If you follow my blog even a little you will know that I have a son that is now 1 year old. Merijn is his name. It is also not a secret I really struggled with those first 6-7 months. I am just not a baby person. Please give me a todler. I don’t care about the terrible two’s (check in with me when he actually hits them though).
When he was just born and people asked me what kind of gifts we would like I automatically said books. You can never have enough books, even for the little ones. Though I seem to be currently drowning in them. But reading to a little one isn’t always easy. There are so many books out there and what kind of books would draw his attention?
I also think a lot of people have this perfect idea of reading with a newborn baby or a 11 month old baby that just is not realistic. All those lovely pictures of the child on the lap of the parent, listening in awe. Yeah. Burst bubble. That hardly happens at this age. At least not with Merijn. He has such a tiny attention span and too much energy to sit neatly on your lap for a book. The only exception is the book I read to him for his daily naps. Even that is accompanied with lots of grabbing. So I thought it would be a good idea to share my experience.
Reading at this age is mostly a nice resting moment. A good contact moment that isn’t feeding or changing a diaper, for me in any case. In all honestly, it doesn’t even matter what you exactly read to them I discovered with Merijn. I had these big books with 1 or 2 page stories with little illustrations that I would read at this point. At the start they can barely see far enough to see anything in the book so illustrations are slightly pointless, and later on they just do not understand them yet. So having a book bare or with a minimum of illustrations is fine. You could read your own book to them and it would be fine. It is about hearing your voice.
As he neared the four months I could see a clear interest in books from Merijn. He loved holding soft books. I also got gifted a soft book that would make sounds as he would hold it in his tiny fists. He could completely scrunch it up and he loved that. But as it was very light, he also loved to grab it and hold it open above his head at some point. There were simple drawings in them like a ball. Sometimes I told him what the drawings were as again a contact moment. Reading to him on my lap still stayed.
He could see more clearly in books so I started reading these Dikkie Dik books by Jet Boeke to him with little text and big pictures. His plushie was also the same cat as in the book so this was very familiar to him.
After he turned six months he lost interest in sitting in my lap to be read to. Any sound he heard he would respond to. His interest in books didn’t change though. He wanted to hold books himself, no matter how big. Try and figure out how to open them or to see the back. To touch, smell, taste.
Instead of on my lap he would sit next to me on the couch. Still familiar figures like Dikkie Dik or Nijntje he had a lot of interest in. Books with only pictures, with clear contrast drew him in more. There was a book I got that was black and white with one or two other colors in the pictures. I thought it was the weirdest book for a child his age but it was one of the books he was drawn to the most at this age. There was something about the contrast in colors that really worked for him.
I put all his books on top of our fake fireplace so he could grab his own books. He loves to just grab all the books from it and thumb through the books.
As Merijn grew older he became more active. Sitting with me to read was not an option anymore when he could crawl fast and pull himself up to stand. I would sit down on the floor and show him a book. Wherever he was in the room I would just start. He would come and look. Touch the book, sit on my legs or just lean on my arms to see. But if he lost interest or wasn’t interested enough to come that was fine as well. That barely ever happened though, he was always interested.
Books I wanted to keep whole I would sit on the couch for. He would come stand by the couch to see the book, hug my legs sometimes. Interactive books work the best for him. Books that have flaps, something to feel or sounds. Even those that have a finger puppet in it he finds interesting.
At 11 months we stopped giving him his evening bottle and replaced it with reading a book and singing a song. He likes it. He does sit on the lap for it and as each week passes he sits stiller. He still wants to touch and thumb through the book himself which can make reading to him a bit challenging that way.
Other things I noticed
- Don’t read the exact text in the book but tell the story in your own words sometimes. Make it your story. It is more entertaining for them or in case of Merijn. And this way you can change it to the reaction of your child. Make it shorter or longer.
- Don’t always follow the age that the book says it is for on the back. I’ve had plenty of books that Merijn found interesting that were for older baby’s. But some just need to be challenged. Trust your own judgement to see if your child is ready for that book.
- Don’t make it a strict thing. That they have to sit down for it or things like that. It is on their terms and it has to be fun for them. You cannot expect that from them at this age anyway.
- If you like books to be unharmed, I’m sorry but they will be destroyed. I know, it hurts.