Monday, 19 October 2015

Reading To a Child Who Hates Sitting Still

Recently, while I was describing our night time routine to another mother, she remarked on how lucky I am that my 11 month old will listen to a story or two every night. Her son, she informed me, was “not ready for that yet” because he hates to sit still. I must admit, I wanted to protest loudly that all children are ready for books – some just require a little more creative thinking when it comes to reading aloud. You can’t (or at least shouldn't) force a baby or toddler to sit and listen, but you can work books into your day in a way that helps them reap the benefits without having a meltdown.

Pick Books Based on Songs

Many of your child’s favourite songs have been made into colourfully illustrated books. These are great choices for the active tyke because they’re recognizable, upbeat, often require actions, and - most importantly - they’re fun. Set yourself up near your child and hold the book spread open so he can clearly see the pictures (like a librarian does) while you sing the book to him. Don’t worry if he doesn't always (or often) look up at the book. Some great examples include:

The Wheels on the Bus illustrated by Sylvie Wickstrom
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church
Old MacDonald had a Farm illustrated by Mandy Foot
If You're Happy and You Know It! illustrated by Lindsey Gardiner

Choose Interactive Books

If your child has a short attention span for text heavy stories, you’re not out of the game. Many books for children are interactive and require a different kind of focus. You can introduce your child to visually challenging books (like these best books), physical participation books, or you can read a book that requires verbal interaction. Not all reading looks the same, so try these books even if you have a quiet child who can sit and pay attention to a whole book. Reading is an adventure!

Visually Engaging Books

Where’s Waldo by Martin Handford
I Spy by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick

Physically Engaging

From Head to Toe by Eric Carle
We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

Verbally Engaging

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
Shout! Shout It Out! by Denise Fleming
Don't Push the Button by Bill Cotter

Read During Snack or Meal Time
As counter intuitive as it sounds, a distracted toddler is a great audience for a book. Some kids are just better listeners if their hands are busy. (Some adults are, too, like many knitters.) It’s not safe to allow a baby or toddler to eat and run around at the same time, so use the time they are safely buckled in to the high chair or sitting at the table to read to them. They may even start to equate delicious snacks with reading which is a bonus positive association. You can truly read any book at this point, but you can also match the book with the food if you’re feeling creative:

Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McClosky
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin
Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert

Build It into the Night Time Routine

Trying to read to a toddler in the middle of prime playing time can feel like hitting your head against a wall. If they’re all riled up and engrossed by their toys you’ll have little to no success pulling them away to do a quiet activity like reading. However, after a bath and a warm cup of milk, they just might feel more calm and in the mood for a story. Reading may appeal to them for no other reason than it gives them a few more minutes awake before lights out. Making a habit of reading before bed can work by giving them time to mentally prepare for reading since they know when time is set aside for that activity every night.

Don’t Read

If you get too caught up in reading a story from start to finish, you may end up just as frustrated as your child. You don’t want to lose all the positive associations with reading you’re trying to create by making story time stressful. So, if your child is resisting the read aloud, try ditching the words! Let them turn the pages as quickly or slowly as they want. Focus on the illustrations and build stories or poems of your own based on the pictures. It still counts because some of the many benefits of reading are exposure to new vocabulary and encouraging imagination. It can be as easy as:

Relating an image to your child’s own life –

“Look how the boy is wearing a red shirt. You wore a red shirt yesterday and we went to the grocery store. Maybe that’s where he’s headed – wouldn't that be a strange coincidence. Hopefully he doesn’t forget the milk like we did!”

“All the children in this picture are playing at the park. Remember the last time we went to the park. We had so much fun. What did we do when we were there? First we…”


Forming an activity based on the pictures –

“It looks like the dinosaur character keeps knocking down the block towers. That looks like fun. Can you build a block tower just like the one in the picture for us to knock down? Let’s sing London Bridge is Falling Down as we do it.”

“Ooooh, this looks like a book about farm animals. Here is a horse. A horse says ‘neigh, neigh!’ Can you go a grab a horse from your toy box and bring it back here?” (Also works with books about shapes, or colours, etc.)

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