Written by Cindy Hovington, PhD. Founder of www.curiousneuron.com
I recently gave birth to my second child and I have enjoyed seeing this brand new little person learn something new every day. I often hear people say that an infant "just lies there", but I don't see it that way. Their brain is taking in everything they touch, see or hear and reading to them is one of the best ways to stimulate them at this young age.
Reading books as of birth helps many aspects of brain development. With my own children, as of 3 days old, any moment they were awake became "reading time". Especially with newborns who still can't grab anything to play with, reading to them should be the main learning activity to stimulate them while they are awake. You might only be able to read a few pages to them at first but slowly you will increase it to a book or even a few books in a row. Reading to them as infants will help them develop their language skills, build their visual skills, reading skills, develop their attention span and more.
Here is a list of some of my favourite books along with suggestions of how to engage your child as you read:
TIP #1: Look for books that have you mimic animal sounds, give you the opportunity to point to objects. and that have very short sentences.
Moo, Baa La La La is a simple book that is a great starter for infants and has animal sounds.
With Dear Zoo, you can also make the animal sounds and have them lift the flap.
As your child develops the ability to grab, take their hand and have them turn the page as you ask them to "tun the page". Eventually when you will ask them to turn the page they will do it on their own.
As your child approaches the age of 1, you can ask them to point to an object. For example, you can ask them to point to the "red balloon" in Goodnight Moon. I also have lots of fun taking my babies index finger and placing it in the little holes of The Very Hungry Caterpillar book. While making a "munching sound" I pretend their finger is the caterpillar eating the fruit.
12 months - 24 months:
TIP #2: Look for books that have fun rhymes and words that a child can easily learn to pronounce. Some repetitiveness is also great to help them remember and learn.
Little Blue Truck is one of our favourites in our house and I love that it teaches kids to be kind to one another. The rhymes and animals sounds are fun for kids.
Flip, Flap, Fly is fun to read, and I always have my child tell me which animal is coming up on the next page.
With Blue Hat, Green Hat, kids love it when you exaggerate the "OOPS" part. I have lots of fun emphasizing the one right before the "OOPS". For instance, I would read the first page as follows, " Blue hat, green hat, REEEDDDD HAATTTTTTTTTT OOPS! When saying "red hat" I use a funny voice. With time, my daughter began anticipating that the OOPS was coming and it became a fun game. Using different voices is a wonderful way to engage children in reading.
Happy Hippo, Angry Duck also provides an opportunity to do this. Also, as a child gets closer to the age of 2, where they are learning to understand and deal with their emotions, this book becomes an important catalyst for dialogue on emotions.
2 years and over:
TIP #3: Fun rhymes remain important since they are still learning to speak, but at this point, the story is also important and can create conversation between you and your child.
You can use the lessons learned from the book during their everyday life. For instance, believing in yourself even when you think you are not good at something (Giraffes Can't Dance).
One of the most beautiful aspects of reading to your children as of a young age is watching them independently get a book one day and handing it over to you to have you read it. Even if they can't talk yet, that action is loud and clear. It is a great way to spend quality time with your children. Eventually, you can start creating stories with your child and build on their creativity. Especially now, in my situation, reading to my toddler is a great when to include her while I am feeding the baby.
In my next blog post I will discuss how I use some books along with puppets to entertain both my baby and toddler. The possibilities are endless. Happy reading!