healthy reading habits for toddlerhood

Look details for Mommy:  Kut from the Cloth jeans (similar style here)   |   Treasure and Bond shirt (additional link here and similar style here)   |   Tory Burch flats (additional link here)   |   Tory Burch handbag (similar style here)    |   Kate Spade watch (additional link here)   |   Kate Spade earrings (additional link here)   |

Look details for Baby:  Baby Gap jacket   |   Boden romper   |   Janie and Jack sandals

Additional items:  Little Unicorn outdoor blanket

Photo Credit @ Lauren Denise Photography

Toddlerhood is a transition stage for any child; a stage full of milestones, such as language development. Between the ages of one and three children face challenges such as using the potty or possibly becoming an older sibling. Children will also have achievements such as learning shapes, colors, letters, numbers, and different animals. All of these milestones, challenges, and achievements can be positively reinforced through reading.

Reading together with your toddler is also an opportunity to bond, allowing your child to feel loved, comfortable, and safe with you. My daughter loves to read, and I love any excuse for her to snuggle up in my lap for a good cuddle; reading gives us the opportunity to do both.


Here are some healthy reading habits my daughter and I use:

  • We try and have at least one scheduled reading time a day.
  • We choose regular times to read so my daughter knows when to expect it, and learns to sit and relax during such time. Full disclosure, we are still working on the sitting/relaxing component of the regular reading times, this can be VERY hard some days. Typically, we read before naptime and bedtime. However, we have also begun to go to the public library for regular storytime.
  • If my daughter’s in the mood, I try and get her to sit in my lap. I try and do this to help her feel safe and relaxed, so we are giving our attention to the task at hand, so I can easily show her new things within the books, and to invite her to actively participate in the reading process.
  • My daughter is EXTREMELY INDEPENDENT. I try and support her independence by allowing her to pick from 3-5 books I pre-selected, and then praise her selection. There are always those few favorite books she wants to read religiously with my pre-selected books too.
  • Focusing on any task (preferred or non-preferred) is difficult for my daughter. So, I try and get her actively involved by having her help me turn the pages. I also engage her attention by asking her to find things on the pages and asking her questions about the pictures.
  • If the book has sentences or phrases my daughter knows, I let her say that part and “help mommy read.”

Here are some additional tips for reading with toddlers:

  • Whatever book your toddler asks for, read it. Even if they ask for that same book for 4 months straight, read it. I can proudly read all of Madeline without the book now 😉
  • Read slow enough for your toddler to understand, but fast enough they won’t get bored.
  • Use an expressive and animated voice! My daughter probably laughs at me as much as she laughs at the book we are reading, but it helps keep her engaged 🙂
  • Board books and cloth books are your friends. They are far more durable, and you are much less likely to get pages torn. A large majority of stories and classic books are made into board book versions these days and easy to find online.
  • Encourage singing, clapping, and actions while reading.
  • Talk about the pictures and illustrations. A lot of the time, my daughter and I don’t actually “read” the book, but rather, have little conversations about the pictures.
  • Ask your toddler questions about what they think will happen next in the book. It helps keep their interest and curiosity while encouraging them to think about the story!

Picking out books for your toddler: 

  • Toddlers like to feel included and capable of doing things. So, picking out books that are easy for them to follow is helpful. Books with patterns or repetitive phrases are good for this. An example of this kind of book would be Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Eric Carle (one of my daughter’s favorites since she was an infant).
  • Like I stated above, my daughter struggles to focus on tasks for periods of time. So, I try and pick books with limited text on the pages. This allows us to flip pages faster and keep a pace that maintains her interest. She has really loved the Lucy Darling and BabyLit Primer board books where there are very few words per page and she basically creates the story herself. Both those kinds of books are also great for introducing classical literature, history, geography, and landmarks to children.
  • I try and pick books about topics and things she is interested in, granted some of her interests are short-lived in this toddler stage, but some topics (such as farm animals) last throughout toddlerhood.
  • For children ages one to two, books with textures they can feel, peek-a-boo flaps, and activities about their daily routine are great! My daughter really enjoyed the texture JellyCat books, If I Were A Animal. She especially liked the If I Were a Bunny, and If I Were a Calf books.
  • For children ages two to three, this is a good time to start moving beyond board books. Though personally, we still use board books the majority of the time because my daughter doesn’t exactly have “soft hands.” For this age, books that actively engage a child with directives are great. We love Herve Tullet books!! They are so simplistic in their design and concept, but deliver as awesome read!

Keeping books within reach:

In addition to regular reading time, toddlers (and all kids) should have the opportunity to enjoy books whenever they please. Toddlers love to look at books on their own! My daughter loves to pretend read to her baby dolls (yes, it’s hysterical to watch from afar). So, keeping books easily accessible for children is a must. Personally, I set up any books of significance, or that I don’t want to be ruined, on a higher shelf. Those special books we can read together. But, keeping other books in baskets on the floor, low book racks or low shelves where toddlers can reach them independently is great!


Reading can be an adventure and special time with your toddler. But, it can also be frustrating trying to keep your toddler’s attention. I try and remember to be patient, but that’s always easier said than done. One thing I have learned is, I can’t force reading on my daughter. And sometimes, she simply won’t be in the mood to read. I want her to have positive associations with reading and forcing her to do something she doesn’t want to do will not accomplish anything positive with regard to reading.

One thing that helps my daughter when paying attention is difficult is to stand while we are reading a book. Sometimes she only will be interested in a handful of pages before moving on to the next book. On occasion, if she shows she is still paying attention while moving about, I will continue to read the story while she is dancing or prancing around. More often than not, I simply leave the book for her to finish later if she wishes. The biggest thing that helps my daughter sit through an entire book is her blanket. Yes, the beloved blankies. They help her relax and calm down, which in turn helps her sit and pay attention to story time for a much longer period of time. So, if your child as a favorite toy, blanket, stuffed animal, whatever it may be, it could help them sit and focus for longer periods of time too 🙂

Happy reading all!

xoxo, Alli

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