We know that reading to your toddler has clear benefits. It helps them learn the alphabet, and get ready for reading in school, right?
While these aren’t bad things, there are so many more benefits of reading to your toddler!
Reading is a special time and boosts your toddler’s development in a whole range of ways. In this post, I’ll cover 7 surprising benefits that reading to your toddler will bring.
1. YOU WILL BUILD THEIR THEORY OF MIND
Theory of Mind involves the ability to ‘think about your thinking’, and to understand the thinking of others. It develops gradually throughout childhood.
Why is it so important? Well, knowing what others are thinking helps us to adjust our responses so we can build relationships with others. Toddlers need to learn from an early age how to tell if someone is upset, angry or happy, and how they should adjust their own behavior.
The development of theory of mind is one the biggest benefits of reading to your toddler. Books will give your toddler a glimpse into the minds of the characters. They are explicit about the characters’ thoughts and feelings. This is one of the most effective ways to build your toddler’s understanding of the thoughts and feelings of others.
Reading makes what is normally unspoken very obvious!
2. YOU WILL GIVE THEM TOOLS TO MAKE FRIENDS
Early friendships are a huge topic in stories for toddlers. And for good reason! This is the age where they are just learning this important skill.
Friendship is a massively complex thing, so reading stories that deal with this topic can be vital for toddlers.
Books provide a kind of road map to friendship. This is especially true when they highlight the problems that friends have. This could be as simple as hurt feelings, sharing, or even feelings of jealousy.
Reading with your toddler will give them a set of skills to first understand and then tackle problems in a friendship.
It will help them to see what’s important in a friendship, the kind of friend they could be, and also boundaries in a friendship.
This will also be important for your child as they get older and friendships become even more complicated! I love how Jacqueline Wilson tackles issues such as peer pressure within friendships for girls.
3. YOU WILL BUILD THEIR PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS
Story books for toddlers are great for developing predicting and problem-solving skills. Often there’s an ‘uhoh moment’ in a story that toddlers love.
This might be, ‘uhoh, what’s going to happen?‘ or ‘uhoh what should he do?‘
Stories can be read over and over, so your toddler can learn in tiny steps how skills such as problem-solving and predicting work.
Even very simple stories usually have a problem or a twist. Think of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The first time your toddler reads it, they won’t know what the twist is- they won’t predict that the caterpillar will turn into a beautiful butterfly. But as they read it again and again, they will love this simple plot twist! In a way, they are able to rehearse it. As they read a range of books, they will get better and better at this skill.
Giving your child opportunities to guess what’s over the page will build their ability to predict and generally to problem solve. These are skills that are needed for all of life, both academically and socially.
Early problem-solving and predicting skills from reading can form an effective foundation of these skills in real life.
4. YOU WILL BUILD THEIR EMOTIONAL TOOLKIT
Emotions are complex and can be difficult for toddlers to handle.
A lot of this is because they may know they don’t feel right, but they don’t know what the feeling is. This could be things such as worry, fear or frustration. They also don’t know the right way to deal with their emotions. As a result, it can lead to tantrums and behavior expressing how they feel because their words can’t.
One of the major benefits of reading to your toddler is that you can start to develop this ’emotional vocabulary.’ When you name the emotions the characters are feeling through the situations they face, you can teach your toddler to identify and understand a range of emotions.
This will help them to understand these emotions in their own life.
Furthermore, books for toddlers are often cleverly written to teach strategies for coping with emotions. They are designed to build ’emotional literacy.’
When you read to your toddler with emotions in mind, you are able to equip them with ‘scripts’ or phrases that they can say to reduce anxiety, or to calm themselves down.
5. YOU WILL BUILD THEIR LANGUAGE
One of the best benefits of reading to your toddler is that books will bring their language to a whole new level!
The vocabulary in books is different from everyday vocabulary. Books contain lots of words that your toddler will not be exposed to in everyday life.
Reading is a brilliant opportunity to feed in language. Remember to use reading as a time to teach and not to test your toddler. Instead of asking questions about the book, look at the pictures. Follow what they’re interested in and label things for them. Label the names of things but also use action words and descriptions.
If your child is interested in the book, they will be like a sponge for learning new language. Use this time to grow and develop their vocabulary.
6. READING TO YOUR TODDLER WILL PROVIDE BENEFITS ACROSS THE WHOLE CURRICULUM
You might think that reading with your toddler will give benefits in early literacy skills.
That’s absolutely true, but did you realize the knock-on effect that great language skills can have in every single curriculum area within school?
Even early numbers and math are language-heavy. Math problems require an understanding of complex and abstract language such as ‘add’, ‘before’, ‘after’, ‘under.’ And that’s not to mention the hefty word problems that we give kids. (Think of- John has three apples…)
But it doesn’t stop there. Science uses lots of unique vocabulary, and even PE and sports will require kids to listen to and follow instructions.
Language is the common thread throughout the whole school day. Everything depends on it. Children with stronger language skills actually have an advantage across every single area of learning– not just literacy.
We know that reading is a great way to grow language. And when you realize the advantage of language skills, you’ll see how reading with your toddler brings benefits in every single area of school life, both in the classroom and in the playground.
7. YOU WILL STRENGTHEN YOUR BOND!
This may be my last point, but it’s by no means the least!
The benefits of reading with your toddler actually cross into your parent-child relationship. Reading is a focused time where you can give your child loads of attention.
I like to think of reading as a point of focus for a great conversation. It can provide a springboard for discussion about experiences. You can link the story to your toddler’s real life context.
For example, ‘do you remember when we went to the zoo?‘ or ‘have you ever felt scared like the boy in the story?’
This makes it a valuable tool to have brilliant conversations, talk about issues, provide coaching as a parent, and to encourage them.
AND THAT’S IT!
Reading to toddlers has so many unexpected and incredibly worthwhile benefits. Even if they’re not naturally interested in books, I believe that it’s worth pursuing.
Let your toddler choose the books to read (the library has a lot of choice and is completely free), and that way you can find a few that are engaging and on a topic that they’re interested in. This will help you to really grab their attention.
Most of all, reading should be fun! Do what you need to do to make it a relaxed and enjoyable time, and enjoy the benefits that come from reading to your toddler!
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