Written by Thery McKinney
A book may be one of the first items of communication that is introduced to an infant. Parents that read to their infants use this reading time to bond with their children and to help foster language and listening skills. It is widely believed that early contact with books increases a child’s readiness to learn how to read (and write). For toddlers, “reading time” presents the opportunity for sensory experimentation. Books help develop sensory motor skills and the senses, such as touch, hearing, sight, and smell – probably taste as well since the little ones may place small books in their mouths.
With a trip to the local library, you can see many varieties and large quantities of books designed for toddlers’ “use.” Many of these books are designed to be sturdy and easy to clean. Some books will be soft and some interactive for teaching skills, such as learning how to handle a button. Toddlers enjoy their experiences with books. For children, watching parents read, hold books, handle newspapers or magazines, often prompts them to do the same and imitate the adults. For the adults, watching a child hold a book (many times upside down) and chat to himself about its story (which often has nothing to do with the actual text) is a delightful moment; but it is also the beginning of the child’s understanding that books contain messages and all types of knowledge. Books used this way stimulate imagination and creativity early on. Toddlers’ attention spans are erratic, to say the least, so how wonderful a contraption a book must be to capture the little one’s attention for any length of time!
A book is a container for preserving communication. What types of books do toddlers enjoy? 1- and 3-year-olds might enjoy books that offer a tactile method of communication. Toddlers want to imitate older siblings and grownups. Toddlers and preschoolers want to use writing and drawing tools, such as pens, pencils, crayons, and markers. Scribbling is appropriate for this age level, and it is linked to future literacy. With scribbling, children learn to make all the shapes necessary to write the alphabet. The start of communication skills begin with a child’s early artistic attempts.
Toddlers are extremely creative in curing their boredom and curiosity. At this age level, toddlers are still very much involved with themselves. Young children enjoy listening to stories that mention children like themselves and their adventures; they love to make up stories and are natural storytellers. Parents should encourage this ability by providing paper and art materials for drawings, paintings, and collages. All these masterpieces can find their future on the refrigerator door, but consider the possibilities for making simple handmade books designed to capture your child’s artistic efforts. For parents, handmade books become a visual record of the child’s creativity. These creations can be kept as memories and keepsakes, shared with family and friends. For the child, it can be the beginning of a lifelong appreciation of books and learning.
“Getting children to develop a love for books means spending time with books, reading them and making them,” according to well-known educator, Marisa Constantinides.
Easy to assemble, appropriate handmade books can be divided into two types: 1) blank handmade pamphlets produced by adults that are given to the child to fill in; and 2) booklets that are almost made by the children themselves but with supervision and assistance from adults. The National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families suggests that preschoolers, aged 3 or 4, can make simple books by themselves.
One of the simplest books that a parent can make includes a refillable binder and a paper hole-puncher. Single pages can be collected and continually added (or deleted) as desired. This is especially good for the younger children with characteristically shorter attention spans – that means no long and involved projects. You can still put the finished sheets on the refrigerator door and then later add them to the book. Always identify the pages with their name. Recognition of their achievements and praise really boosts self-esteem.
There are many good websites and blogs that offer excellent suggestions and instructions for book structures, such as Susan K Gaylord’s site called www.makingbooks.com, library.thinkquest.org, and www.vickiblackwell.com.
Hamburger and Hot Dog Books (Poof Books)
My favorite book form for toddlers has to be the “hamburger” and “hot dog” books – or “poof books,” according to Vicki Blackwell. Each book is made from a single sheet of paper, needing only one cut so that it makes a book of four pages, plus covers, when folded. This activity allows your child great practice with folding paper. Preschoolers can use safety scissors to compete production. This type of book is perfect for focusing on one theme or story. The collection of these books can be kept in box or bag and reviewed at any time.
A sheet of 8 ½” by 11” bond paper will yield a 4” by 5” book. For the toddler, I actually prefer starting with a large-sized piece of paper. Large pads of inexpensive drawing paper (11” by 17” or 18” by 24”) will produce books of ¼ of the original paper size once folded. Drawing paper is more suitable for working with markers since they have a tendency to bleed and smear.
Some children need no prompting to begin filling in their books, but parents can start the creative process with suggestive questions:
Do you want to make up a story?
What kind of story?
Is it a story about dogs or the little boy down the street?
What happens at the end?
Photos from magazines can be sewn or glued onto the pages to help with the story:
Look! Here’s a picture of a balloon. What’s going to happen to this balloon?
Remember to use non-toxic materials and simple-to-control items for small hands like glue dots and colored glue sticks to reduce the mess. Keep plenty of paper towels, rags, or baby wipes on hand.
Making books is making memories for the parent and the child – memories that both can enjoy for years to come.
Have you created any books with your toddlers recently? Share your stories in the comments section!