5 Tips on How to Read to Active Toddlers

reading to active toddlers

Little T was a sit-on-my-lap kind of baby who would quiet down and listen attentively every time I opened a book.

Little Sir, on the other hand,  was one of those very active toddlers. He would cuddle with me for a few minutes and then run around as I read to him. Sometimes, I would continue reading, but most of the time, I would close our book and just watch him move about.

I was reminded about these experiences during the most recent run of The Learning Basket’s “You Are Your Child’s First and Best Teacher” workshop. I talked about the importance of reading to really young kids, and parents were interested to know about how they could read to wriggly babies and toddlers who can’t sit still.

Here are some of the tips that I shared; these helped Little Sir become the book-loving little guy that he is now.


1. Just keep reading

Some kids learn while they are listening AND moving. Even though it is disconcerting for us to read to someone who doesn’t seem to be paying attention, we should know and accept that people learn differently from each other.

In the Kindermusik classroom, for example, kids are not expected to sit still all the time. Some of my students prefer to move about during sit-down activities, such as instrument exploration and story time, and then eventually join the group again once they got their “wiggles” out. Parents are surprised to hear their kids singing the songs or recounting the story read in class when they did not seem to be listening most of the time.

However, we should also try to gauge whether our child is more interested in something else during story time. You can always close the book and try again another time.


2. Read during your baby’s down time

I breastfed my two kiddies and realized early on that sleepy time was the best time to read to them. They drifted to sleep listening to me read to them.

After a bath is also a great time for reading at least one book; the baby is calm, cozy, and receptive. Identifying your baby’s down time will help you easily squeeze in a book or two into your baby’s day.


3. Welcome interruptions

Three-year-old Little Sir constantly “interrupts” our reading time with questions, comments, and funny sounds. He prefers to count, identify objects, copy a character’s facial expressions, and basically make up his own version of a story.

I used to be bothered about this. I wanted to read every.single.word in our book to feel that I did my job well. However, according to research, any kind of interaction with a book is already helpful. A relationship with a book is established when a child is allowed to explore it in his own terms.

With that realization, I became more open to my son’s questions, comments, and funny facial expressions. I now welcome the interruptions and engage him in the way the makes sense to him. We frequently stop to talk about colors, shapes, places, faces, and feelings.


4. Pick books about their favorite topics

My boy, like many other boys, is just crazy about vehicles. Reading about things that he is interested in was like a magnet that eventually established his love for books. Once I identified a book that he really liked, I took it upon myself to read it to him over and over. After all, kids thrive on repetition, even though grown-ups might balk at it!


5. Don’t let your child eat a book

One of the questions that we frequently get is about kids who like to grab and munch on books when being read to. Though there are cloth books and board books that are quite safe for such activities and that will actually help them explore with their different senses, it is best to teach little ones that books are not for eating.

When we see kids attempting to chew a book or use it as a hammer, we should gently take the book away while explaining, “books are for reading” or “we don’t eat books.” We should then offer a replacement activity that is aligned with what they seem to want to do: a toy hammer or a block for hammering and a teether for chewing.


Reading to little kids who would rather run around than sit with you can be a challenge. However, reading to them consistently and finding ways to get their attention will eventually pay off.

You may also read these two tips on reading to toddlers:


Make magic!

Mariel Uyquiengco

Why we shouldn’t settle for abridged versions of classic children’s books

Do you remember the one book that got you hooked to reading?

I do! It was The Little Women by Louisa May Alcott that my mom gave me the summer I turned 10.

The book was beautiful! Six hundred eighty-five pages long, it had a gold spine, shiny pages, and beautiful illustrations.  Until now, I consider that book sacred and reread it every once in a while.  I fall in love again with it every time – with the words, the story, the experience.


I am reminded of this because the Energizer Bunny and I were talking about our favorite books earlier tonight. Telling her about the March family  got me so excited that I was almost tempted to give her a simplified, abridged version of the book.

However, reading a picture book adaptation of Betty MacDonald’s Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle  brought me back to my senses. It was concise as expected, but more than that, it falls short on evoking the emotions that the original book brings.

The Little Women will have to wait until the Energizer Bunny is ready for the original, unedited version – until she is ready to fall in love with the same things that I fell in love with the first time I read the book.

Don’t call me a literary snob, though! While I love the written word, I do not claim to have read and enjoyed all those great classics. On the contrary, let me be the first to admit that I struggled and eventually gave up on Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. (What?! I know!) Cliff Notes was also my friend during high school.

That said, I confess that I am a purist.  I believe that to truly enjoy a great literary classic, one must peruse the original version for these three reasons:


1. Language

While it is great that adaptations and abridged versions exist to inspire reluctant readers to pick up a book, the language used in these versions usually do not do justice to the prose and voice of the original author.

There is a certain cadence and tone to the classics that inevitably get lost in simplified versions of the story. Verbose as they seem, the original texts also touch on all the senses of the reader as they imagine the characters and situations. Something that I find lacking in shortened versions of classic stories.


2. Topic

Literature is written for a specific audience. Chances are, if your 4-year-old does not understand the language of a book that it has to be retold for her to understand, then the story was probably not written for someone her age.

More than the plot of a story, some topics and issues in classic children’s books may not be appropriate to the young readers, and might perhaps even turn them off and stop them from eventually reading the original.


3. Interpretations

Finally, abridgments and retellings, much like movie adaptations, may already contain interpretations from the new writers. These interpretations vary for every reader because every reader brings his experiences into the text. Having someone else’s interpretation instead of the author’s original message may greatly affect what you take away from the book.


So what should you do?

If you want your child to fall in love with great literary classics, the first and foremost thing to do is wait. Wait until your child is ready and until the book is appropriate for his reading level, situation and interests. 

Forcing him to read books that are absolutely pointless to him will make him detest reading even more.  In the meantime, choose from among the thousands of living picture books that your child will truly enjoy.

Reading aloud the original version of the classics is also a wonderful way to introduce the classics. Again, just make sure that the story and topics are age-appropriate. Reading aloud is an excellent way to improve comprehension, widen vocabulary, and fine-tune listening skills.  

Watch out for our next post on classic children’s novels that are great for reading aloud!


Have fun with your child!



Board Games for Preschoolers

One of the biggest surprises the year our daughter turned 4 was when she learned to engage in board and card games.

I love how these games have become tools for family bonding, teaching the Energizer Bunny that winning is not everything, and most of all, providing hours of gadget-free entertainment.

Most board games are geared towards the older kids’ group so I was so happy to have discovered these board games for preschoolers that my daughter enjoys and asks for.


1. Duck Duck 1-2-3


Mariel gave the Energizer Bunny this game two years ago and it continues to be a favorite. It taught her one-to-one correspondence and taking turns.

Made for 2 players, each one gets a mommy duck as a game piece. The object of the game is for the mommy duck to pick up her baby ducklings around the park. The first family to reach the party in the pond wins.

Fast-paced and fun, this is one game that I think even 3 year olds can appreciate.


2. Snakes and Ladders

Snakes and Ladders

I loved this game as a child and this was the first board game that we purchased for the Energizer Bunny. While it caused many a meltdowns when we were starting to play with it, the little girl has since learned through this game that losing is not always a bad thing.

Playing Snakes and Ladders can take time so little ones will also learn how to patiently finish the game.


3. Card games


From Go Fish! to the classic Old Maid (Ungguy-Ungguyan), our deck of cards have entertained us for days on end.

For Go Fish!, we used our Madeline cards to practice the use of adjectives and noticing details. To make things even more fun, we think of consequences for the losing player – 10 jumping jacks, getting tickled by the other players, or wearing a funny mask throughout the next round of the game.


4. Cariboo Island by Cranium


This is our latest find and I personally believe that Cranium produces some of the best board games for kids and adults alike.

The game involves hunting for coins to open the treasure chest by matching shapes, numbers, and beginning letter sounds to the cards that surround it. Learning is fun with Cariboo Island!


5. Bingo

colors and shapes bingo

Playing Bingo reminds me of my blackout-filled childhood days. My cousins and I would play this game for hours on end while waiting for the power to come back.

Even the youngest player can enjoy the different versions of Bingo available at the market now – animal bingo, beginning letter sound bingo, sound bingo. You name it, they have it! Or if they don’t have it, it’s easy to DIY it! A classic game that children and adults continue to enjoy.


6. Candy Land


We do not have this yet but this game has been on my radar since the Energizer Bunny started enjoying board games. Reading the wonderful reviews makes this number 1 in my board games wish list. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any in the toy stores in the metro.

Does your preschooler have favorite board games too? Do share in the comments!


Have fun with your child!