Friday, January 18, 2019

How to Read Aloud to Multiple Ages (24 activities to keep little ones busy while you read aloud to older kids)

I've just returned from a chilly morning walk.  The kids are up and playing when I walk in the door, so I take a quick moment to make a smoothie.  They come running when they hear me fire up the blender.

I fill glasses with fruity smoothies and place them around the kitchen table, colorful plastic straws in each glass (except for 14 year old Ellie's; she's given up using straws in order to do her part to save the sea turtles.)

While the kids slurp their smoothies, I pick up our latest read aloud book and begin to read.  For a few moments, the room is quiet except for our story. 

I read aloud to my children every morning over breakfast.  Because reading aloud is one of my tippy top priorities as a Mama, I know it's important to fit in as early in the day as possible.

Before long, their glasses are empty. Because we have such a wide range of ages (14, 10, 5, 2) it takes a little extra effort to make reading aloud all together successful.  The older kids and I want to keep reading for a while longer, so I need something for the Littles to do.  I reach into my activity drawer and pull out a couple of Water Wow! Books.

The drawer is packed with many more activities to keep the little ones happy and quiet so I can read aloud a little bit longer.  Here are some of our favorite things to do during read aloud time:

How to keep little kids busy:

Playdough (often we use this homemade recipe) and this awesome play set from Melissa and Doug


Shaving Cream (just spray it on a cookie tray and let them dive in!)

Handcrafts: embroidery (here are some fun, simple designs that would be great for beginners), knitting, friendship bracelets

Building with Marshmallows and Toothpicks

Water Wow! books

Perler Beads (if you're brave) and templates

Watercolor on Coffee Filters

Stickers and Paper

Paint by Sticker books (especially my 10 year old loves these!)

Modeling Clay

Color Wonder Markers and Paper

Foam Blocks or Sponge Blocks

Popsicle Sticks with Velcro

Coloring Books (we especially love Dover coloring books) and Crayons or Colored Pencils

Bowl of Bubbles (fill a big bowl with warm water and dish soap bubbles) with measuring spoons and cups to pour with.

Water Beads are always a huge hit (though keep in mind they need to be prepared the the night before)

Food is a really effective way to keep kiddos quiet while you read.  I often reserve specials treats for days when the kids need a little extra help being quiet.  Popsicles are a favorite, hot chocolate or juice, popcorn, any and all baked goods are also excellent choices.

How to make Reading Aloud a habit:

My hope for read aloud time is that it's building a family culture of time together and good books.  Honestly, some days feel more successful than others.  Kids pop out of their seats often to 'run grab something' or get a drink, or spin around the kitchen.  I need to remind them to be quiet, or not touch each other, settle disputes over crayons or muffins or whatever they are bickering over.  It would be easy to become discouraged.

But then we'll have an experience together that reminds my kids of a book we read.  Last week we were out snowshoeing with our beloved nature group and Elijah remembered the scene from Little House in the Big Woods, when Laura and Mary and their cousins are "making pictures" in the snow.

He told his friend about it and they began flopping down in the snow every 6 inches to see what impressions they left behind. They giggled and did it over and over again. My heart nearly burst as I watched my five year old experience such joy, the impetus for which came from a book we read together.  It was perfect.

My number one tip for becoming successful at reading aloud to your children is to make it a habit.  Anchor it to something else in your day that you are already doing.  For us, read aloud time is anchored to breakfast.

In your family it may work better at bedtime (FYI: we read aloud to our littles at bedtime, too, but that time is reserved for picture books and usually one-on-one reading with a parent). Or maybe accompanying an after-school snack in the afternoon.  Or at dinner time.  Find a time that works for you and make it a habit to pull out your book. 

I share our read alouds on Instagram.  Follow me there to see the books we're loving!

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