Reading Tips for Parents of Toddlers

Being a toddler is all about action. Encourage continued language development and interest in books and reading by keeping things lively and engaging. Everyday experiences are full of opportunities to engage in conversation and develop language skills. The tips below offer some fun ways you can help your child become a happy and confident reader. Try a new tip each week. See what works best for your child.

Don't expect your toddler to sit still for a book

Toddlers need to move, so don’t worry if they act out stories or just skip, romp, or tumble as you read to them. They may be moving, but they are listening. 

Recite rhymes, sing songs, and make mistakes!

Pause to let your toddler finish a phrase or chant a refrain. Once your toddler is familiar with the rhyme or pattern, make mistakes on purpose and get caught. 

Choose engaging books

Books featuring animals or machines invite movement and making sounds. Books with flaps or different textures to touch keep hands busy. Books with detailed illustrations or recurring items hidden in the pictures are great for exploring and discussing. 

Keep reading short, simple, and often

Toddlers frequently have shorter attention spans than babies. Look for text that is short and simple. Read a little bit, several times a day. 

Encourage play that involves naming, describing, and communicating

Set up a zoo with all the stuffed animals. Stage a race with the toy cars. Put your toddler in charge and ask lots of questions. 

Every day is an adventure when you're a toddler

Choose books about everyday experiences and feelings. Your child will identify with the characters as they dress, eat, visit, nap, and play. 

Read it again and again

Choose books about everyday experiences and feelings. Your child will identify with the characters as they dress, eat, visit, nap, and play.  

Ask questions

Take time to listen to your toddler’s answers. Toddlers have strong opinions and interesting ideas about the world. Encourage your toddler to tell you what he or she thinks. You’ll build language skills and learn what makes your toddler tick at the same time. 

Play to their favorites

Read favorite stories again and again. Seek out books about things your toddler especially likes — trains, animals, the moon. These books may extend a toddler’s attention span and build enthusiasm for reading. 

Not having fun?

Try a different story or a different time during the day. Reading with a very young child is primarily about building positive experiences with books, not finishing every book you start.. 

Reading Tips for Parents of Preschoolers

Read early and read often. The early years are critical to developing a lifelong love of reading. It’s never too early to begin reading to your child!

The tips below offer some fun ways you can help your child become a happy and confident reader. Try a new tip each week. See what works best for your child.

Read together every day

Read to your child every day. Make this a warm and loving time when the two of you can cuddle close. 

Give everything a name

Build your child’s vocabulary by talking about interesting words and objects. For example, “Look at that airplane! Those are the wings of the plane. Why do you think they are called wings?” 

Say how much you enjoy reading

Tell your child how much you enjoy reading with him or her. Talk about “story time” as the favorite part of your day. 

Read with fun in your voice

Read to your child with humour and expression. Use different voices. Ham it up! 

Know when to stop

Put the book away for awhile if your child loses interest or is having trouble paying attention. 

Be interactive

Discuss what’s happening in the book, point out things on the page, and ask questions. 

Read it again and again

Go ahead and read your child’s favorite book for the 100th time! 

Talk about writing too

Mention to your child how we read from left to right (or right to left) and how words are separated by spaces.  

Point out print everywhere

Talk about the written words you see in the world around you. Ask your child to find a new word on each outing. 

Get your child evaluated

Please be sure to see your child’s pediatrician or teacher as soon as possible if you have concerns about your child’s language development, hearing, or sight. 


Your child needs a routine just as much as you do. Every day brings him or her a host of brand-new experiences, and with all that novelty flooding his developing brain, a dependable schedule is very comforting. Here's how to create a routine that works for both of you.

The benefits of routine for Toddlers and preschoolers

Perhaps more than any other reason, routines provide a sense of certainty and security for children. This is important at all ages, but particularly in early childhood.

As a toddler, Simon was never sure who would look after him each evening. After a long day at day-care, Jackson would be picked up by his mum and rushed home. As she raced out the door for work at her second job Jackson would ask who would be with him that night. At least four nights a week, Jackson would have someone different putting him to bed. Jackson became insecure about his environment. He cried whenever his mum left him. He struggle with bed wetting for many years. The lack of routine left him feeling uncertain about himself and his surrounds. Even in his early teens, Jackson still struggled with his sense of security, adjustment, structure and routines.

As a toddler, Rana would come home from day-care to a mum and dad who had a relatively consistent routine. Chanel would have dinner with her family, have a warm bath and get into her pyjamas. Her dad would read her a story and her mum would sing her three songs (the same three every night!) before tucking her in and kissing her goodnight. Chanel took comfort from knowing she had a well-structured routine. The benefits of this routine continued even as a teenager, Chanel was well-adjusted, organised, and effective.

Structured routines for toddlers

There are a number of other reasons that routines are helpful for your toddler’s development.

  • Routines can help children understand time and time management.
  • Routines can help children get used to having chores.
  • Routines can establish important habits such as brushing teeth and hair.
  • Routines can strengthen relationships by focusing on time together.

We may find that certain routines are almost universal, such as morning and bed-time routines. Others may suit specific circumstances or stages of life, such as your family’s Sunday morning routine, or preschool routine.

For families with toddlers and preschoolers, the following routines may be helpful:

  • Structured morning preparations and routines
  • Structured mealtime routines
  • Structured bedtime routines
  • Structured childcare routines
  • Structured playdates (if your child knows that every Thursday after swimming lessons it’s a playdate with your mother’s group, Thursday morning can positively buzz!)

Toddler routines don’t have to be boring

The other great thing about routines for toddlers is that they don’t have to be constantly emphasising the mundane aspects of life. We can create exciting yet structured routines around things like:

  • Saturday morning family time
  • Friday night sports or movie night
  • Cheap Tuesday take-out night

Routines can be useful for establishing boundaries and guidelines for toddlers, as well as teaching good habits, and improving efficiency. Plus they can help our children feel more comfortable and secure in knowing that there is certainty and predictability in their lives. While it can be nice, at times, to just go with the flow, a structured routine for busy, stressful, or important and even fun times can make family life smoother and more effective.

How to Create a Schedule for Toddlers

When you envision a schedule, you may have a picture in your mind of setting times for activities. While this may work for school children, or in a work environment, it will not work for toddlers. Creating a schedule for these increasingly independent children is more about creating structure and stability than it is about the clock. The only part of the child’s schedule which should have a consistent time is bedtime. Toddlers are not tiny robots, and if you try to force them into a too regimented schedule, they will either act out or shut down on you. Opt for a gentle but firm approach to creating a safe and predictable routine for a toddler, with room for spontaneity.

Step 1

Make two vertical lines on a piece of paper, creating three columns. Label the first column, “Must Do,’ label the second column “Activity Goals” and label the third column “Would be nice.” This is just one way for moms and dads to be more clear in their own own minds, and with each other, about what they expect from their toddler each day. The “Must Do” column will contain the basic needs and grooming activities for the toddler. Indicate which ones are daily, every other day or weekly. The “Must Do” column should include at the very least, eating (list all meals and snack times), brushing teach, naps, baths and bed time. The “Activity” column can include potty training, including using the bathroom upon waking, before naps, and before bed. The “Would be nice” column can include outdoor time, play with friends and other desirable but optional activities.

Step 2

Start the day off right with a morning routine that fits the toddler’s needs, and the needs of mom and dad. For toddlers the morning routine could include using or trying to use the toilet and then washing hands. Brushing teeth is another part of the morning routine. Getting dressed should be routine for toddlers that need to leave the house in the house in the morning, with parents. Sitting down at the table for breakfast, with one or both parents, can be included. The routine should include the same must-do activities each morning.

Step 3

Create a mealtime routine for any meal that is eaten at home. There may be an opportunity for a lunch routine, if you are home with the toddler. Set a dinner time routine for the family. While mom or dad cooks dinner, the toddler can have TV time or arts and crafts time in the kitchen. Involve the toddler in dinner preparation by giving them a bowl, a spoon and some spices. Require the toddler to eat dinner at the table, and to bus his own dishes to the sink when done.

Step 4

Schedule ongoing activities once a week or every other week for toddlers. Too many scheduled outings may be too hectic for everyone. Sign up for a weekly book reading time at the local library. Attend a weekly swim lesson class. For a more flexible schedule, set a goal in the “would be nice” column to go to a museum, gallery or the library once a week. Include social activities in the toddler’s schedule, including a weekly or monthly play date with another toddler. During good weather, make time each day for the toddler to play outside in your yard or in a nearby park.

Step 5

Stick to a naptime and bedtime routine that was established when the toddler was a baby. If you did not have one, start one as early as possible. For the toddler, extend the bedtime routine to be longer and include more relaxing activities and together time. The toddler may need more time to wind down than he did as a baby. A bedtime routine could include a nightly bath followed by quiet reading time with mom or dad. Turn off the toddler’s TV shows at least one hour before bedtime, or he will associate bedtime with not being able to watch his favorite shows. Include teeth brushing, potty time and other grooming activities in the bed time routine. Bedtime is one part of the toddler’s schedule which should follow the same time each night.

Eating Healthy

Since his/her very first feeding, you’ve probably paid plenty of attention to what your child eats. Remember, in making dietary decisions early in your youngster’s life, your primary focus should be on good nutrition rather than the number of calories he’s consuming. Instead of trying to limit the amount of dietary fat on your toddler’s plate, introduce him to healthy eating habits and well-balanced meals and snacks, rather than approaches aimed specifically at losing weight.

So what should your toddler be eating? At 1 year of age, he should be consuming a wide variety of foods. As he moves through the second year of life, he should be eating 3 meals daily, along with 1 to 2 snacks, prepared and served at regular times. You should also discourage grazing (this means your child has access to and grabs food all day long).

In planning and preparing food for your toddler, make sure he’s getting a balance of fats, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals that can promote growth and include foods from the major food groups each day, including

  • Meat, poultry, fish, eggs
  • Dairy products such as milk and cheese
  • Cereal grains, rice, potatoes, breads, pasta
  • Vegetables and fruits

By choosing health-promoting foods, you can establish good nutritional habits in your child that will last for the rest of his life. However, one recent study found that about 65% to 70% of 1 to 2-year-olds ate dessert, ice cream, and/or candy once a day, and 30% to 50% drank sweetened beverages every day. By contrast, the same study indicated that less than 10% of these young children ate a dark green vegetable each day; more often, their vegetable intake consisted of potatoes and french fries. Make sure that you and the other adults in the family agree on a healthy nutritional lifestyle for your toddler and the entire family, including one that puts a limit on sweets.

Sample One-Day Menu for a Two-Year-Old

This menu is planned for a two-year-old child who weighs approximately 27 pounds (12.5 kg).
  • 1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons (15 ml)
  • 1 tablespoon = 1⁄2 ounce (15 ml)
  • 1 ounce = 30 ml
  • 1 cup = 8 ounces (240 ml)


  • 1⁄2 cup nonfat or low- fat milk
  • 1⁄2 cup iron- fortified cereal or 1 egg
  • 1⁄3 cup fruit (for example, banana, cantaloupe, or strawberries)
  • 1⁄2 slice whole wheat toast
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon margarine or butter or 1 teaspoon jelly


  • 4 crackers with cheese or hummus or 1⁄2 cup cut- up fruit or berries
  • 1⁄2 cup water


  • 1⁄2 cup low- fat or nonfat milk
  • 1⁄2 sandwich—1 slice whole wheat bread, 1 ounce meat, slice of cheese, veggie (avocado, lettuce, or tomato)
  • 2–3 carrot sticks (cut up) or 2 tablespoons other dark- yellow or dark-green vegetable
  • 1⁄2 cup berries or 1 small (1⁄2 ounce) low-fat oatmeal cookie


  • 1⁄2 cup nonfat or low-fat milk
  • 1⁄2 apple (sliced), 3 prunes, 1⁄3 cup grapes (cut up), or 1⁄2 orange


  • 1⁄2 cup nonfat or low-fat milk
  • 2 ounces meat
  • 1⁄3 cup pasta, rice, or potato
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable

Snacks to Avoid

Raw vegetables are mostly too difficult for toddlers to manage, and some—carrots, whole cherry tomatoes, whole green beans, celery—are a serious choking hazard for toddlers. But there’s no reason that a toddler shouldn’t enjoy well-cooked vegetables cut into manageable pieces. Big chunks of any food and glob-like spoonfuls of peanut butter are hazardous and should not be given to children younger than 4 years; the same advice is just as important for any types of nuts, peanuts, or popcorn because children aren’t able to grind food and reduce it to a consistency safe for swallowing. Chunks of peanut butter can stick to their palate and end up choking them.