How to Read to Your Toddler (And What to Expect)

How soon can you start reading to your toddler? Is this the same as teaching your child to read? 

Let’s get this clear: reading to your toddler is NOT the same as teaching your child to read. It is too early to teach your toddler to read, but it is never too early to simply read to your toddler.

Learn more about The Benefits of Reading to Your Toddler.

So settle down with all that stressing out! There’s really no need to worry about formally “teaching” your toddler to read at this developmental stage. They benefit so much simply by listening and engaging with you during your reading time. 

Let’s talk about how to read to your child and what this may look like for both you and your adorable Mini-Me. 

“Toddler Talking: Boost Your Child’s Language and Brain Development in Three Easy Steps” is now available on Amazon. Get it now!

Tips On Reading To Your Toddler

First-time Mama or a seasoned pro, sit back and read with these pointers in mind. 

Interact With The Book

While you’re reading, pause and ask questions to your child and give them a chance to respond. What do they see? What colors are on the pages? Do they like it? 

Ask them to point to different objects in the pictures. Your child may or may not be able to respond or “get the answer right,” but it’s the interaction between you, your child, and the text that matters here. 

Choose Physical Books Over E-Books

We’re not against e-books, but we know that children get a well-rounded sensory experience when they pop open a physical book. E-books just can’t replicate the sensation of turning a page. 

E-books, and particularly animated e-books – no matter how “educational” they are – also count as screen time! Read this article about why we need to limit our kids’ screen time, and several practical tips that can help.

Make It FUN! 

Experiment with silly voices. Use your hands for extra pizzaz and illustration. Gift your toddler the task of choosing the stories they want to read for your time together, and honor their choices (yes, even if it’s that book you don’t particularly like!). 

Children love their stories coming to life and being allowing them to pick their books supports their desire for independence.

And above all, there should be zero pressure. Zero! If your child (or you) does not feel like reading that day, that’s okay. Go enjoy something else!

Make It Part Of Your Routine 

You know your routine Mama, so figure out when would be best to squeeze in some reading time together. Bedtime is one of our favorite times because it’s a (usually!) calming activity which your child can look forward to before bed every night. 

When children know what to expect, they develop a deeper sense of trust with their environment and those around them. 

How to read to your toddler & what to expect

What To Expect When You’re…Reading

As a first-time mom or deep in the dirty trenches of motherhood, you already know to expect the unexpected with your toddler. 

Luckily your child’s responses to you reading to him or her are pretty predictable, not to mention darn cute.

One Year Old

At a year old, your child will absolutely adore your silly voices and funny animal sounds, being around the age when they start to imitate us back. This is a great time to start inviting their participation by asking questions about the book. 

At a year old, your toddler:

  • Can turn the pages
  • Begin to point to objects in books
  • May give one-word answers

Two Years Old

Around two, toddlers start figuring out which stories are their favorites, asking for that book “again!” They become more interested in the story, finding comfort in its familiarity, and the repetition helps kids make sense of new words and remember them. 

At two years old, your toddler:

  • May enjoy “reading” on their own 
  • May finish the story’s sentences or start to recite it
  • Can talk about what they see in the pictures 

Board books are the best types of books for one and two-year-olds because they are made to be toddler-indestructible, but include other types in your home library too for different sensory experiences.

Try to keep your cool when your child chews on, steps on, or drools all over the books. Most board books are easy to clean, and it’s just natural for your child to explore what’s in front of them.

Titles We Love 

Some of these are affiliate links.

We particularly love these board books:

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

Love You, Hug You, Read To You by Tish Rabe

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle 

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? By Bill Martin Jr.

To encourage a lifelong habit of reading for pleasure, let your child have easy access to some books during independent playtime. Place favorite books in a low shelf along with their toys. For a toddler, a book is a “toy” too.

Share with us in the comments below what your reading time together looks like!

To learn more about the benefits of reading to your child, check out the excellent resources at Reach Out and Read.

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