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How to Read to a Child Who Won't Sit Still

Updated: Aug 3, 2019

1. Let them move. No need to force your child to sit on your lap or at your feet. It's okay if they want to wander around or play a bit while your read. Keep focus and read, making it enjoyable (see next tips) and you'll see they might look over their shoulder to see, come closer to take a look a the picture, smile, engage, probably walk away again... but that's fine!

2. Give them sensory input. Try giving your child a sensory toy/fidget toy while reading. Perhaps bounce them on your lap while reading. It may help them feel settled and focus to pay attention.

3. Summarize and paraphrase. Board books are great as they're usually short and sweet, but picture books can work as well. You may need to simplify the story, cut out a lot of words, or even skip pages. You're allowed to do so! Be creative, have fun, and just go with the flow.

3. Ask questions. Keep them engaged by asking questions. For smaller children, ask what color something is, or what sound it makes. Ask them to reinact a movement a character did. For older children you can ask questions about the characters or guess what will happen next.

4. Let them choose the books. Sounds simple enough, but just giving a choice can be a big help. Line up 8 books and have them pick 3, for example. Or hide a couple behind your back and have them pick a hand to see which book "wins". Interactive books can also encourage participation. See my list below!

5. Stay positive. Allow yourself to be frustrated that your child might not sit quietly hands on lap and listen to you read. It's perfectly normal for small children. The days are long, but the years are short. Reading is a gift we give our children and although your little one might act uninterested now, it doesn't mean they won't become interested later on. Reading not only benefits your child's development, it is a spectacular bonding activity, so keep it fun, keep it light, and keep reading. You've got this.

Short List of Interactive Books:

1. Plant the Tiny Seed. Plant the Tiny Seed is an innovative board book that brings readers right into the story by asking them to push the painted seeds into the ground or wiggle down the rain with little fingertips. Nature-lovers will delight in taking part in this active read-aloud.

2. Dance. Dance, tells the baby chick who just wants to dance. Your little one can pull tabs to make the animals shake and groove. Note: use caution at bedtime. This energizing book might inspire your kiddo to stay up and dance.

3. Zoom, Zoom, Baby! Karen Katz just may be the queen of lift-the-flap stories for babies. Her books (which their seem to be an endless supply of), feature large, full page, heavy-duty flaps that are less likely to get destroyed by the younger audience with tiny, yet not-so-gentle, hands.

4. Touch and Feel: Never Touch a Dinosaur. This dinosaur-themed, touch-and-feel book is perfect for young children. Little ones will love reading the funny rhyme that warns of the dangers of touching a dinosaur—and of ignoring the advice! Innovative silicone touches are featured throughout the book, with a different texture for children to discover on every spread.

5. Open the Barn Door. Spend a day on the farm and explore all the animal sights and sounds! Featuring 10 lift-the-flaps and a variety of barnyard favorites, including horses, chickens, cows, and pigs, this board book is a fun-filled introduction to life on the farm.

6. Pete the Cat and the Treasure Map. When Captain Pete discovers a treasure map, he and his crew are ready to set out and sail the seas to find the buried gold and jewels. But they weren’t expecting to find a giant sea monster along the way!

7. The Jolly Postman. This gorgeously illustrated, full-color classic celebrates a time before email by depicting amusing correspondence between fairy tale and Mother Goose characters. What could possibly be in a letter from Goldilocks to the Three Bears? Who would write to the Wicked Witch? Open this book, take out the letters, and discover what favorite characters would write to each other--and reimagine best-loved tales together.

8. Airplane Flight!: A Lift-the-Flap Adventure. Kids can lift the10 flaps throughout the book to make their flying and reading experience more fun! Fasten your seatbelt and fly above the sky with this interactive book that's shaped like an airplane. This format is perfect for young children who are going on a plane for the first to one-hundredth time!

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