March 22, 2016

12 Tricks for Reading to a Squirmy Baby or Toddler

I feel like there is no end to the instructions to read to your child from the moment they are born (or even BEFORE they are born), but that can seem overwhelming when you’re confronted with a baby who squirms in your lap or tries to rip or eat the pages.

Probably because of all this pressure to read to your baby, I get a lot of emails about how to read to tiny children.

I won't lie - I prefer it when they grow up enough to read longer picture books and I no longer have to both read and play book protection defense at the same time, but over the last five years of reading with a baby, I've picked up some tricks.

If you're looking for ways to read to your baby that doesn't want to sit still, try one of these suggestions:

A dozen secrets for reading to a wiggly baby from a mama of three and former children's librarian

  1. Lay on the floor. When my babies are really little and aren’t stable enough to sit on my lap while I hold a book, I like to lay next to them on the floor. Both of my girls have been entranced with the pages above them (this also reminds me daily that my arms are very weak because I can only read about 3 books before they are killing me).
  2. Don't worry about finishing the book. This kind of goes against my internal reader, but if my baby loses interest in a book, I try to be okay about just quitting part way through and trying again with a new book either right then or later. It's more important that they enjoy reading than that we finish a specific book.
  3. Let them turn the pages.  It’s hard for me to let go and allow my girls to turn the pages (especially when they flip the pages before I’m done reading), but they love to be involved and, let's be honest - after a few months of parenthood, you know every word of Pajama Time! without looking at the pages. 
  4. Read aloud while they crawl around. If Star is too restless to sit on my lap, I like to read aloud to her while she crawls or wanders around. Listening to books is a great skill to help them develop.
  5. Read a combination of favorite books and new books. My children, like most children, love reading their favorites over and over again. I reread those books often, but also check out lots of new books at the library to switch things up and help them learn to love even more books.
  6. Audiobooks. You KNEW this would be on here, didn't you? I check out audiobooks from the library or download them onto my phone and play them in the car while we run errands.
  7. Read when they are happy and content. When my girls are grumpy and frustrated, I find that trying to read to them just makes things worse when they are very small. Wait until everyone is in a pleasant mood, which, in our house, means NOT right before a nap or bed usually. 
  8. Make books accessible. I keep all our library books in a basket on the floor so that my girls can pull them out at will (if your baby is a page-ripper, you might want to keep the board books accessible and put the paper ones higher up until they are a bit older).
  9. Visit the library (and attend storytime). Seeing other kids of all ages enjoying books and listening to someone else read (especially someone who knows a lot about children and reading) can be hugely influential. My girls LOVE storytime and I like seeing new books and letting someone else read aloud while I just enjoy the show (and wrestle children).
  10. Let them pick their own books. Since I read a ton of book reviews, it’s hard for me to want to read books just randomly pulled from the shelves, but my girls love picking their own books and occasionally we stumble on a gem. And I can suffer through a lame little board book if it means they are happy to be reading. 
  11. Take your books somewhere new. Sometimes, the girls aren't particularly interested in reading inside, but if we go to the park and take some books along or read during snack time, it’s suddenly new and exciting again.
  12. Make it fun. I try never to make reading stressful or feel forced. If a day or two goes by without reading books, that’s okay with me. My goal is to keep it pleasant, light, and enjoyable for both of us, not a chore that has to be checked off the to-do list. 
Good luck and happy reading! 

A dozen secrets for reading to a wiggly baby from a mama of three and former children's librarian

Photos by Ralphie 

10 comments:

  1. reading while laying next to my baby really changed the way I read to them. I really struggled with it before because I couldn't figure out how to hold the baby and the book. I am pretty sure I originally got the idea from you, so thanks!

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  2. Great suggestions. I think reading to young children is one of the most important things you can do, even if, like Bart, they are sometimes going in and out of the room :)

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  3. Little Ella!! Oh, and great reading tips too!

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  4. When my eldest was a toddler, i discovered that I could read book after book to her while she colored or played with toys, and during her bubble bath each night :) She was such an active munchkin, it was the perfect solution! I've recently started reading poetry to my kiddos during breakfast a few times a week, and that's been fun, too :)

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  5. I am so happy this post exists. Thanks for the great ideas!

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  6. This was perfectly timed! I'm at the challenging point where I feel like I've read the least to my current baby, and am trying to play catch up. You have some great reminders here as well as some new ideas; taking our books somewhere new seemed so revolutionary. You're an ACE!

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  7. I have a two year old going through a slow eating phase (uuuuuuuuggghhh) but I've started reading books to her at the table when I finish eating. Game changer! She focuses on the food and the book (just 2 variables, not a dozen distractions!). I love checking out books on my kindle from the library, but I'll have to try audiobooks. I've never given them a fair shot. Do you have a post on some you like?

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    1. Never mind! Just found a few posts on them.

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  8. I agree with Lauren; I start reading PD Eastman to my babies as soon as they're in the high chair (usually only at lunch, when it's just me and little ones), and then use that time to gradually introduce other books. It makes eating and reading smoother. (I'm pretty sure this is a Jim Trelease tactic.)

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  9. When my eldest was a toddler, i discovered that I could read book after book to her while she colored or played with toys, and during her bubble bath each night :) She was such an active munchkin, it was the perfect solution! I've recently started reading poetry to my kiddos during breakfast a few times a week, and that's been fun, too :)
    Jennifer Dominquez
    www.bebewellness.com

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