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Make it Fun and Natural: Three Tips for Reading to Your Baby

In the ten months or so that I’ve been a mama, I’ve had lots of conversations about babies and kids with friends, family, and strangers alike. When people learn I’m a librarian, inevitably the conversation turns to reading. “Oh, you must read to your son all the time, right?” Guilty! (But not as often as I would like now that I’m back at work.) Then they go on: “I know I should, but it’s so hard to fit something else in—even if it’s good for them. Little Johnny doesn’t pay attention and Susie has ruined all my books with her teeth.” Well, yes. #BabiesWillBeBabies. But don’t despair! You, too, can read to your baby—and it doesn’t have to be a painful process!

Here are a few ways that I’ve made reading to baby a natural part of our lives:

Reading to babies is important--but it can be tough! But it does not have to be painful. Read along (ha!) for some tips to make reading to your baby easier.

Read to your baby when they are doing something else.

Whether it’s tummy time, batting at toys under the infant gym, or playing on the floor with their latest favorite (my son is super into his Zany Zoo these days), this “distractable” time is perfect for pulling out a few board books and reading them to your little one. Your baby is still being exposed to books—hearing that language and your voice, but they are also able to focus their energy on a toy (and a little less on grabbing the book out of your hands). When they are a little bit older, they’ll be able to sit for a story—but for now, don’t force it. If you do this and they still want to chew the book in your hands, give them their own and read another. No biggie!

Read the same books, over and over.

Yes, this may be a bit tedious for you, mama, but in my experience this has been great for a few reasons. It has helped my little guy become familiar with some of his stories—he now knows to look up from his toys when I get to the part of the story about the cows mooing because he knows I’ll moo along with the book for him. Babies understand more than we realize they do! #truth

And as I have memorized portions of the stories, I can be less focused on the book in my hand and the words on the page and MORE focused on my son. His reactions are priceless! As a bonus, I can now recite silly bits of books in the car, at the store, or while changing a diaper. This has come in handy more than once when trying to calm him during a meltdown!

Also, don’t limit baby’s reading material to board books (though they are great!). When baby wants to snuggle in your arms, read your book aloud to them. My husband is about a third of the way through The Hobbit with our son. They have read it in bits and spurts over many months. It’s the sweetest thing to see!

Read when it’s convenient for you.

A lot of experts suggest reading at bedtime. If that works for you, great! If not, don’t force it! In my house, reading before bed just does not work. By the time he’s cozy in his jammies, played his rolling game with daddy, and had the oh-so-fun toothbrushing experience (#yeahright #sarcasm), he is a fussy mess. He wants nothing to do with a book and EVERYTHING to do with some milkie and snuggles with mama. I have tried (and tried) to incorporate a book into bedtime. It just did. not. work. We’ll just try again at some point in the future.

For now, we read at different times, with no set pattern or schedule.

We read while he’s chowing down on cheese and strawberries in his highchair.

Daddy watching sports on the weekend? We read.

We read while I’m eating breakfast before leaving for work.

(Apparently, we read while eating quite a bit.)

We read, cuddled on the couch, after our after-work nursing session. 

In all those stolen bits of time when we need to occupy ourselves? We read.

Some days we don’t read, other days we read a lot. In my opinion, all that matters is that we read. 🙂 

What are your best tips for reading to babies? What books do you like?

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