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Reading to your baby

Reading to your baby creates some of the most cherished first memories for your child. Not only does it promote the development of your baby’s brain, but it also helps to create a stronger bond between you and your bub! Because we at Haakaa want to see both you and your baby flourish, we’ve answered some common questions mamas might have about reading to your little ones.

Why should I read to my baby?

As well as creating a closer bonding experience between you and your baby, reading can also become an activity that you two share across the rest of their childhood. It promotes your bub’s brain development, even if they can’t understand what you’re saying yet! It also establishes memory, listening and vocabulary skills, which teaches your baby about communication so they become better at it later on in their lives. While your baby listens to the different emotions and expressive sounds you make as you read, they also further their social and emotional development. By reading, you’re basically helping them set up their people skills for the rest of their lives!

The more you read to your baby, the better they learn the sounds they need to speak. More sounds learned means they can eventually pick up and understand more words, which leads to a better ability to talk – and we all know how eager we are to hear our little ones babble out those first words! Reading can also help with your child’s learning and education later on. It introduces important concepts like letters, numbers, colours and shapes in a fun and engaging manner, and lets babies learn more about the world around them.

Finally, reading nursery rhymes and singing lullabies is a time-old method for soothing your infant – and for a good reason! Your bub enjoys the sound of your voice, especially when it’s combined with cuddling up to you. If your baby is having difficulty falling asleep, there’s no better remedy than swaddling them close and reading them a sweet bedtime story to make them feel safe, warm and connected to you.

When should I start reading to my baby?

Although it might not make much sense, there are a lot of benefits to reading to your bub even before they can understand what you’re saying. The main point of reading to babies from birth up to six months is for them to listen to the tone of your voice while being in your arms. If they get bored, you can stop reading and take a break – you don’t have to finish the book every time! The most important thing is to help them to build a positive association with the routine of reading.

You might even want to read to your baby every day. It’s best to do so when you know your baby is fed, alert and has a clean nappy. By making sure they’re happy and comfortable, they’ll continue building these positive associations with reading. You can also try reading right before they sleep, which will establish a routine and soon make reading a soothing activity for your child. It offers an easy way to calm them down before putting them to bed so you can get some rest for yourself!

What kind of books should I read to my baby?

When you start to read to your baby, up to the age of 6 months, you should begin with choosing books that have little or no text with big and bright pictures. Some good ideas can include interactive books, such as those with different textures and flaps, to help promote your child’s sensory development as well as their visual development. Books with familiar, repetitive or rhyming text are also appealing to your baby during this stage.

As your baby grows between the age of 6-12 months, your baby will start learning that pictures represent things in real life. They might show signs that they like specific pictures, pages or stories more than others, and respond to you reading by grabbing the book or making different sounds. Try acting out the story with your face, hands and voice to keep them engaged and build their social skills. If you’re lucky, your baby may even start to understand some of the words being read to them – important and meaningful words like “mummy”, “daddy” and “milk”!

After their first birthday, your baby might start interacting with the book more by pointing at or touching objects on the page, turning the pages themselves and repeating what you read. You can engage them even more by asking them questions about the story where they have to point to the answer, to help build their comprehension abilities. If they can’t respond, don’t worry! You can answer for them, and help them develop the foundations for verbal responses. Later on, they may even be able to answer by themselves with a word. Your child might ask for the same book over and over again – although it may get repetitive and boring for you, to them, the familiarity is reassuring and calming. Plus, it helps them to remember the words you’re reading to them.

After their second birthday, your toddler might be ready for normal children’s books with an engaging plot. You can ask them things like what they think will happen next, or how certain characters might feel – make them feel a connection between the book and their own life! You can also even try reading them non-fiction stories to help them figure out how the vast world works.

Reading is a great way to connect with your baby and offers them so much in terms of helping them prepare for the later stages of their life. We hope that our tips for reading help to strengthen your bond together, and that you can set your little ones up to be avid readers so you can live out your own happily-ever-afters!

Haakaa New Zealand