I’m writing this post after having had a few mum friends and blog followers say that their baby is either not interested in books or prefers to chew them.
It’s OK to explore.
This is all absolutely fine and “normal” and is simply because, to a baby, a book is an object to be explored, just like any other. Babies and young children learn through play. (In fact, I might go so far to say that we all learn from play, no matter how old we are!). So when a baby comes across a book, she has no idea what it is “for”. Her instinct is to play with it, discover its properties and find out what this marvellous object is all about.
So, just as you allow your baby to explore and play freely with some blocks or a ball, its important to let her do this with a book. Let her bat the pages, tap it with her hands, have a little chew, even throw it across the room.
Be Your Baby’s Guide.
Once she’s had a little play, it is then important to guide her towards the true function of a book, or, in effect, to teach her HOW to play with it to get the most out of it!
Reading is an interactive experience. When we read a book, we turn the pages and scan for information. When we read on the internet, we click on things – which is, essentially, a grown-up way of lifting a flap…isn’t it?
In my mind, there are three simple ways that a young baby can interact with books. I have outlined them below. Try doing these with your baby and I guarantee that she will completely forget her desire to chew her book and start devouring it in the metaphorical (rather than the literal) sense.
Teach your baby these three simple ways to interact with a book.
1. Turn the Pages
This is a great activity for really young babies, because it encourages them to “bat”. I think we started doing this with T at around three months.
Read the page aloud. Hold the next page out and encourage your baby to bat it. Start with a simple book so she doesn’t have to wait to long for you to read the page before batting it across. Give lots of very obvious praise when she achieves it. Do this with all her books, at least once a day. She will start to look forward to reading because she knows what is expected of her and loves doing it! Once T got the idea (after a day or two) his little eyes would light up whenever we got a book out and off his wobbly hand would go. He still loves this part of reading.
2. Lift Some Flaps
After a month or so of doing the page -turning, start encouraging your baby to try and lift some simple flaps. See my post on my top ten baby books for some ideas of which flappy books to invest in first. T’s first ever flappy book had two very large flaps. He chewed one of them down to about half of it’s size.
Now he does this:
Your baby will do it roughly at first and will require lots of support from you and lots of praise to keep them interested, but do not get discouraged by this! This is just the first stage of learning something new. She will LOVE the achievement of getting to the pictures underneath! Just as with the page-turning, she will enjoy having something to do with her book and will look forward to playing with it!
3. Point To Things
Bear in mind that this will take a whole year or so for your baby to master, so don’t panic if she doesn’t immediately start pointing.
But, once she does, her love of books will grow and grow. This is such a MAGICAL time for your baby: once she can find things in pictures, she can take charge of her own learning by identifying the things SHE wants to know the name of.
I have found this so interesting, ever since T started doing it (at around 11 months). As he begins to remember the names of things, such as animals, he has started pointing at unusual animals such as the chameleon and the leopard, communicating to me that he wants to know their names! He also has tons of fun finding things in books that I name.
Obviously, reading does not end here, but this post just focuses on reading with young babies. By guiding your baby towards interacting with books, you are helping to support and encourage a life-long love of learning. And once you’ve done that…they will continue to be interested in leading their own learning. So, as I used to say to my class : give yourself a pat on the back – for being such a brilliant parent and introducing your baby to the beautiful world of reading…
… and LEARNING.
Is there any greater gift than that?