Two-year-olds can be both lots of fun and very frustrating. They have lots of energy and enthusiasm, but very short attention spans. Going for a walk is an exercise in discovery (“That noise up above is a plane. I can tell you are very excited about it.”) rather than physical exercise or actually getting somewhere. They are reaching out to try new things and be independent, but their understanding and abilities are still so restricted that it can be frustrating for both themselves and their parents. Has anybody else heard the phrase, “I want to do it ALL BY MY SELF!”?
After a long and exciting morning or day of so much newness, it is very relaxing for both parent and child to calm down and read a book together as part of the nap time or bed time routine. Children thrive on the predictability of doing the same thing every time. They may test the boundaries and push, but they take great comfort when they find the boundaries still there.
What should you look for when picking out a book to read to your toddler? Here are some general tips:
*Their attention span is short, so the whole story should be short and simple.
*Each page should have only one or two sentences on it -or even less.
*Repetition or a repeating phrase is good.
*The pictures should be clear and simple. Look for white backgrounds and a focus.
*Look for stories about everyday situations and recognizable emotions, such as the love between a parent and child, or exploring a back yard, or bed time. The very young are still building their vocabularies and comfort levels for these everyday parts of life, and reading about them helps them put words to their experiences.
So what are some good book suggestions for the very young? I’ve been doing the storytime for two-year-olds for several years now, and here are some of the favorites that I come back to time and again:
I went walking by Sue Williams - During the course of a walk, a young boy identifies animals of different colors. Simple and repetetive, but you can talk about different things every time.
Kitten’s first full moon by Kevin Henkes - When Kitten mistakes the full moon for a bowl of milk, she ends up tired, wet, and hungry trying to reach it. Toddlers will relate to the kitten's frustration.
Freight train by Donald Crews - Trace the journey of a colorful train as it goes through tunnels, past cities, and over trestles. Don't forget to make lots of train noises!
Guess how much I love you by Sam McBratney - During a bedtime game, every time Little Nutbrown Hare demonstrates how much he loves his father, Big Nutbrown Hare gently shows him that the love is returned even more. Read this with lots of cuddles!
Whose chick are you? By Nancy Tafuri - Goose, Duck, Hen, Bird and the little chick itself, cannot tell to whom a new hatchling belongs, but its mother knows. Nancy Tafuri is a good author for toddlers.
Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus! By Mo Willems - When a bus driver takes a break from his route, a volunteer springs up to take his place-a pigeon! As he pleads, wheedles, and begs his way through the book, children will love answering back. Also check out Mo Willems' "Knuffle bunny" series.
In the driver’s seat by Max Haynes - A driving lesson becomes a wild ride through countryside and city streets. This is a great book to read with your toddler on your lap so you can bump them around like a car.
The very hungry caterpillar by Eric Carle - Follows the progress of a hungry little caterpillar as he eats his way through a varied and very large quantity of food until, full at last, he forms a cocoon around himself and goes to sleep.
Growing vegetable soup by Lois Ehlert - A parent and child grow vegetables and then make them into a soup. This is written in a way that you can read it with varying levels of detail, depending on what your child wants.
Bark, George by Jules Feiffer - What's going on with George? Your child will love the silliness of a dog sounding like other animals.
Ten little fingers and ten little toes by Mem Fox - Rhyming text compares babies born in different places and in different circumstances, but they all share the commonality of ten little fingers and ten little toes. This is a good book to cuddle with
Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? By Bill Martin Jr. - Children see a variety of animals, each one a different color, and a mother looking at them.
The baby goes beep by Rebecca O’Connell - A baby makes various sounds as he explores the world around him. Read this one enough, and your toddler will be able to "read" along with you.
What are your toddler's favorites?