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How to Teach Physically Active Toddlers!

Updated: May 7, 2022

What is an active child? A child who loves movement, even when it’s time to sit down. A child who loves to jump, dance, and climb until they pass out in random places.

Seriously, I have even found my child snoozing in the toy box! They learn more through movement than they do sitting and listening to someone talk. Many parents think it’s impossible to get these kids to love reading seeing that these kids seldom sit still.

Actually they’re wrong! It is possible to get active toddlers to enjoy reading. In the following article, I’m going to explain how to get kids who don’t stay still for story time to enjoy books, reading, and writing. We’re going to look at what games, books, and activities will engage your little mover and increase their language and literacy skills.

In many cases people often think that active toddlers learn well from tablets and television simply because they are sitting still. In reality we believe this because they’re finally sitting still for the day.

While it’s true they will learn some things, using this as a primary tool and not limiting screen time will actually hurt both their language development and their literacy development. Why? Because kids learn more from doing, and watching your mouth move as you speak.

Babies and toddler who watch movies are less likely to have a wide variety of words they can speak vice the kids who spend time playing with parents and have more story time than screen time. This fact has been proven over the last few years and is backed by scientific data and observation. So, what are the ways to build these seemingly hyperactive children’s literacy skills? Let’s talk about that!

Active Toddlers enjoy movement, play, and music with story time

Certain books lend themselves well to physically active toddlers. When kids can point, play, dance, and shout during story time they are more engaged, having fun, and are more likely to stick around for the story. This is especially important for physically active children.

The following list of books are our recommendations for books that physically active kids and babies love. With each book I highly recommend parents bring them to life. How? Sing the book instead of read it. Once your children know the book, pause to let them finish or start sentences and pages depending on where the repetition is.

In the event that your child knows the whole book let them say as many parts of the story as they want. For example, allow them to CREATE an entire house or room that feels like you’re inside of the book. How?

A Day at The Zoo: Inside Story Time

Basically, if your child has a book with animals make a zoo inside your house! Firstly, put stuffed animals all around the house in “enclosures”. Then allow your kids to help set up the zoo. At this point they become the zookeeper. NOW it’s story time at the zoo.

Start by bringing the book around the room as each page talks about the matching animal, and feed the animal pretend food. Repeat until you finish the story. Another thing you can do is get a writing pad and allow your children to “document” the health, environment conditions, and the amount of time each animal has eaten that day in a little chart you or they create.

This activity can be applied to dinosaurs, a castle, a superhero headquarters, bugs, construction sites, train stations, a pretend classroom where your child is the teacher, and so much more.

Now, here’s the books I recommend for your active toddlers and why.

1. Curious George’s Pat-a-Cake

I recommend this book because it encourages singing. Kids clap their hands and sing along with you. It also has a fun puppet that makes the book very interactive!

2. Curious George At the Zoo

This pairs well with an animal themed week. As previously mentioned I recommend the zoo activity with this book. Another way to include the animals is to read to them along with your kido. Also, use it like a scavenger hunt. Additionally, these pages have textures. So, let your active children touch the pages and describe the different textures they feel. There are endless activities and fun to be had with any zoo book, especially a touch and feel one!

3. No, No Dinos!

Physically active toddlers loved being able to make the dinosaurs chomp up the candy, as they move the mouth of each dinosaur. The repetition of the line “No, No, Dinos!’ makes it easy for kids to join in and interact by telling the dinos not to eat those sweets! Another fun thing to do is to use this for acting or role playing games. For example you can become dinosaur hunters, doctors, archaeologists, scientists or explorers. Do fossil digs, hide “bones” in a sandbox, make your own Jurassic Park like the zoo activity but with dinosaurs. Dress up like characters from the book and be dinosaurs for the day. Play dinosaur hide and seek, hiding dinosaur toys around the house to find or hunt. Make it a fun day or even entire week.

4. The Very Hungry Caterpillar

We recommend this book for physically motivated learners because of the little hole punches in the pages where kids can make their fingers into a hungry little caterpillar. Create butterfly wings to put on a fly around to go through a metamorphosis yourself. Go on a bug hunt, search for a caterpillar in your backyard. As you read the book crawl around a pretend eat play foods or eat real foods just like the hungry caterpillar.

5. The World of Eric Carle’s My First Busy Book

There is so much to play with, touch, and interact with in this book. It keeps active toddlers engaged from beginning to end. It is especially good for early learners in the 0-3 age group. The book already has leading questions for parents to ask their little ones, making it easy to use as a teaching tool. Each question will have toddlers interacting with the book with ease over time and practice.

6. Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb

If your active toddler likes banging and drumming on all your surfaces this is the book for you! Kids will have fun drumming and singing along to the rhythm of this catchy book. They can also pretend to be little monkeys and have fun with the repetition of “hand, hand, fingers, thumb”. It is very easy to make this book a fun read. For instance, have fun acting like silly monkeys. Even bring the book to a playground and drum on different parts of the playground, and act like the monkeys in the pictures as you read it as the park or in your backyard.

7. Your Baby’s First Word Will Be Dada

This simple book will help build baby’s language, and is very repetitious and makes it easy to memorize. Active toddlers will have fun shouting “Dada!” by the end of this quick read.

8. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

When read aloud, a natural sing song rhythm comes out which makes it fun to listen to and the repetition of the lines makes it fun to read. Kids can tell the reader what each animal sees and will want to read this fun book again, and again. I recommend drumming a simple beat as you read and encouraging children to dance like each animal on the page as you read aloud.

9. Bendon Piggy Toes Press Under Construction Interactive Storybook

With cut outs of construction vehicles, kids can play and move the pieces as you read the story. Engagement is increased as well as reading comprehension because kids have to listen to what the book is saying in order to move the pieces to make the story come to life! Have construction site toys? Be construction workers for the day. Let active toddlers play with their trucks as you read the story. Talk about the book as you play.

Any book with buttons, that sings, and has an interactive quality to it will be perfect for your active kids. Get them jumping up and down to the wheels on the bus. Have their fingers moving like a spider up the water spout. They need movement, don’t force them to sit down and stay still unless it’s bedtime and they’re finally worn out for the day.

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