Getting a toddler who has boundless energy to sit down and read is a challenge. Running around and exploring things is more attractive to them than sitting down. So, how then can you get them to read? Here are the strategies that have helped me with my child. Most of these suggestions should work for kids 2 to 5 yrs of age.
1. Enact the Scenes
Kids love to see books come to life. It wows them to realise that it is not abstract anymore. So, after we read Room on the Broom, you can guess what we did? It quickly became his favourite activity, and the book quickly became one of his favourites too!
He would sit on it, tap it and say “… and whoosh they were gone”.
Similarly, for the Fox on a Box, we enact all the scenes after reading using a fox soft toy and a cardboard box.
2. Use 3D Media
Using 3D media like playdough or legos can also help engage the kids as well as bring the entire story alive. It makes it all exciting and gives them a feeling of being a part of the story. So, for Ted’s Shed we made a log of wood with playdough, sawed off the wheels, made a shed with playdough and converted it into a caravan. For exploring Usborne’s Look Inside Space Book, we constructed lego models of the earth, spaceship and sun and played around with them to understand what exactly space is.
3. Ask Questions / Be Silly
There is nothing that toddlers like more than telling an adult that they are wrong. So while reading, if you feel the child is losing interest… draw in their attention by asking them a question that mentions something that is very obviously wrong. For example, “Hey is he wearing yellow shorts?” (when the character may be wearing a different colour or maybe a different type of clothing). Usually, the child will jump in and say, “Noooo that’s not right!”
4. Ask them to predict what happens next / alternate endings
The first time you read a book, most kids will be engaged as a new story is always interesting. You can make it more interesting by asking them what do you think will happen next. For subsequent readings though, it helps to ask them, “If this had not happened, then what do you think should have happened?” or “Can you think of some other way this story can end?”
5. Draw similarities between books
My child particularly likes it when he can connect one concept / character from one book to another. So in Raccoon on the Moon, the raccoon goes to the moon in a spaceship. He then wants to read a book on space. Or, reading the Mad About Minibeasts book he sees the caterpillar and wants to read about The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Reading two or more books that have some sort of connect, helps kids develop a greater interest in books and be more engaged.
What kind of toddler engagement strategies have worked for you?
ps: If you are looking at buying the Usborne Phonics Readers books, the boxset works out to be very economical.
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