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Wiggle worms and bouncing kangaroos: How do you read to active toddlers?

Posted on March 3, 2021 at 6:00 am

How to read to active toddlers

BY RACHEL EDMONDSON

After cold winter weather has kept us inside along with months of extra pandemic confinement, many of us are feeling pretty antsy. For young kids who have a high need to be active, sitting still is probably harder than ever, even for those young kids who normally are happy to crawl into a lap to sit for storytime.

We know how important it is to read with our kids, but what do you do when they won’t sit still for a book? As an early learning librarian, I often hear from parents who are concerned about this.

The answer is surprisingly simple. We still read—we just don’t expect them to sit still while we do it.

Even when kids are actively moving around a room doing other things, they are often still listening when we read to them. You may be surprised to find that if you stop reading in the middle of a book, your child will look at you wondering why you stopped.

Another tip I give parents is to pick books that are really interactive. When the book prompts them to clap, dance, or move in some way, or when it has interactive elements like flaps or pretending to push buttons on a page, these books will often appeal to kids who don’t want to sit still.

The most important part of reading with your child is to make sure they are having fun. When they stop having fun, then it’s time to stop reading because we don’t want reading to feel like a chore.

So instead of trying to force your active toddler or preschooler to sit still for storytime, let them wander the room, play with a toy while you read, or check out one of the following fun and active books that combines storytime with playtime.

Can you make a scary face?

Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas

This silly book will have your child pretending there’s a bug on their nose, then in their shirt, and it will even make them dance like a chicken!

From head to toe

From Head to Toe, by Eric Carle

Giraffes can bend their necks, monkeys can wave their hands, and donkeys can kick their legs. This book challenges kids to copy the animals to see if they can do it too.

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, by Annie Kubler

Toddlers will enjoy following along while you read this cute, simple board book based on a traditional song. You’ll have so much fun that you’ll want to check out all the titles in Kubler’s Baby Rhyme Time series.

If You’re a Monster and You Know It, by Rebecca Emberley and Ed Emberley

There are many fun twists on this traditional song, but this one is especially fun because kids get to stomp their paws, twitch their tails, and snort and growl while pretending to be a monster.

If You’re Happy and You Know It, by Jane Cabrera

Kids love songs, and they will especially enjoy clapping, stomping, spinning, and roaring with the animals in this book’s version of a classic song. Also try Cabrera’s other song-based books, such as Row, Row, Row Your Boat.

Move Your Mood, by Brenda S. Miles, PhD, and Colleen A. Patterson, MA

Kids will have fun twisting, wiggling, and shaking while learning that exercise can make you feel better.

Press Here, by Hervé Tullet

While it doesn’t promote large body movement like most of the others on this list, this interactive book grabs kids’ attention as it prompts them to press on colorful dots, tilt the book, and blow on the pages to see what will happen next.

The Button Book, by Sally Nicholls

The orange button is a clapping button, and the purple button is a tickle button, but what about the others? Kids will be excited to push the “buttons” in this book to find out what happens next.

The Seals on the Bus, by Lenny Hort

This storytime favorite is a fun twist on the classic song “The Wheels on the Bus.” As more and more animals join the kids on the bus, you’ll be growling, hissing, honking, and roaring.

Where is Baby’s Belly Button? by Karen Katz

This is just one of many lift-the-flap books by Karen Katz, and they are all sure to please. You can also try Ten Tiny Tickles, which doesn’t have flaps but will lead to lots of giggling.

Wiggle, by Doreen Cronin

As the title suggests, this book will have your kid wiggling all over the place. And when you’ve got your wiggles out, try Bounce and Stretch, also by Cronin.

Rachel Edmondson

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