I have read to my daughter since she was a very tiny newborn baby, and whilst babies and toddlers may not have developed the language skills to fully understand the words being read from the page, adding books to your baby’s daily routine can have lots of tangible benefits, even from a very young age. Whilst my partner initially thought I was a bit bonkers when I bought out my Mr Men book collection which I’d kept since I was a child, he soon noticed the positive effects it had on the girls and fully embraced my love of books!
Here are some of the benefits of reading with babies and toddlers:
Enhancing the Bedtime Routine – Reading a book out loud can be a great addition to your baby’s bedtime routine, with this familiar calm activity being a repeated and consistent mental trigger for your baby or toddler that it’s almost time to go to bed. Having a low height book shelf that enables your cruising baby to choose their own book is a really great way to make them feel in control of those last few moments before bed time.
Colors – Your baby’s eyesight can initially can only process black and white and shades of dark and light, but even at this very young age, books with monochrome prints, contrasting colors or bright pages can help stimulate their senses and really capture their attention. Initially with very young babies, soft cushioned books that attach to the stroller or crib are ideal and can be a great distraction for them when you are busy completing chores or going about your daily routine.
Introducing Numbers, Letters and sounds – Books with sequences such as counting from one to ten, introducing the first letters of the alphabet or with sounds that form some of those initial first words like ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ are a great way to introduce some early educational benefits to your baby and toddler. Reading books aloud to your child, particularly when said with rhyme or rhythm, can help develop your child’s memory and encourage them to repeat and learn the sequences themselves.
Cause and effect – Interactive books with flaps, mirrors, buttons to press or that play music and sounds are a great way to teach babies and toddlers that their behavior has a specific response. Reading doesn’t need to be a silent activity, and often with little ones, the more they get to influence the book the better. These interactive books can really help your baby explore and make sense of the world around them, and encourage conversation between you and your child about what is happening.
Bonding time – Your baby will love sitting and hearing the sound of your voice and find listening to you comforting and calming, which makes reading a great activity to do together if your baby is feeling fractious or frustrated. They have lived with the familiarity of your voice for 9 months in the womb, so hearing you read the words of the book aloud, particularly those with a rhyming or varied tone will provide a great opportunity to bond with your child. Similarly, reading is a great activity for other family members too, and helps babies and toddlers become more familiar with those they see less regularly.
Expand their vocabulary – Finally, and this one may seem obvious, but the more you talk and read to them – the more words your child will be exposed to and learn, which will ultimately encourage faster development of their own words and language.
Reading with my girls has become a real highlight for us, with my daughter regularly scooping up a book and plonking herself on my lap. In my opinion it is never too early to start reading to your children, so why not add a bedtime story to your baby’s bedtime routine?