Why it’s important to read with toddlers at 12-18 months
It’s good to read, talk about books, share stories, and sing every day. This helps your toddler’s development in many ways.
It gets your toddler familiar with speech sounds, words and language. This builds your toddler’s early literacy skills, like the ability to listen to and understand words and the ability to focus. It also helps your toddler to enjoy books and read successfully later in childhood.
Reading stories stimulates your toddler’s imagination and helps them learn about the world. It’s also a great time for you to bond with your toddler and share time together.
And it’s a chance for your toddler to see you enjoying books and stories, which sets a great example for your toddler.
You can start reading to your baby as early as you like – the earlier the better. Our article on reading stories with babies and children has more information to get you and your toddler started.
What to expect from reading, sharing books and storytelling with toddlers at 12-18 months
At this age, reading with your toddler is all about having fun with books, spending special time together and learning.
For example, your toddler will be learning new words as you read and look at pictures together. They might point to familiar objects in pictures and name them. They might say ‘Shoe shoe’ while pointing to a picture of a shoe. Or your toddler might make animal noises when they see pictures of animals or engine noises when they see pictures of cars or trucks.
And your toddler will love joining in when you sing familiar songs and nursery rhymes. For example, they might say ‘Baa baa’ when you sing ‘Baa, baa, black sheep’.
Tips for reading, sharing books and storytelling with toddlers at 12-18 months
Here are tips to help you and your toddler make the most of reading time:
- Get your toddler to hold the book and help turn the pages.
- Use the rhythm of the book’s words to bounce your toddler on your knee. Or pat your toddler’s back in time to the rhythm.
- Ask your toddler to point to pictures. For example, ‘Where’s the puppy?’
- Build on your toddler’s love for a favourite book by offering to read it regularly, as well as offering new or different books.
Here are general tips for reading with most young children:
- Make a routine, and try to share at least one book every day. A special space where you and your child go to read – with a box of books and something comfortable to sit on – can help with establishing your routine.
- Let your child choose books. Be prepared to read favourite books over and over again!
- Turn off the TV or radio, put your phone on silent, and find a quiet space to read so your child can hear your voice and focus on the book.
- Hold your child close or on your knee while you read, so your child can see your face and the book.
- Slow down to give your child time to look at pictures. Encourage your child to talk about the pictures.
- Try out funny noises and sounds, and use different voices for different characters – play and have fun!
- Make connections between pictures and your child’s life. For example, ‘Look! They’re eating an apple. You like apples too, don’t you?’
- Be guided by your child’s interest. There might be days when your child doesn’t want to spend a long time reading, and that’s OK.
Types of books to read with toddlers at 12-18 months
Toddlers often enjoy books with rhyme, rhythm and repetition. Rhyme, rhythm and repetition encourages your toddler to join in, which helps them learn.
Your toddler’s interests will guide you when you’re choosing new books. Your toddler learns best when they’re interested in what you’re reading together.
At about 12 months, you could try the following types of books:
- books about food, transport, animals and other babies and toddlers
- board books, which are easy to handle and very sturdy
- books that have pictures or illustrations of simple, familiar objects
- lift-the-flap books with hidden items in each picture for your toddler to find
- books with textures like fabric or collage in the illustrations
- books about different cultures or books that show cultural diversity.
Books for toddlers at 12-18 months
Here are books your toddler might enjoy. Many of these books have the rhymes, rhythms and repetition that toddlers love.
Books about animals
- Boo! by Margaret Wild
- Dear zoo by Rod Campbell
- Moo, baa, la la la by Sandra Boynton
- Spot by Eric Hill – for example, Spot goes on holiday and Spot goes to the farm
- Ten little owls by Renee Treml
- Toddlerobics animal fun by Zita Newcome
- Where is the green sheep? by Mem Fox
Books about toddlers
- Aussie toddlers can by Magabala Books
- Body: My first chunky board book by Dorling Kindersley
- I’m hungry by Rod Campbell
Books about activities
- Choo choo clickety-clack by Margaret Mayo
- Dig dig digging by Margaret Mayo
- Freight train by Donald Crews
- Our library by Donna Rawlins
Why not visit your local library? It’s free to join and borrow. Library staff will be able to recommend books for you and your toddler to enjoy. Many libraries also offer free story time sessions for toddlers and their parents or carers.
For more story ideas, you could check out our storytelling videos. Let storyteller Anne E. Stewart introduce you and your toddler to ‘Mook Mook the owl’, ‘The crocodile’ and ‘The old lady and the mosquito’.