Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Seven Best Ways to Read Your Baby's Brains Out

Today, let's talk about reading to one year olds. Or babies. Or two year olds with short attention spans. You know, anywhere in that age group. But before we begin, let me tell you why you should trust my advice in this area. Quite simply this: last night I used the handles of the mop and the broom as chopsticks to recover the laundry that had fallen behind the washer and dryer. Not only that, but: today I extricated a lego from Tiny's nose.

So obviously, I now qualify as an expert on pretty much everything. Including, ahem, reading to extra small children. I say "extra" because not only have I read to extra-small children, but I have also read to extra... small children. Before there were my own four, I worked as a librarian at a pre-school, and before that I worked at a day-care-like thingamajig with one year olds. Don't ask me to explain the "thingamajig" part. It's top secret.

Here we go. The Seven Best Ways to Read Your Baby's Brains Out:

  • Board books are your friends. Until your kid is past the ripping stage, don't waste your time with paper. You'll be more concerned about saving the printed page from your little savage than savoring the experience of snuggling with your little bub.

  • On that note, keep it short and sweet. This is not the time to bring out Dickens. Once your kid is mobile, they can easily escape from your well-intentioned attempts to intellectualize them. Board books are great because by necessity they are pretty short (although I do have a set of Beatrix Potter board books that were a bit on the longer side). Hold off on the lengthier books until the idea of your child sitting still doesn't make you snort with hilarity. And even then, make the change gradually.

  • Busy hands are happy hands. And idle hands are the devil's workshop (or something like that). Kids move. They're just made that way. Work with it, not against it. My current way of dealing with this is to bring at least three books for the twins' bedtime reading. That way they have one for each hand and I have one to read to them. Then we trade. Works like a charm. Which brings me to my next point:

  • One-on-one time makes everything more special. See, in case you didn't catch that above: I read to the twins' separately. Both babies (are they still babies when they're running around getting into everything?) get their own solo reading time. It's their time with me that they don't have to share with anyone else. Sure, I read to them at other times during the day when they're together and the big boys are around, but every night they get time with just me and some books. What could be more fun? Honestly, I don't know, because I dream of time with just me and some books...

  • Books work well with physical touch. Bruiser likes to sit on my lap when we read. Bee likes to sit next to me with my arm around her. When I read to the big boys now, they're still cuddled up against me or draped over my lap. There's something about the written word that encourages snuggling. And I think it's a good thing that, in our family, books evoke a feeling of closeness. All kids love to cuddle. Combining cuddling with reading is a winning combination.

  • If all else fails, strap 'em down. I used to read to Littles while I fed him dinner. He was stuck in his high chair and couldn't escape. Similarly, when Tiny was a baby, I'd put him and Littles in the stroller, we'd walk the dog and then sit on a bench and read before we went home. They were comfy in the stroller, and I was comfortable on the bench, and everyone's brains were expanding. In fact, I remember, years ago, strapping six adorable one year olds (who weren't mine) into a massive bus of a stroller, taking them to the campus library, and reading to them with the book propped high so they could all see the pictures.

  • And of course, remember, please, that there's no pressure. Books are awesome. Your kids are smart. They will figure this out, sooner or later, and no amount of you freaking out about how you kid hates story time will make that happen any faster. If your kid walks off in the middle of a book, stop reading. When they meander back, pick up where you left off. Soon enough, they will be more interested in whatever you're reading than in that piece of lint that was formerly so distracting. It just might take a little while. Reading is an acquired taste. Keep at it. And cut yourself and your kid some slack.
And there you go. Go forth and read unto your tiny offspring!


  1. I had commented brilliantly on this, but I lost it, thank you to Uganda internet....I TRUSTED YOU! HOW COULD YOU BETRAY ME LIKE THIS? Anyway, I said something about reading and photos of the cutest brown-eyed kids in the world, and something else hilarious, but this is all you get because Internet. Sorry. I still love you.

  2. So if you are wondering, I am reading this in Uganda, but I am using a proxy server that makes it look like I'm in the US because the hotel won't let me download things unless I hide. So if you are wondering why it doesn't show up that someone in Uganda is reading your blog, that's why. Unless there are other people in Uganda reading it--that's possible. Also, I'm downloading SERMONS, ok? They are available for free downloads, but the hotel doesn't realize it. Get off your high horse already. Also, stop riding horses altogether. You and I both know that they are vicious snobby creatures. Better to ride a cow. They at least produce milk that can be made into ice cream and rarely attack people. Also, I read an article that said tall women who consume a lot of dairy are more likely to have twins, so I think we solved that mystery.