Story Time and Make-Believe

Find tips to help you keep your toddler focused during story time.
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Story Time and Make-Believe


Your one-year-old will probably love the simple stories and bright, colorful, and clear illustrations in the books of the following authors: Sandra Boynton, Margaret Wise Brown, Eric Hill, Helen Oxenbury, Jan Pienkowski, Richard Scarry, Rosemary Wells, and Vera B. Williams.

Your child will probably love reading and hearing short stories during his second year. Books are probably the second best language builders (talking with you naturally comes in first). Reading opens up so many possibilities. It offers opportunities to teach your toddler about the world and about colors, shapes, and textures.

Despite the notoriously short attention span of the typical one-year-old, your toddler will probably settle down for more than two minutes if you sit with him to read. (He probably won't sit still for very long if you just give him a book to "read" by himself.) Quiet quality time spent reading with you also offers your toddler a break from always being on the go.

If you really want to encourage your child to enjoy reading, schedule special times to read every day (naptime or bedtime are good times). Even though your toddler won't understand them word for word, simple storybooks are fine for one-year-olds. But try to remain flexible. Don't be a fanatic about reading every word on every page of the book. When your baby seems to be getting bored with one page, turn to the next even if you haven't finished reading. (He may even reach over and start to do it for you. If he does, take the hint.)

Toddlers love repetition. So don't be surprised if your child wants to read the same book or hear the same story over and over again. In fact, you may not have even finished the last page of a favorite book before your toddler asks you to read it again. Try to maintain your enthusiasm—and your sense of humor—no matter how many times your child asks you to reread a book.

Give your child plastic books, bath books, sturdy board books, and texture books—especially ones with bright colors and large, simple pictures (one object per page, clearly illustrated or photographed). These books allow your baby to explore them on his own without destroying them. By about 18 months, your child will probably have the manual dexterity needed to flip through books on his own. (Okay, so he'll usually turn more than one page at a time, but he'll make progress nonetheless.)

Also, place the books where your toddler can reach them. Many parents (and most daycare providers) fear that toddlers will destroy their own books (and often with good reason). So they put all books high up on a shelf where toddlers can't get them. But this prevents toddlers from choosing to play with books if that's what they want to do.

If your toddler is consistently ripping books apart, then okay, move them out of harm's way. But keeping books away from your toddler as a regular policy will literally and figuratively distance your child from reading.

Imaginary Play

Don't ignore the value of dolls, stuffed animals, and puppets. Besides keeping watch over your children at night, dolls and stuffed animals can perform several valuable functions for your toddler. They encourage imaginative play for both boys and girls.

Late in his second year, your toddler will probably show an interest in playing "Let's pretend." She'll want to make believe she's the mommy or the daddy. Role-playing games like these give your toddler valuable practice in expressing emotions, sharing, and caring for others (through feeding, dressing, putting a doll to bed, and even "disciplining" a naughty doll). In addition, dolls allow your child to vent aggressive feelings that you won't let her inflict on other people: hitting, biting, kicking, pinching.

Toddlers love to play at being adult. Imitating adult behavior will help promote your child's confidence and sense of independence. Children's cooking sets, tea sets, garden sets, telephones, all give your toddler a chance to try to "be like you." Miniatures (cars, doll houses, farm sets, and so on) also allow your toddler to re-create adult worlds with scenes and activities that he's observed.