Story time is one of my favorite parts of the day! Especially the random ones that occur when my toddlers excitedly come up to me, book in tow. I love to cuddle up with them in our reading chair and enjoy our books together. It is a bonding experience that I will always treasure as a mother.
However, things don’t always run perfectly smooth. Life can be messy, especially with toddlers. Sometimes they are wound up from previous excitement in the day and other times when story time comes around they are just plain wiggly. I still want to keep our daily routine of story time when this happens because I love a consistent routine, cherish story time, and want to help foster a love of reading in my kiddos.
Through trial and error, I have found a few techniques that have worked for us in helping story time to be successful even through the times when attention spans are short and the need to move is strong. I hope you find them useful in your home as well and I hope they help your story times continue to be a wonderful experience.
Interactive books are a lifesaver when it comes to wiggly toddlers! They are books that address the reader, invite you to engage with the book, and really make the experience of reading come alive. They are usually light-hearted and fun and usually also involve actions such as lifting flaps, blowing, shaking the book and more. Perfect for releasing the wiggles. (For recommendations of some of our favorite interactive picture books, see this post.)
Make Sure Your Books are Age Appropriate
Some picture books are better suited for younger toddlers than others. These usually include simpler text, bright illustrations and relevant topics. All of these things help engage the attention of younger bookworms and are usually easier for them to understand and relate too. When I am not sure about the age recommendation for a picture book I sometimes do a quick check on Amazon.com in the “detail” section of the book.
Choose the Time for Story Time Wisely
If you are doing story time during the day I would recommend picking a time that generally has nothing else going on and isn’t too rushed. Also, I think that consistency with story time is always a great idea whenever possible. Schedules change and things come up because that is just how life goes, but the more consistent you can make it, the more comforting and familiar I feel it can become.
Exciting Books Followed by Calming Books
If you are doing story time at bedtime and are hoping to use books to help prepare your child for sleep, I heartily recommend starting with a few fun and engaging books (such as interactive books) to grab your child’s attention and get some wiggles out before moving on to your relaxing and soothing bedtime stories. I have found that sometimes my kids need a transition from “fun” books to “bedtime” books in order for story time to be a more effective transition to bedtime.
Ask Questions, Point, Discuss
Any way that you can engage your child with the book is a good thing. You can do this by asking questions about what is happening, pointing to illustrations (or asking your child to point to illustrations), discussing the story and more. Not only does this strategy help grab and keep the attention of your kiddos, but you are modeling good reading skills for them! Win win!
Let Them Pick the Books
Whenever possible, let them pick the books. I have found that my children are more apt to pay attention to books that they pick out. I feel like part of this is because they are already a bit invested, part of it is because they know what they like, and part of it is because they love a little bit of control. All of those reasons are “stands” that I can get behind. Yes, this means that sometimes we read the same books over and over again, but I honestly feel like that is an okay deal.
Let Them Hold Something
When I do story time with both of my kiddos, sometimes my youngest wants to grab and hold the book. She is so adamant about it that she will keep trying and trying and it can be distracting. I have found that giving her something to hold while I read satisfies her need to keep her hands active and minimizes distraction. Usually I just let her hold the book that we will read next in her lap, but sometimes I give her a small snack to hold and munch on during the story.
Don’t Stress It
This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you are enjoying story time, your kids are more likely to as well. However, if you are stressed, then they are more likely to be stressed too and then story time isn’t as likely to be an enjoyable time. One of my main purposes for story time every day is to help instill a love of reading with my kiddos. And if some days that means just pulling a book of the shelf to flip through it together and talk about the illustrations, that’s okay. Books can be enjoyed in numerous ways and I am all for it happening at it’s own pace. Reading is meant to be fun!
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