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Tips for Reading with Your Baby

reading to babies

We all want to instil a love of reading in our children from an early age. There’s no such thing as starting storytime too early, but sometimes reading with your baby can feel a little one-sided. They might be drifting off to sleep, staring at the ceiling, or completely captivated by the cat. 

Don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to make storytime more interactive and engaging for your little one, even if they seem distracted!

Eye contact and intonation 

Capture your baby’s attention with lots of eye contact. Babies are naturally drawn to faces, so get down on their level (floor or crib) and make eye contact while reading. 

Just like adults, little ones enjoy a lively performance. Don’t be afraid to inject some energy and emotion into your voice. Vary your intonation, and you might even draw a giggle with a silly voice! Whisper softly too – babies often find the sensation of a hushed voice near their ear fascinating.

reading with your baby
Father cuddling laughing baby son

Nursery rhymes and poems 

For the youngest babies, nursery rhymes and poems are often a better choice than narrative stories. Detailed stories from a physical book can be cumbersome when you’re trying to hold a baby and maintain eye contact. Nursery rhymes are concise, easy to memorise and recite, making them perfect for short attention spans. 

Studies also suggest that sing-song speech, like that found in nursery rhymes, is particularly helpful for babies learning language.

Introduce props

As your baby gets older (and can sit up independently), storytime becomes even more interactive with the use of props. Bring nursery rhymes and stories to life with fun toys. For example, use a mini spatula to pat, prick, and trace a “b” on your baby’s palm while saying the words to Pat-A-Cake. Animal figures can turn Old MacDonald Had a Farm and Baa Baa Black Sheep into mini-productions. 

reading with your baby

Musical instruments like a xylophone or maraca can add another layer of fun – play a note at each page turn or encourage your baby to shake it during specific parts of the story.

Body and Movement  

Storytime can be a great way to encourage movement and fine motor skill development. If you enjoy poetry, try reading iambic poems and turn them into a clapping game. Gently tap your baby’s hands or the soles of their feet on every stressed word. 

Did you know most babies can clap by seven months old? Encourage them to clap along to a rhythmic verse or join in with rhymes like If You’re Happy and You Know It. Look for brightly coloured pictures and touch-and-feel books – gently guide your baby’s finger over the illustrations as you narrate the story. 

reading with your baby

Storytime doesn’t have to be a stationary activity! Put your baby in a carrier and take a gentle stroll while narrating a story. Use a free hand to swing your baby’s hand or tickle their leg at various points in the story (just be sure to stay alert for obstacles).

Conclusion

Reading is a treasure trove of fun and inspiration for you and your baby. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing their eyes light up over a silly rhyme or a funny story. Remember, even if your baby seems unfocused, they are still absorbing information and soaking up the sound of your voice. Make storytime a positive experience for both of you, and you’ll be nurturing a lifelong love of reading in your little one.

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