How do Infants and Toddlers Use Books?

Last time I talked about some of the things we can expect Infants and Toddlers to learn through the use of books.  I ended by saying that we cannot expect Infants and Toddlers to sit for a story like Preschoolers, so what exactly do we expect for them to do with books?  That is a really good question!  Lets talk about some age appropriate uses for books.

Just like Infants and Toddlers aren’t able to sit for a story like preschoolers, they also aren’t able to use and appreciate books in the same way that preschoolers or older children are.  Infants and Toddlers explore books differently, oftentimes with their mouths, and that is completely ok!  As their senses are developing they want to explore their world through all of their senses.  Having plastic books or sturdy board books will allow for mouthing without destroying pages.  Another great idea are bath books, mouth away!

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Bath Books are a great alternative to young children who are exploring their world by putting everything into their mouths!

Another sense that these young children are developing is their hearing.  Books that have sounds and songs are great!  They will oftentimes be more engaged, and they are also learning cause and effect.  What happens when I turn the page?  Music starts to play!  What happens when I push this button?  I hear a squeaking noise!  Learning to manipulate these elements of books will take practice, let your child explore them freely.

Many children will enjoy being read to, and now is a great time to make story time interactive.  Engage your children letting them complete stories, point out illustrations, find things on the pages and answer questions.  “Can you find the blue car?” Try to relate elements back to them.  “The caterpillar is eating strawberries, just like you eat strawberries!”

Young children will also start to learn how to manipulate books, usually by turning pages back and forth.  They are developing their sense of sight and increasing hand eye coordination.  They will start to feel a sense of accomplishment, and you will probably notice that they start to gravitate towards books more frequently!

A great way to engage young children with story time is to create your own picture books.  When they see familiar places or faces they will give out a contagious excitement.  You can relive your enjoyment of reading with your children.

As always, leave out appropriate books that are easily accessible for your child.  Enjoy when you can spend quality time reading together.  If you find that your child is getting bored, or has a short attention span, that is perfectly ok and completely developmentally appropriate.  Don’t force books on them, let it be a choice, and when they loose interest allow them to move on.

These moments you spend with your children will go a long way towards increasing their vocabulary and language.  Even if they are too young to be expressing themselves, they are internalizing what you are saying and doing, their brains are developing at a rapid rate, and new vocabulary words are being discovered and internalized.  Early Literacy can play a huge role in language development.

As children get older, you can expand their learning by using activities that relate to stories they are reading.  Come back later this week for some great book activity ideas!

What are Infants and Toddlers learning through books?

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents” – Emilie Buchwald

When books are introduced at the infant age it is not with the expectation that children will sit still to read them, but more with the purpose of introducing literacy and creating a “normalcy” to having books available.  Why do we have books for young children if they aren’t able to use them “appropriately” yet?

Books are used for a number of reasons.  Obviously the most important being literacy and language.  Books are a great resource for teaching vocabulary and language concepts, which in turn helps to promote cognition.  Before babies are even able to talk, they are benefiting from hearing you read and are internalizing the words that you are using.  As they get older they will start to learn that the words and pictures together are telling a story.

Books can be used as a great sensory tool, particularly for Infants and Toddlers.  Babies and young children like to touch and taste, so books with textures, sounds, moveable and pop up pieces can all incorporate meaningful sensory experiences.  Older Infants and Toddlers are developing motor control, which can also be incorporated as they learn to manipulate different pieces of various books.  Sometimes just being able to pick up the book and pretend to turn the pages is satisfying enough! Squishy, colorful and fabric books will particularly enhance sensory experience for young children.

Books can help support emotional development in children.  As I talked about in a previous post, children have a sense of accomplishment when they master something.  Books with repetition are one of the best way for children to master a story, and gain that sense of accomplishment.  This can strengthen their sense of self and build positive esteem, snowballing into that positive emotional development.  Books are also a great way to incorporate conversations about emotions.  For example by using the book “When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry…” by Molly Bang.  Conversation starters are almost built in!  “Why is Sophie feeling angry?” “What do you do when you’re feeling angry?”

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Another added benefit to reading with young children is the social aspect.  If you are reading individually to your child you are teaching them that they are important and you want to spend your time with them.  That individual attention can be invaluable.  In a group setting, reading stories with a small or large group can still give that individual attention and feeling of importance to children.  Sometimes children might look at books together, or sit near each other and look at different books.  Again, this gives that social interaction and shared experience around a love of reading.

When children observe adults reading for fun, they internalize that reading is fun, important and beneficial.  It is impossible to read too much to a child.  Remember to have appropriate books located in accessible and various locations.  The more you read, the more you will start to see your child gravitate towards books, even when you aren’t initiating the story time!

We cannot expect Infants and Toddlers to sit for a story like Preschoolers, so what exactly do we expect for them to do with books?  Tune in later this week for my explanation!