Reading with Babies

Reading with Babies: Integrating Play with Books
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It is incredibly important to start reading to your children from birth. Babies absorb so much from the world around them and books provide fantastic exposure to language, tone, and more. When I had my first child, I desperately wanted to be sure that I did my best to instill a love of reading in her and any other children I had in years to come. Now there are six children  who call me Mama and all have  often spent time cuddled in my lap with a book at hand. Reading with babies is just an expected part of my motherhood duties in my home. Such young children may not understand everything (or anything) in the book and they just might drool on the pages or get restless and only listen to half a page, but the important thing is that books become an integral part of their daily lives.

For the youngest children, you can’t just use any book because it will get torn, slobbered upon, crinkled up, or worse. Board books provide a sturdy option for the smallest of the small while still offering the opportunity to expose your child to good stories. Infants are often squirmy and restless so I’ve often attempted to make our reading time more interactive with my babies.

Here are five of our favorite books and suggested activities to accompany them that make the book come alive! All of these books can be substituted for others with a similar theme. Don’t feel limited to only these particular selections. I have included some different recommendations for each option.

Usborne Very First A*B*C 

This is a classic children’s book and fantastic for all young children, but the board book version is small and better for baby hands. After or while you share this introduction to the twenty six letters of the alphabet, you can also:

  • Sing the alphabet song.
  • Emphasize the letter sounds or words that start with each letter with your mouth so that baby can see and begin to learn how to form the sounds themselves.
  • Take the book around the house and point out objects that begin with the letter on the page while you carry your little one.
  • Other recommended ABC themed board books: Curious George’s ABC by H.A. Rey, Chicka Chicka ABC by Bill Martin, Jr., A to Z by Sandra Boynton, Alphablock by Christoper Franceshelli, and Dr. Seuss’s ABC by Dr. Seuss.

Usborne Baby’s Very First Play Book Body Words

This book features bright, colorful illustrations with fun scenes of every day activities. Learn all the words to describe your body with your child. As they get older, you can use it as a point and look book, asking them to find the various parts. Activity suggestions:

  • Sing the song, “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” with your child.
  • Provide a mirror for your baby and point out her eyes, ears, mouth, nose, etc.
  • Fingerpaint or make prints with hands and feet of your baby. An easy mess free option is to place the paint in a ziploc bag, seal, and allow baby to push and swirl paint from the outside of the bag.
  • Use a small stuffed beanie animal and place it on baby’s head, arm, knee, and other body parts to “sit” while naming the part.
  • Other recommended body parts board books: My First Body Board Book by D.K. Publishing, Where is Baby’s Yummy Tummy? By Karen Katz, From Head to Toe by Eric Carle, Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes by Annie Kubler.

Usborne Musical Nursery Rhymes

This is a fun, interactive book with sounds that introduces baby to rhyme and language. After reading it, try one or more of these activities to add some fun and enrichment:  

  • Take a rhyming walk indoors or outdoors. Look for things that rhyme and point them out to your child(tree, bee, clock, sock, cat, mat, etc.). No, they won’t understand the concept behind rhyming yet, but it is great exposure to interesting words and sounds very melodic in the ear.
  • Talk to your baby as you go about daily tasks, pointing out the names of the things around you.
  • Recite more nursery rhymes to your child while rocking them, changing them, bathing them, etc.
  • Other recommended rhyming nursery rhyme board books: My First Real Mother Goose by Blanche Fisher Wright, A Children’s Treasury of Nursery Rhymes by Linda Bleck, Hey Diddle Diddle by Hannah Wood, Usborne Very First Nursery Rhyme by Rosaline Bonnet.

What If I Know My Feelings?

Let’s learn some emotions! Imitate our friendly Whatif Monster as he and his friends work through some feelings! 

Read the story and then try these:

  • Change the inflections of your voice and make exaggerated facial expression when you do each part. Use a happy voice and smile big when talking about the happy monster. Get excited and make wide eyes when those emotions come into play. Use your imagination! Engage your baby.
  • Other recommended board books about emotions: Happy Hippo, Angry Duck by Sandra Boynton, The Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen, Baby Happy, Baby Sad by Leslie Patricelli, The Feelings Book by Todd Parr, .

That’s Not My Zebra’s Colors

This story follows zebra as he meets his animal friends and wishes he had the same vibrant colors as all of them. Eventually, he finds his own happiness with how he was made. Read this delightful story and then try:

The possibilities are open ended in this arena.  There are board books to fit nearly any topic and you can add in songs, activities, fingerplays, and more to expand on the topics. Most importantly, have fun with your baby! They are only little for a short period of time and you will never regret the time you’ve spent playing with them.

What is your favorite interactive board book to use when reading with babies?

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