Reading to a toddler who won’t sit still is definitely difficult – we’re trying to expose them to a key developmental aspect but they’re resisting like no other. Reading to children is important for development as well as creating a future love for reading. If you’ve ever tried to read to a toddler, chances are you didn’t get very far into the book before the jitters hit. No need to get stressed out about it, though – these tips for how to read to a toddler who won’t listen will help you out!
We all know how important it is to read to our children. The studies are endless on the infinite benefits a child receives from being read to. We all want to do what is best for our child, but sometimes the typical “advice” just doesn’t work for us, especially when it comes to reading to a toddler.
Around 11 months old, my son decided that he had no desire to be read to whatsoever. There was a whole world to explore! He was just learning to walk, getting into everything, and he had no time to sit in my lap and quietly listen to a story. For a few months, I gave up trying, because each time it would end in screams, squirming out of my lap, and bolting for the door before I could even close the book. It was frustrating, and I felt like I was failing my child as a mother.
I don’t remember how it happened, but I think one day I was sitting in the rocking chair while Ryan played in his room and I looked over to see one of his old favorite books. I picked it up, and I started to read it out loud. Occasionally he would look at me in recognition, laugh, or come over to me to look at the pages while I read, and then go back to playing. That’s when it clicked – he doesn’t have to be sitting in my lap in order for me to read to him.
Reading to a Toddler Who Won’t Sit Still
If you’re struggling with this yourself, you’ll love learning these easy tactics for how to read to a toddler!
- Read while holding them.
This is the most reliable way that I read to Ryan. Before his nap and before bed we read one of the few bedtime books that are in our rotation. I hold him on my hip, place the book on his dresser, and read to him. When we read like this he seems most interested and involved. Sometimes he cuddles into my neck since he’s sleepy, but he rarely try to squirm away.
- Read while they play.
Like I mentioned above, some days I read to Ryan while he’s playing. He’s semi-tuned in, but still able to play and get his wiggles out. Sometimes he brings me different books to read to him, stands close by to look at the pages for a page or two, then goes back to playing. And in case you doubt that this effort is worthwhile, he actually does get upset if I stop.
- Read when they’re stuck somewhere.
There are a bunch of places that your toddler is more or less forced to stay in one place. Meal times and tubby time are both perfect opportunities for reading! Sometimes while Ryan is eating breakfast and strapped into his highchair, I’ll read him a book, showing him pictures and explaining illustrations. While he plays in the tub, I like to read longer books that actually interest me a bit, since I don’t really want to show him the pages and risk them going into the tub. Some of my favorites are Harry Potter or a book of Shel Silverstein poems.
- Read what they love!
There are so many books out there for kids. If your kid shows an interest in a topic, do a quick Amazon search on the topic! You’ll find tons of books on the topic that are more likely to interest them. You can also always check your local library – this is a great way to get THEM to chose the books as well!
- Read what they are “reading”.
Sometimes I look over and Ryan has a book open, babbling and turning pages. I use this to my advantage and read whatever page he is on to him. No, he doesn’t wait until I’m done before turning teh page, but that’s fine – we’re working on just getting him interested in reading!
- Remember, any small amount counts!
In the long run, I believe it all counts. You’re building a foundation of reading with your child and letting him know that reading is important and worth his time and focus. If Ryan will sit in my lap for a page or two before squirming away (and often taking the book with him) I’ll take it. Reading to a toddler is hard, so the sheer fact that I’m impressing upon him that we value reading is important to me.
Do you find reading to a toddler difficult? What are some of your favorite books to share with them? How do you keep reading to your squirmiest littles? Let me know in the comments!
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