We tend to always hear about parents reading to their young children at bedtime, but many folks still think that the habit has more to do with calming the child and getting them to sleep quicker than anything else. However, the real reason is that reading to your little one from a young age has numerous benefits, even if you think they don’t understand, it’s a unique moment and experience for you and the baby. In addition to contributing to their whole development, it stimulates cognition, language, and emotional intelligence.
As much as the baby may not understand word for word, they learn how to interpret them slowly, as they get more contact with the world. With reading, the baby begins to recognize the tones of voice, pitch, patterns, and of course, the words of a language. Reading helps to build memory – in addition to vocabulary, – concentration, and it helps to create the habit of reading! On top of that, reading to your baby is a unique bonding moment that you enjoy together. It is one of my favorite activities and I try my best to incorporate it several times a day. We usually read for at least fifteen minutes after each feed.
Whether you already have a routine with your little one or if you want to add a few more reading opportunities, I will give you 6 tips so that reading is not just a moment for killing time, without purpose, but a moment that helps in the development of your little one, in different ways:
Contrast of colors
In the first three months, your little one still does not have their vision completely developed, it isn’t clear as it is still in formation, like a few other organs. So, look for picture books that have contrasting colors and simple designs. You don’t need a lot of colors to attract your baby’s attention and to keep them concentrated and focused.
Work on sensory skills
Everything your baby touches will stimulate their sensory system, especially when working on their own body. Whatever they can touch will work the baby’s sensory side. A few excellent options to stimulate your touch, are the touch and feel books, 2 and 3D books. While listening to the stories about what they see, they can connect it with touch, facilitating learning and integrating the learnings. Fabric books, with different textures, are also great, and so are, plastic, or rubber ones, that are safe for babies to put in their mouths – though, I do my best to instill proper handling of books early on, and will do my best to keep them from munching on books! Some of these books, though, are proper for bath time and even to bring to the pool. All of these books also stimulate the baby’s exploration and curiosity skills.
Rhymes and poetry
Chants, poetry, rhymes and texts with a lot of repetition, are the most popular with children, as they help in memorizing and developing the language. Usually, they are predictable texts or stories, easy to memorize that also contributes to the child’s self-confidence in knowing what is to come, strengthening their sense of security.
Music is essential for your baby
Since pregnancy, the baby already has contact with sounds and music if parents had the habit to play it for them. The baby not only recognizes it but memorizes it. Whether through the mother’s voice, or in the sounds of the environment, in the form of animals communicating, or the lullaby to get them to sleepl … everything that makes a sound is present in the baby’s routine.
Sounds catch the babies’ attention, be it the noise of something moving or even instrumental music. It is not by chance that it is always recommended introducing rattles with their babies as one of the first toys. Therefore, you can choose books that work the sounds, either through songs or the sounds of animals.
Loveys and stuffed animals
Who doesn’t love a lovey? They are cute and provide security for your little one, the lovey helps babies not to feel alone, whether it is time to stroll, calm down, or go for a car ride. They help bring consistency during transitions and changes that can trigger some apprehension in the little ones, because, every day, they discover many things in this new world, they start to crawl quickly and then walk. In addition to helping develop the baby’s sensory side, they help with self-esteem. Plush toys and little finger puppets, too, can have the same function as loveys. You can use the loveys or plush to create stories or use as puppets, as if they were characters in your little one’s favorite picture books.
Although I believe that all children’s books are educational, they are classified by categories based on their main content. I love geeking out and diving further into it on my Literature for Children class, but I can share a few brief overview here. Educational books – which work with numbers, or ABC, for example – help develop psychomotor skills, too, sometimes, but they do not always have the same characteristics and functions as others literary books with rich content. Obviously, we know that everything is in its own time and that many parents still prefer short picture books for their babies. It is understandable, though, it is also OK to read all types of books, including chapter books and comic strips 🙂
As your baby grows, it is important to be intentional about transitioning from books more focused on illustration or games and introducing more of those that enrich the vocabulary, foster imagination and creativity. They help your little one to develop intellectually and acquire the habit of reading for life. In addition to all the benefits I have already mentioned, children often transport themselves to another world while reading, gaining knowledge on various subjects, and increasing their vocabulary.
Reading not only generates benefits for those who read, but it is also a quiet time in your day. The baby, too, calms down, especially if the person reading the stories is one of their favorite people – mom, dad, nanny, little brother or sister, who brings them comfort and security. Now that you know about many benefits reading brings to your little one, do your best to incorporate reading moments throughout your baby’s day.