Tricks for Toddler Story Time

Toddler (noun): tiny little person that has an enviable amount of energy and an ability to stay put longer than two minutes. 

See also: Tasmanian Devil, irrationality, and loudness

Reading has always been my favorite hobby, stress-reliever, and escape, but I know perfectly well that it would be stupid to expect my child to feel the same way. But so far, Sawyer actually really does enjoy books and reading, and I think it's in part due to our very-print rich household (and just the fact that a lot of little kids genuinely like books).

Reading has changed a lot in our house since Sawyer has become so mobile and energetic. When he was a baby he'd lay in my lap and we'd read book after book without a peep or an attempt to escape. Now it's a bit different, but story time is stuff a huge thing in our family. Here are some things that are working for us:

Availability- There are books in basically every room in our house, whether cookbooks in the kitchen, Scott's graphic novels in his room, our wall of books in the living room, of Sawyer's under the coffee table or on his bookcase. There are even some of his in the car! We don't have to make an effort to have something handy to read.

Nothing is off limits- Sawyer is allowed to pull our books off our bookshelves, with supervision. We've taught him to be gentle, to use one finger to look at the spines on the shelves, and to put them back. We talk about the covers and help him flip through the pages. He bores very quickly with the lack of pictures, but he knows that they're books and he won't get in trouble for investigating. This has been the case since he started rolling and crawling, so by now he simply leaves the adult ones alone or pulls of his favorites to bring to us (he loves the covers of The Art of Racing in the Rain, Confederacy of Dunces, and Scott's coffee table books on the Muppets).

Meal Time- Sawyer eats dinner way earlier than we do, since my husband isn't home until 7 or 7:30. During Sawyer's dinner time I try to take a break from prepping the adult's dinner or cleaning up the kitchen to read him a full length story or two, as opposed to the board books we're constantly thumbing through. 

Rarely Say No- I rarely refuse to read to him when he brings me a book, unless I'm doing something time-sensitive. Or, I'll quickly finish up what I'm doing and then sit down with him. Seriously, how long does it take to stop what you're doing and read a quick picture book? My husband is the same way. 

A Big Deal- Going to the bookstore or opening packages with books is a big deal in our house. We get excited and let him help pick things out or take books out of boxes. 

Don't Force It- It's human nature to hate what we're made to do- I'm the prime example. If we're reading and he wants to get off the couch than I let him. A lot of times I'll just keep reading so he hears the story and he'll come back. It's not a big deal. 

Just Do It- Along those lines, sometimes when he's playing I'll just start reading one of his books aloud and he'll become interested and come sit down. Curiosity prevails. 

Set a Good Example- I try to read my own books in front of him every day, even if it's just for a few minutes or so. I also don't feel bad gently ignoring him to finish a page. Lately he and I lay at opposite ends of the couch, my with my book and he with a stack of board books, and will read together. This never lasts more than ten minutes, but it's a start. He thinks it's a big deal because he gets his own stack of pillows and gets to have "toys" on the couch.

Tap into Their Interests- Right now he loves anything with wheels or Star Wars characters, so I ordered a few books for him about these things (board and normal paper). Awhile ago it was cats and before that ones with colorful pictures of everyday items. Judging from the fact that he's trying to take out the vacuum right now I need to get him one about those...

Don't Get Mad- He loves the books with little flaps and pull tabs- loves to pull them off, to be more specific. Purposefully harming a book is blasphemy in my world, but I remember to take a deep breath and remember that it's my job to teach him how to be careful and that he really doesn't know that he's not supposed to mangle them. This really goes with anything book related; kids are going to steer clear of things that they associate to negativity. 

Rotate- We constantly alternate books between upstairs, downstairs, and the car to prevent boredom (both mine and his). 

I'm sure most of this will change, as everything does when you're dealing with kids, but it's what works for us right now. 


  1. I loved this post…I agree with all your "tips". For a long time, we thought Sully was never going to like books, as he really wasn't interested until some time last fall. Now he would happily have us read him books all day long. I never, ever though I'd have to utter the words, "no more books right now" lol. We have books all over the house too, and in the car. He's also pretty good to "read" books to himself which is the most adorable thing ever. And I too will read my book in front of him. Sometimes he'll come sit next to me with his books, other times he just plays in the same room. I absolutely agree it's important to read in front of your kids, just as it's important for them to see you working out. How else do children learn? That's why I don't like the idea of reading on a tablet or my phone around my son…he's too young to understand that I'm actually reading a book, not just staring at some device.

  2. I will have to keep these in mind. My little guy is at the crawling stage so things are already changing!