Did you know that reading to your baby can boost his brain power? The American Academy of Pediatrics announced a new policy in June 2014 advising that parents regularly read aloud to kids from infancy through at least age 5 because it stimulates development, supports the parent/child bond, and helps build language, literacy, and social/emotional skills at a critical time in children's lives. Plus, it's just plain fun! Get some simple tips to make the most of story time with your tot.
Start 'Em Young
While it's never too late to start reading to your little one, it's also never too early. Babies can begin to hear about 30 weeks in utero, so some parents talk, read, and sing to their babies even before they are born, which may strengthen the early parent/child bond. Also, newborn babies can hear before they can see clearly, so speaking and reading to infants can help soothe them and familiarize them with family members' voices. Reading aloud to a newborn is a great bonding activity for dads, as well as big siblings.
Make Reading Part of a Bedtime Routine
Most babies thrive on routines. While you're working on getting your baby on a sleep schedule, start reading books aloud at bedtime, if you haven't been already. Dimming the lights and reading aloud in a soothing voice helps set the mood for baby to sleep. Many families keep bedtime reading in their child's nightly routine for years to come, and rely on it to help cue toddlers that it's sleepy time.
Choose Short, Colorful Books
Where the Wild Things Are might have been your favorite childhood story, but this 48-page classic could be a beast to read aloud to a squirmy 6-month-old! Find age-appropriate books — such as short, colorful board books — for a better chance of keeping your baby's attention (and enduring inevitable gnawing and tossing). There will be plenty of chances to read longer stories later on!
Look at the Pretty Pictures!
Quality over quantity! Take the time to read books slowly and point out what's happening in the illustrations. Babies love the pictures and are picking up language and pre-reading skills before they learn to talk. Even before your baby is verbal, ask questions and make exclamations: "Look at the cow in the barn! Is it raining?" Ask your tot to point to things in the illustrations: "Where's the moon? Do you see any stars?" (Point them out if your child doesn't know the words yet.) Read the same books multiple times to reinforce new words (even though it might get a bit boring for you!). You'll be amazed when your child can point out new animals, objects, and colors!
Keep It Playful
Reading to little ones can be an adventure. Try not to take it too seriously! Your baby may want to grab the book, turn the pages (a bunch at a time), and skip ahead — let her! (But if she's chucking book after book, it might be time for a more active playtime activity!) Keeping reading playful and hands-on — with pop-up and textured books, and props like puppets and stuffed animals — helps draw children in and develop a love of reading for fun. Also, choose books about your child's favorite characters and things, whether it's Doc McStuffins or dinosaurs!
Read a Variety of Books
Stock your child's bookshelf with a range of books (fiction and nonfiction), and you'll get a strong start on preparing your child for preschool and kindergarten. Books help toddlers learn all sorts of educational, social/emotional, and life-skills concepts — from letters, rhyming, shapes, and counting to sharing, making friends, using the potty, and overcoming fears.
Go to Story Time!
Shake-up your child's reading routine by finding children's story times at public libraries in your area (remember to check neighboring towns, too). Your child will love hearing animated librarians read aloud and might make some new friends who are also baby bookworms! Bonus: afterward you can borrow a big stack of books to refresh your reading list.