make reading with toddlers more engaging by choosing interactive books. Books that allow little ones to lift flaps, touch the pages and open doors are ideal for this. Don’t worry if you don’t have many books that do this because you can easily make stories interactive yourself by:
- Using facial expressions
- Using hand gestures
- Pointing to pictures to draw their eye to what you’re looking at
- Guiding their hand to the illustrations,
- Labelling images (rather than asking them what’s this? And what’s that?)
- Ask them where things are and circle your hand close to where the object is to help them out
8. Get Them Involved
Get your toddler involved when reading stories by encouraging them to turn the pages themselves.
This can be frustrating when reading to younger toddlers. As mentioned, my 1 year old had a habit of turning back to the front page to close the book all the time.
The following tips will help your toddler turn the page at the correct time.
If you do this consistently when reading stories to your toddler, they will soon wait to turn the page at the correct time.
9. Read the Same Story More Than Once
Toddlers love repetition and will enjoy reading the same book multiple times. They gain more of an understanding and pick up on other things they may have missed the first time when reading a story again.
10. Read Again
Keep reading to your toddler every day even if your storytime didn’t go to plan. Perseverance is key and they will soon look forward to your special, fun time together.
Making books accessible, timing it right, choosing the right books, limiting distractions, and getting comfy together are all methods of how you can get your toddler to read books with you.
Using facial expressions, gestures, pointing, and making books interactive are some examples of how to read to a toddler. Check out this video for more tips.
It can be difficult to read with your toddler every day, especially if they don’t seem interested. Keep trying and make sure it’s a positive experience for both of you. Reading with them consistently will be worth it. It will help their communication and language skills and help them to develop a love of reading.
Don’t worry if your toddler isn’t interested in reading. Never force them to read a story with you. This will cause a negative association which is the complete opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. Just keep trying and don’t give up.
Take every opportunity you can to read for a few minutes. Whilst on the bus, at the park, at a restaurant, or even when you’re at the doctor’s office!