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:
tricks for reading to a squirmy baby or toddler
- 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 lie 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.