Updated: May 19
Interacting with Books: Let the fun begin!
If you've been reading to your newborn, you've already established a reading routine. If you haven't, now is the time to start. As your baby grows, their level of interaction with books will grow too. At around three months old, the 4th trimester will be over and your baby will have completed the metamorphosis from newborn to infant. Don’t be surprised when he or she is no longer content to be a passive participant in your reading ritual. Trust me, it's going to be way more fun!
What to Read to Babies: Board Books
This is when any book not made from a sturdy, waterproof material should be put on the shelf for its own safety. In other words, you will be reading board books until your little one learns to control their impulses. (See my recommendations for 10 best board books for babies and 11 best board book classics).
Your Baby Loves Faces
You may soon find that your child is not interested in the books with the pretty, pastel pictures that have become so special to you by now. This will be hard, but times are changing. They are, however, very interested in your face, first and foremost, but also faces in general.
Now is a great time to make a personalized photo book of all the members of your family so your baby can memorize their faces. This may or may not help relieve any stranger anxiety when they are face-to-face with your distant relatives, but it can’t hurt. Pinhole Press makes one that is safe for little hands with sturdy pages, rounded corners and spiral binding.
In addition, your baby LOVES other babies’ faces. At this age, my boys would “talk” to books that feature other babies, pat (okay, hit) the pages and radiate full-body excitement. It was absolutely adorable. Get your smartphone ready.
There are many versions of these books out there, but the idea is to show your baby close-up pictures of other babies of diverse cultures expressing a variety of emotions. You can change the tone of your voice to suit the feeling or action associated with each picture to convey meaning. This is the first step to recognizing how others are feeling, a key element of empathy.
RECOMMENDATIONS: BEST BOOKS OF BABY FACES
Bonus: The Babies and Doggies Book ← It has a rhyming verse and shows side-by-side photos of the things babies have in common with their four-legged friends.
Your Baby Loves Soft Books
Also, if you haven’t already, you can introduce some "independent" reading material. Of course, they can’t read yet, but they will enjoy interactive books in the form of fabric or “crinkle” books as I like to call them. I promise that my five-month-old spent the better part of a three-hour-road trip entertained by one of these. I call that a parenting win. Bonus: strap them to the stroller or carrier and you have a teether that won’t fall on the ground.
RECOMMENDATIONS: BEST SOFT BOOKS FOR BABIES
Shake and Play Bath books ← Similar to the one we have, includes a squeaker
Peek-a-Boo Forest fabric book
Indestructibles Series ← These have the look and feel of paper pages but are waterproof, lightweight, safe for chewing and will not rip. We have Baby Animals but these are so colorful and inexpensive we will be adding to our collection.
Your Baby Loves to Turn the Pages
If you have been reading with your child consistently, by around six-months-old they will have picked up on how you turn the pages while reading and will want to try it for themselves. This should be encouraged; they are interacting with books! (Pro tip: read each page super fast OR hold the pages down with your thumbs until you are finished.)
Your Baby Loves to Lift-the-Flaps
Once they get the hang of this, you can add some variety with interactive books. Because they are beginning to learn about object permanence, lift-the-flap books are particularly exciting at this age. Use your best judgement based on how gentle or aggressive your child is at this point. Some books with flaps are sturdier than others. For some reason Dear Zoo has held up through two children (so far) but Where's Spot? has had to be repaired numerous times. I would start with felt flaps and sturdy flaps before moving onto more delicate flaps.
In addition, there is a kinesthetic aspect to these book that is beneficial to their development. Some texts like the classic Where's Spot? ask the baby look to “under” or “behind” as they uncover what is hidden, aiding in spatial awareness (or body awareness as in Karen Katz’s Where Is Baby’s Belly Button?). Other books may demonstrate the meaning of a word such as “up/down” or “high/low” when the flap is manipulated as in Winnie the Pooh’s Giant Lift-the-Flap, which is waaaay more meaningful than a typical book about opposites.
RECOMMENDATIONS: BEST LIFT-THE-FLAP BOOKS FOR BABIES
(links in bold are collections/gift sets)
Hide and Seek in the Forest ← With colorful felt printed flaps
Bonus: NEW Llama Llama Hide-and-Seek Lift-the-Flap book released 2020!
Pat the Bunny ← The original interactive book
Oh Baby! Go Baby! (Dr. Seuss Nursery Collection)←(Oh the Places You'll Go! shortened and made interactive)
Your Baby Loves to Push a Button
By about eight or nine months, your child will have probably learned how to press a button. This adds another level of interaction as you can introduce books that play music or make animal noises. Normally I shy away from electronic toys that bombard my home with annoying sounds, but if it serves to enhance the reading or offers a chance to sing along, I am for it. Bonus if your child feels compelled to drop it like it’s hot (is there anything cuter than a baby dancing?) Also, pushing a button helps develop fine motor skills. My advice is to make sure whatever you choose is something you can live with hearing on repeat.
RECOMMENDATIONS: BEST SOUND BOOKS FOR BABIES
VTech Rhyme and Discover Book ← A real page-turner, even with the sound off!
Big Button for Little Hands: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star ← Lots more to choose from
Hundred Acre Music Maker ← My son's favorite (but it lives at Nana's house)
Daniel Tiger’s Friendly Songs ← For fans of the PBS show (who isn't? Mr. Rogers is so en vogue right now).
Note: I’m not a fan of Tiger Tales’ book like Noisy Farm or Noisy Baby Animals as the buttons are difficult to find/push even for an adult. I own both of them and they never leave the shelf. You live and learn.
Your Baby Loves to Learn
As your baby approaches one year old, you will find more ways to interact with them through the use of books. Eventually, you will practice counting objects and identifying letters and all of the building blocks of preschool. You will ask probing questions and teach morals and share feelings to develop character through the use of books.
You will read their favorite book until you’re sick of it and think you can’t read it one more time, but you will. And just when you think you might have to “lose” it forever, they will move on and find a new favorite.
But for now, try to enjoy their littleness, knowing that you are building early literacy skills and forging a bond through the time you devote and the closeness of holding them on your lap that will remain long after you’ve reached “The End”.
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See Also: What Makes a Good Children's Book?