Is your little one more interested in eating her board books than listening to your lovely narration? Don't fret, tasting books is practically a prerequisite for learning to read. But if you'd like to take it beyond this to really engage her in reading, consider these 7 mom-recommended strategies for encouraging a toddler's interest in books and language.
1. Stick to Short Sessions
Most toddlers simply don’t have the attention span for long stories. To ensure reading doesn't become a chore for your child, begin with very brief sessions. As Louise G. suggests: “Start with 2 minutes of pointing and teaching words and gradually extend the time to 5 minutes.”
2. Don't Force Sitting
Does your son want to wiggle and dance while you read? Many moms, including Sandra M., say you should allow toddlers to move and play during story time. “I agree with letting him play while you read. He will probably wander back and forth to see pictures, especially if it's a book that he likes. Jamie F. concurs: “The goal here is not to finish a book or even make them sit still! It is to expose them to idea of reading.”
3. Touch-Friendly Books
From turning pages to pulling flaps and patting the bunny, toddlers love hands-on reading sessions. As Stacy G. advises: “Find a book that is 'active': has buttons to push to make noises, has pictures that 'pop out,' or has different textures that your child can feel." Since toddlers tend to play (and chew) roughly, moms like LadyJane B. suggest investing in sturdy board or cloth books.
4. Verbal Engagement
Asking questions, imitating sounds, narrating in silly voices and reading rhyming stories can also ramp up story time's fun factor. JuLeah W. recommends posing simple questions to your child: “Ask on each page, ‘Where is the duck?’ or ‘What color is that truck?’...‘Can you find the ball on this page?’ It will be more fun for him if he can play that kind of role.” And Lakisha J. suggests: “Naming the objects, and making the sounds that the object or animal makes, is so much fun, and will help your son to engage in the process of reading.”
5. Visuals Toddlers Love
If you're having trouble finding a book that really gets your toddler excited, keep in mind that most toddlers love looking at bright colors and animals. As Michelle W. recalls: "I found that books with pictures of animals were big hits with the kids in my class at day care (infant and toddler room)." And as moms like Michelle H. share, most babies love looking at other babies, so books that feature babies' and children's faces are often very absorbing.
6. Try Different Times
"Will he let you read while he's busy doing something else?" asks Sylvia H. " Or when he's in the bath? Or at bedtime when he's almost asleep?" Try reading to your child at various times of day to see when he's most receptive to listening. As Mary S. suggests: “Don't limit reading to your children to bedtime. Visit a library and pull out some books, get comfy and read, look at the pictures, etc."
7. Model Behavior
“Let him see you reading your own books,” recommends Stacey G. “Children love to mimic their parents.” Similarly, Ellie H. suggests enthusiastically reading your children's books aloud while they're playing nearby: “I pulled the oldest trick in the book. I played with the books and read them!...Pretty soon, my kids were putting down the other toy and coming over to check things out.”