Reading Ideas for Toddlers in Constant Motion

Thankfully, my son is now out of the phase where I couldn't even take a picture of him being still. There was always movement when he was a toddler. I've had many parents ask me how they are supposed to sit and read with their toddlers for any length of time. Here are my suggestions:

1. Embrace Reality (Adjust Your Expectations)
You are going to immediately be in trouble if you want your reading time to match a picture in your head of a child happily cuddled on a peaceful parent's lap with a pile of books. Close the door to the bedroom so you have your toddler in a confined space. Child door locks can be your friend in such instances. They may not look like they're listening to you read, but that's okay. They can get up and wander if they want. You can still try to engage them now and again with questions or show them a neat picture.

3. Embrace the short book
This is not time to prep your little cutie for Harvard by reading chapter books. Keep the books short and sweet. Some board books are just longer books for older children in board book form. Bypass those and go for the ones with a few words per page at most. Don't take it personal if your toddler wants to shove a book out of your hand halfway through. It's okay. You don't have to finish every book. When they're a little bit older, you can work on the follow-through skill. Right now, it's not important. If they're interested, they'll let you keep reading.

4. Embrace books with real pictures, flaps, smells, and different textures
Your child is in a state of constant exploration, so what a great way to get them interested in books by exploring. It keeps their attention and teaches them that books can be fascinating. Where else can you find little squares of shag rug and shiny mirror material in the same place other than a disco or roller rink?!? Bob the Builder has some super awesome Life-the-Flap board books. Below is our very favorite, Bob's Toolbox Mix-Up. Babies and toddlers are also extremely interested in books that mirror their lives and what they look like. Some of our favorites were simple real pictures of babies and things that babies play with.
Bob the Builder: Bob's Toolbox Mix-Up

5. Embrace books that involve songs and/or movement
The reason I decided to write this post is that I recently discovered an excellent series of books for toddlers involving yoga moves. I read the books while I was over babysitting one of my favorite toddlers, and he surprised me by doing every single yoga pose in the book. What surprised me more was how natural and perfect for toddlers each of the poses were. There's Sleepy Little Yoga and Little Yoga: A Toddler's First Book of Yoga. Other books like Little Bunny Foo Foo, where you can sing and do movements, can also be very entertaining for the little ones.

6. Embrace Humor
If you can find a book that's silly, you will have your child's attention. Anything that makes them giggle or laugh is one they will want to revisit over and over. Bob the Builder's Tool Mix-Up has some silly parts in it. What Shall We Do with the Boo-Hoo Baby is another fun one. Luckily, there are lots of board books out there that embrace fun. You also have to remember YOUR sense of humor. Don't ever get tense around books, as Mem Fox likes to say. Enjoy the craziness that is your toddler running around the room as you read. It won't last for long.

7. Embrace Repetition
Yes, you are going to find a few all-out favorite books that your toddler will want you to read over and over. That is a fantastic thing to do. It helps cement vocabulary, syntax, and the rhythm of language for your child. Plus, it's one of the very few times where they can feel like an expert. Children LOVE reading stories over and over again because they know what's going to come next. This happens so rarely in their little lives that this a great opportunity for them to feel some control and pride.

8. Embrace Your Toddler!
I can't resist mentioning this rule. Give lots of hugs and love when you have reading time (that is, if you can catch them!).  As long as they associate reading with fun and love and laughter, you've done your job!

Need some more ideas? Check out this article, "Reading Tips for Parents of Toddlers"  from


  1. Great tips, Ruth! I have got to really work harder with my 18 month old. He's just starting to show interest (finally!), but not for long!

  2. Thank you so much Anna!! I've been a little out of the loop with vacations going on, sorry for the late reply. I am sure you're doing just great with your 18 month old!!