Reading with Babies: Integrating Play with Books!

I believe it to be 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 four wee ones who call me Mama (soon to be five!) that  often spend 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.

Reading with Babies: Integrating Play with Books

Of course 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.

1. Dr. Seuss’s ABC by Dr. Seuss

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 The Usborne Alphabet Picture Book by Rosalinde Bonnet
    Reading with Babies
2. Baby Einstein Playful Discoveries: Head to Toe by Marcy Kelman
This book provides instruction for various motions to help teach the names of body parts. Follow along with the simple rhyme and show your baby how to touch his nose, blow kisses, or rub his tummy. Don’t be afraid to get up and move! Be animated and excited!
  • 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, and My First Word Book About Me by Caroline Young
A fun little book with an attached mouse finger puppet, this book introduces baby to rhyme and language. After reading it, try one or more of these activities to add some fun 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, Little Miss Muffet by Helen Collins, Usborne Very First Nursery Rhyme by Rosaline Bonnet

Reading with Babies

4. Itsy Bitsy Spider by Kate Toms
While this is a rhyming book as well, I tend to focus more on emotions when using it. A spider determined to get to the top of a water spout but keeps getting hastily forced back to the bottom. This particular book expands on the traditional rhyme providing some new twists to the story. Read the story and then try these:
  • Do the classic fingerplay to the rhyme, but 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 spider going up the spout. Use a sad voice when the rain falls and the spider gets washed down. Get excited and make wide eyes when the sun comes out. Use your imagination! Do the rhyme again using different emotions. Engage your baby.
  • Pretend your hands are spiders and have them “climb(tickle)” your child.
  • Crawl around the floor like spiders.
    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, .
5. Colors Everywhere by Sam McBratney
As you can tell by the name of my own blog, To the Moon and Back, I adore the Guess How Much I Love You series of books. This installment follows Little Nutbrown Hare through his grassy home as he explores the colors in nature. 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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