4 Tips (with video examples!) for Reading to an Infant/Toddler/Preschooler

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:

  1. 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
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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!


An 8-week program for children age 3-6 with sensory processing differences

Children with sensory processing differences have difficulty with regulation, which sometimes makes it difficult for them to interact with the world around them. Our Sensory Explorers group targets regulation in order to build engagement! This group is led by pediatric occupational therapists Mackenzie Baldock (2:30 group) OR Meghan Day (8:30 group) and developmental therapist/PLAY Project Consultant Brenna Thompson, all of whom specialize in using developmentally appropriate strategies to support children so they can learn new skills. Group meets once/week for 60 minutes.

Wondering if this class is appropriate for your child? Some characteristics of kids who benefit: easily frustrated with play, repetitive play, difficulty sitting/keeping still to engage in play, refuses to allow others to engage in play, unable to be messy, overly busy, quickly overwhelmed in a busy environment, picky eater, difficulty tolerating grooming/dressing/diapering routines, struggles with transitions/following a group plan/routine. 

Goals of the group include:

  • Child participating in a variety of sensory play activities
  • Engaging socially with others in the group
  • Providing a non threatening environment where children can experience new sensations with the support of a pediatric Occupational Therapist and PLAY Project consultant
  • Providing personalized resources to caregivers, so they better understand the sensory system and learn strategies to assist their child with regulation outside of group
  • Opportunity to meet with other local families

GROUP MEETS for 8 weeks:  Caregivers must stay on the premises to support their child and learn helpful strategies. Children will separate from caregivers for the session; caregivers can socialize in the lobby (we will also provide a few toys for siblings to play). Caregiver education is a key component of this program. 


OPTIONAL Summary Report available at close of session. This 2 page report will summarize your child’s participation in the class and provide helpful sensory strategies to increase their participation in activities. This report could be given to teachers in classrooms & daycares or utilized to help educate other caregivers about ways to help your child participate. This option includes a 30 minute Zoom meeting with Brenna and MacKenzie/Brenna and Meghan to review the report and discuss your child’s progress in Sensory Explorers. COST: $100 due at sign up