I am a mom of an 11 month old baby girl. I have been so excited because we have recently entered the stage where she loves to explore her books all on her own! I love watching her practice flipping through the pages, staring at the beautiful pictures, and babbling to herself as if she is reading the book. Watching her got me thinking . . . exposing your little one to literature is way easier than some might think! Check out these simple ways to introduce your baby to literature.
Make Books Available and Accessible
This might seem like a “duh” sort of reason, but it is the first step! In order to introduce your little ones to literature and books, there needs to be some books available for them to touch and play with. Not sure what books to buy? Check out 13 Books on My Baby Registry. Once you own a few baby books, it is important to store them in an easy-to-reach location that your little explorer can easily access them. Personally, I use my book storage units that are hung high up on the wall to store special books with paper pages. These are not books that I want Baby H to have access to on her own because she might rip them. However, I store her board books in baskets and low windowsills throughout the house for her to grab when she chooses.
Choose Books with Thick Cardboard Pages
If you want to feel comfortable letting your baby grab books at their leisure, I highly recommend investing in books with thick, cardboard pages. These books will survive the wear and tear of a teething toddler. I have watched Baby H chew, hit, throw, and drag her books as she becomes attached to them, and I am so thankful for thick board books that make this kind of exploration possible and stress-free.
Read to Your Baby
Reading to your baby can be hard because it takes time to stop pick a book, settle into a chair with your little one, and begin to read. Plus, there’s no guarantee that your child will even listen once you get settled. Baby H and I have had many reading moments where, rather than sitting peacefully together enjoying a books, she wiggles and squirms on my lap or tries to close the book while I am reading. If you have an ideal picture in your mind of peace and tranquility, than these reading moments can be frustrating.
A baby’s attention span can be short. When you sit down to read, read and flip the pages while your is engaged. Then, if they seems interested in flipping the pages, let them explore the books will you hold it securely in your hands. Ask questions. Point to objects in the book and name them. Touch colors and count objects. Talk about the emotions of the character by identifying their facial expressions in the picture. These are all ways that you can engage your little one while you sit and read together. And if the wiggles and squirms get to be too much? Try laying on the floor and let your child crawl around you as you read. You will be surprise how quickly they engage or how much they absorb while your are reading.
Choose Books with Bright, Engaging Pictures
Babies are drawn to bright and colorful objects. This, of course, is why so many kids toys are brightly color and come with flashing colored lights. Babies love color and contrast, so choose books that are bright and engaging. As children, we all loved books with great pictures. Offer books that are exciting in some way, whether that is through the bright pictures, crinkly-sounding pages, or textured illustrations. Children at this age are absorbing information so quickly through all of their senses. Choose books that can engage their sight, touch, and hearing.
Label Objects in Their Room
Have ever walked into a preschool classroom and seen every wall, toy, box, and bin labeled? I certainly have! The purpose of this practice is to create a text-rich environment. As children locate an object, they can see the text assigned to that object. This is something that you can do for your little one before they head to their preschool classroom.
Start in your child’s room and put a label on basic objects in their room such as door, bed, closet, dresser, etc. These could be simple, handwritten labels, typed, laminated labels, or somewhere in between. Please do not feel that you must label every single object in the room in order to create a text-rich environment. I recommend starting simple. This practice will allow words to come alive for your child. Now, rather than just pointing to a picture of a door, your child can go up to their bedroom door and physically see the word assigned to the real life object. The purpose of this technique is not to create a baby genius or early reader, but rather to allow your child to interact with text in their day-to-day life.
These are just a few of the many ways that you can expose your little ones to literature at a young age. Go ahead! Try out some of these simple tips and watch the joy and magic as your child begins to discover books for themselves!