I have the busiest preschooler on the planet. No, really, I do. You should meet him. He never stops moving….ever. And while I love his curiosity and zest for exploring life, it presented me with a rather large challenge: finding ways to get him to stop long enough to notice and enjoy books.
I wanted him to read all year long, but in the summer months when we had extra time at home, this desire increased. I’m a teacher and a book lover, after all! I wanted nothing more than to instill a love of reading in my child.
And we all know how important it is to read aloud to our kids! Research shows that the most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home before school even begins. So you can imagine my panic when, as soon my kiddo could move around on his own, it suddenly felt impossible to make reading happen.
I had to get creative. I needed to find ways to reel him in and hook his attention. It felt like I had to pull out every teacher trick and mom hack created, but I made it happen.
Here’s my best ideas for how to get your toddler to slow down for reading. Hopefully, these ideas will help your busy child and summer reading will be happening at your house, too.
Tips for Getting Your Preschooler to Read with You
Make Books Easy to Access
An active preschooler usually does not have time to hunt around for books. They are way, way too busy for that! I kept books in multiple locations and at my son’s level to make it really easy for him.
Forget all those high bookcases and shelves – I placed books in baskets and in spots my son would be sure to look: his bedroom and baby brother’s room, the living room, the playroom, the car, even in the kitchen. The more often he came across books during his daily exploration, the better the chances he would stop and enjoy.
Select Interactive Books
Anything that encourages movement is always a big win with my preschooler. Books that have flaps to open, things to pull, actions required, and sounds to explore seemed to hold his interest very well.
Select Topics of Interest
The second I figured out that my preschooler preferred non-fiction books, that’s what I stocked up on. The dinosaur encyclopedia I picked up at the library? He loved it.
And while he does enjoy fiction now, I made sure that I always had books that were aligned with his interests ready and at his fingertips. Find out what your child likes best and make it available.
Go to the Library
A trip to the library is a special treat! I gave my son the freedom to explore our local Seacoast library and it was always fun to see what he would find. Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, our local libraries are offering wonderful services to the public.
Make it a Routine
Building books into his daily schedule really helped my son stop and enjoy reading. He knew that book time would always happen before lunch, before a nap, and before bedtime. Wherever and however you fit reading in, if your kiddo knows it’s coming and it becomes a habit, the more likely it is to be a success.
Mix it up! No one likes to be in a rut, including our kids! I got into the habit of tucking away half of my son’s books and rotating them out on a weekly basis. That way, when he noticed “new” books appear around the house, he was excited to check them out all over again.
Still wondering how to get your toddler to slow down for reading? My son started playing games with his books and I kept up the tradition to keep him coming back for more. My busy preschooler loved playing pretend library or bookstore, and playing usually turned into reading.
Another way to hook his attention: turning a book into a “seek and find”. Even if the book isn’t made to be read that way, asking your preschooler to hunt for different items on the pages will help keep them engaged.
This is a trick my preschooler and I both equally love. Ask a family member or friend to read a story to your kiddo over Zoom. They can either read a book they have, or share one digitally for your child to follow along. “Storytime with Nana” became part of my preschooler’s weekly routine and really helped him slow down for a book.
Activity is Okay
Reminder! It’s okay if your kids don’t sit still for a story. Reading doesn’t have to look “perfect” to be beneficial. In fact, research has shown that for some children, engaging in an activity with their hands actually helps them listen. Giving your kids something to do (blocks, playdough, and a doodle board were big hits with my son) while you read aloud can make the book time last longer and be more enjoyable for everyone.
While my preschooler now seeks out books on his own and truly enjoys them, it took some time and these tricks to get there. Figuring out how to get your toddler to slow down for reading took time for me — but it’s been worth it.