Story Time with a Twist

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Story time is so important even with the littlest babies, but you may find at around eight months old that your baby is far more interested in chewing on the pages or playing with toys than paying attention to the words. This has definitely proven to be the case with Veronika, so today I made story time a bit more interactive, thanks to the help of a few stuffed animal friends!

How is it that babies amass such huge collections of stuffed animals? I’m not sure I’ve ever bought one, but through gifts, prizes, and more, we have quite a little community.

I pulled out a few and narrated a story. Veronika and her friend frog woke up and decided to go on an adventure through the forest.

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They set off for the forest, but a big noise made them stop. They looked around and heard a growl. But it was only their friend bear, who wanted to say hello. Hello bear!

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They kept walking and saw a stick move. It was their friend snake! Hisss, snake said.

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I had a few more creatures meet her and frog on the journey before the story ended and everyone went home for lunch.

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Veronika was delighted at all the colors and soft stuffies to hug, whether or not she was listening to the “story”.

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Next, I grouped some of her stuffed animals by category. Since we have a lot of dogs, I made up few stories around this puppy “family.” First, one puppy was lost, oh no!

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Could Veronika help mommy dog find her puppy? Hurrah, a family reunion. Next, the puppies went for rides in cars…

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…and then we had a story about a stuffed animal parade.

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Later in the day, we continued the fun with a “birthday party” for a few stuffed animals. I set them up with pretend food and sang the happy birthday song.

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Veronika loved this “story”!

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In sum, you can involve stuffed animals as actors in your baby’s story time in so many ways. What will your animals do next? Climb a hill? Go on a journey? It’s a little different than reading a book and will engage your little one’s imagination and senses.

Vary Story Time

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Storytime with my eldest has always been about the story; even as a baby he sat and listened to a book. Veronika has been a delightful reminder of just how different all babies are, because she looks at a book and she wants… to eat it.

I still read to her every night, but I have to catch her attention! So today we played this little game, varying my voice in ways that made her sit up and focus a little more.

First, I did a silly read through of Goodnight Moon, reading the first half veryveryveryfast and the second half very…very…very…slow. This got looks of surprise and giggles!

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Next I read a favorite color book, but sang the words to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. This didn’t line up quite right on every page, but she kept looking at me with interest. I sure had her attention!

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Finally, I read in a deep, silly voice for another favorite book; this got lots of looks of delight after every page, almost as if she was checking to make sure it was still me doing the reading.

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This game will work best with books you read often, where baby is already familiar with the rhymes and rhythms and will notice the differences.

Choose books that lend themselves to getting in on the action, too. When the quiet old lady whispers hush, I put my fingers to her lips. Other good actions to copy include: tickling toes, giving hugs and kisses, or waving hello and goodbye.

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One final way to vary your story time? Vary the location! We took our books to a coffee shop today, where the novel space made her pay more attention to sounds on the pages, and less attention to their taste.

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Introduce Books with Texture and Noise

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Veronika already has a few books in her library that feature texture and noise, but I gifted her with a few new ones because she can approach them in a different way these days: reading solo! Interactive touch and sound will keep a seven-month-old happily entertained, even if you’re busy getting things done around the house, or on the go.

But first we read them together, of course. She loved the bright pictures and her fingers immediately went for textural elements, like soft fur or shiny metal.

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I pressed each sound button, which got a look of wonder from her each time, and described what she was hearing and seeing.

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Pretty soon, she was flipping through the pages and narrating this book to herself – a sight that makes my heart stop every time!

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I also bought a smaller book that’s perfect for car rides or stroller rides. The soft pages fit in her hands perfectly.

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Some pages rattle and some crinkle.

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The first time through, I described these sounds, and the textures she could feel like the soft fluffy cover. She will happily “read” this one to herself for ages.

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What interactive books does your baby like? Please share in the comments!

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Personal Picture Book

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Sure, there are lots of books you can read to your baby from the library or the bookstore. But don’t forget you can also make your own!

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Since babies at Veronika’s age (7 months old) are primarily interested in the visuals, it’s fun to make a book with no words. I used images cut from magazines and catalogs, but your own photos can work well, too! Since the story has no words, you can change it up every time.

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I chose simple images, limited somewhat by which magazines I had around to cut up. Soon we had stories about a butterfly who moved into a house and then…

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Just use your imagination from there!

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Try to find photos that depict familiar objects. As we “read” about the desk and chair in the story, for example, I took her over to the desk and chair in our apartment and pointed out that they were the same.

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Same goes for the picture of a little girl in our story. “Girl,” I told her, and pointed to the picture and then to Veronika. “Same!”

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This book is also great because a big sibling can “read” it to the baby, even if not yet a reader! I loved looking over to see Travis was making up stories for her.

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In sum, a great idea, and we’ll be adding to our “story” as I cut up more catalogs.

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Felt Board Story Time

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Felt boards are a fantastic visual… and slightly magical to kids, too, since the pieces stick together but then peel right off. Today, I wanted to tell Veronika some familiar stories and rhymes using a felt board as a visual.

If you want, this could be a DIY craft: cover a board with felt and staple the edges in place. Then you’ll need to cut additional shapes from other colors of felt to act out the stories. I confess, though, that I used a pre-made felt story board. This made it a lot easier to focus on the storytelling for Veronika, and not on my negligible crafting skills!

She was intrigued the moment I pulled out the board, no doubt from the bright colors of the felt.

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And the texture!

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After letting her have some time for exploration, I set up a story. Goldilocks and the Three Bears was fun, with a little house shape, and a semi-circle for a bowl of porridge.

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Then I set up a little “boat” and sang “Row Row Row Your Boat.”

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This one was Jack and Jill going up the hill!

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And tumbling down.

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Obviously there is a bit of stretching the imagination that needs to happen here, but it was great fun to mix and match the shapes and watch her reaction.

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This is definitely a game I hope to continue as she gets older, especially since we can use smaller pieces and more intricate shapes once she doesn’t put everything in her mouth.

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Larger Board Books

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Veronika first graduated from black and white books to those with more colors and rhymes. Now, at just shy of five-months-old, she’s at a great age for large-format tactile books. Look especially for ones that can open flat, so they provide entertainment during tummy time. She’s rolling over to check this one out!

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No need to stick to black and white anymore – babies at this age will love seeing vivid colors.

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Other things to look for include thick, easy-to-turn pages and flaps. Veronika loves playing peekaboo with the animals hiding behind pages.

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Noises are also fantastic. Two that we love, featuring farm animal sounds: I Like to Squeak, How Do You Speak by Jonathan Litton and Poppy and Sam’s Animal Sounds from Usborne Books.

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And don’t forget about texture!

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Pat the Bunny is a classic, and Veronika also loves Noisy Farm Touch and Feel by Tiger Tales.

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In sum, mix it up for your baby with new finds from the library or bookstore, and watch how interactive your little one is with books now.

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Picture This

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Today, Veronika and I had a very different sort of story time. Rather than simply reading text to her, I wanted to actively engage her with the pictures and words. In fact, because we were focusing on what she saw rather than the story line, magazines were better for this game than books. You can use adult magazines, kid ones, or even catalogs!

We snuggled up and talked about the images. “Look, the girl is in a red dress. Look, the boy is at the beach.”

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This will help your baby process the images on the page, without having to follow rhyming words or plots.

You can also encourage your child to point to what they’re seeing. So if I said, “Let’s touch the maraca,” I would then place her hand on it.

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She doesn’t understand yet of course, but over time this will help her associate a word with the proper image.

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You can also have your baby practice turning pages. Magazines aren’t as good for this, with their thin paper, but her latest issue of Hello magazine was perfect.

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“Let’s turn the page!” I said, and then guided her hand until we turned it together.

Overall, this was an engaging activity, and a nice quiet pause just the two of us.

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Sleepy Baby

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Now that we’ve started to figure out Veronika’s daily routine, it’s time to set up a proper nighttime routine for her, too.

As mentioned, I don’t bother with routines for my kids when still in their “fourth trimester.” But starting about 10 days ago, we noticed a big change; Veronika stopped her evening cluster feed (which had been going pretty-much non-stop from 7 to 10 p.m.!), and instead, well, she found her thumb. And with that, she’s capable of self-soothing and falls asleep between 6.30 and 7.

So now we needed to make bedtime special. The key to aby routine is consistency. I’m still working out how to do this best with two kids, but here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

Step 1: Bath (or cradle cap)

I don’t do baths nightly yet (too much washing can make a newborn’s skin dry), but if it’s a bath night, we start with that. If not, one night a week I comb through her cradle cap; try adding a little edible oil, like olive oil, to the scalp. Let sit for about 10 minutes, then brush through and shampoo out.

If there’s no cradle cap or bath, I still make it cozy and special to get into pajamas, with lotion and everything all laid out.

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Step 2: Storytime

Because I’m juggling two kids, Veronika’s storytime has to be while big brother has his bath!

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Yours might look a little less chaotic and a lot cozier, but I think she’s already come to associate her little bathroom chair with books, and anticipates that sleep is next – which is exactly what you want.

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Step 3: Lullabies. We do a final nurse and I sing her a special song or two.

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Then it’s lights out – and don’t forget a big kiss goodnight!

One additional item that we’ll add to her bedtime routine now that she’s old enough? A quick baby signing song. What does bedtime look like in your house? Please share in the comments!


Book Swap

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Reading is now a nightly part of Veronika’s routine; here at two months old, she finally has a real “bedtime”! But the same few baby books can become old hat rather quickly, even after only a few weeks. We’ve had a heavy rotation of black & white-themed books for Veronika for a while, so it was time to swap in some new ones.

No need to head to the store and spend all your money for this activity. Make your library your best friend, and check out some of the classics. Some old favorites from when Travis was little include: Little Blue Truck; Peek-a-Who; the That’s Not My… series from Usborne Books, and Eric Carle’s My Very First Book of Colors.

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What’s good for your baby in their developmental stage right now? Bold colors, bright contrasts, and simple story lines.

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Many libraries also have suggested reading lists for babies. These can be a great way to search among the board books, if you don’t know where to start.

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Veronika seemed to feel special when I sat her down in my lap for storytime with the new books.

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And big siblings can be big helpers reading books, especially ones with flaps to open or lift.

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What’s on your infant’s reading list? Please share in the comments, and happy reading!

Repeat a Simple Story

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By now, you may notice your two-month old starting to show preference for certain stories over others. Ways to tell that a baby this small is engaged with a book? Eyes are alert, face is smiling the gaze is eagerly turned towards the pages. Or perhaps the baby just seems relaxed while you say the words.

I noticed that Veronika seemed particularly peaceful during readings of Time for Bed, a sweet story I used to read to Travis as well.

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That makes it particularly useful when I need to settle her down. Don’t be afraid to read a story more than once through – whether over the course of a day, or a couple of times in one sitting. The repetition of words – both within the text itself, and thanks to a double-reading – will be a comfort to your baby.

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What’s your go-to book with your baby? Please share in the comments!