Wondering how to make the most of storytime for your toddler? Whether they are not yet talking, just starting to say words or talking in phrases, here are some ways to make storytime more INTERACTIVE and PRODUCTIVE for your child. As a pediatric speech-language pathologist, i recommend the following:
- Overexaggerate mouth movements & use gestures to encourage imitation for babies/toddlers who aren’t talking yet, or are just starting to say words. I often find myself pointing to my mouth to call attention to the movements of my lips and tongue as extra help for kiddos at this stage. Timing is everything! Produce the word/sound slowly and with emphasis so they are more likely to repeat it. Example: child in a book spills their drink- say “uh-oh!” with exaggerated protruded lips for the “Oh!” and arms raised upwards in a questioning gesture, looking at y our child expectantly for their response
- You don’t HAVE TO READ THE WORDS! At first, your child might not be interested in books. If this is the case, start with books with photos of common objects, as these are more concrete than hand drawn picture books. instead of reading words, point out the item on each page that you think your child would be most interested in, name it and have them turn the page. This way, they have control over the book which makes it more likely that they stick with it, and you are modeling how to interact with books. Notice any small improvements- did they let you name only 2 items in the book yesterday but did 3 today before throwing the book to the ground? That’s a WIN, Mama!
- Point out ACTIONS in the book. Children who are starting to talk tend to have many labels in their vocabulary and not as many verbs. They will need verbs to use in phrases when they begin combining words, so model these in books. I often act out the action for extra emphasis and engagement. Example: in a photo book, baby sitting in high chair eating, point out “Eating! Yum Yum!” while pretending to take the baby’s food and bring it to your mouth, smacking lips with animation.
- For kids who are talking in phrases, point out language concepts in the book. Some good early emerging concepts: in/out, up/down, open/shut, possession (mine, yours, his, hers), one/all. Emphasizing with actions or sign language for these concepts helps make them more concrete for children. Example: People in book getting on an elevator, and you say: “Oh, do they want to go UP (pointing upwards or even standing up) or DOWN (pointing downwards or squatting down as you say ‘down’).
Watch the video below for real-life examples of these strategies— HOW I read books to kids to target different speech and language skills!