Reading Tips for Parents of Toddlers
These tips for parents of toddlers are also available as a one-page handout to download and print.
Our reading tip sheets,
for parents of children
in preschool to grade 3,
are available in 9 other languages.
Don't expect your toddler to sit still for a book
Toddlers need to move, so don't worry if they act out stories or just skip, romp, or tumble as you read to them. They may be moving, but they are listening.
Recite rhymes, sing songs, and make mistakes!
Pause to let your toddler finish a phrase or chant a refrain. Once your toddler is familiar with the rhyme or pattern, make mistakes on purpose and get caught.
Choose engaging books
Books featuring animals or machines invite movement and making sounds. Books with flaps or different textures to touch keep hands busy. Books with detailed illustrations or recurring items hidden in the pictures are great for exploring and discussing.
Keep reading short, simple, and often
Toddlers frequently have shorter attention spans than babies. Look for text that is short and simple. Read a little bit, several times a day.
Encourage play that involves naming, describing, and communicating
Set up a zoo with all the stuffed animals. Stage a race with the toy cars. Put your toddler in charge and ask lots of questions.
Every day is an adventure when you're a toddler
Choose books about everyday experiences and feelings. Your child will identify with the characters as they dress, eat, visit, nap, and play.
Take time to listen to your toddler's answers. Toddlers have strong opinions and interesting ideas about the world. Encourage your toddler to tell you what he or she thinks. You'll build language skills and learn what makes your toddler tick at the same time.
Play to their favorites
Read favorite stories again and again. Seek out books about things your toddler especially likes — trains, animals, the moon. These books may extend a toddler's attention span and build enthusiasm for reading.
Not having fun?
Try a different story or a different time during the day. Reading with a very young child is primarily about building positive experiences with books, not finishing every book you start.
Reading tip sheets in other languages
Find these and other downloadable tips and guides in our Guides section.
* To view this file, you'll need a copy of Acrobat Reader. Most computers already have it installed, or you can download it now.