• How to Make Reading Irresistible to Your Child

    Any parent would have their heart warmed by their child nose deep in a pile of books. Your child’s interest and enjoyment around reading can make or break their school career. Reading is a critical component of education and is a necessary part of all subject areas…even math! So how can you ensure that you get your child off on the right foot and loving to read from a young age? It’s all about something called print motivation.

    After reading this post, you will:

    • learn about what print motivation is
    • understand why print motivation matters
    • the best tips that parents use to get their children to LOVE reading
    Young girl sitting in the grass and reading to boost her print motivation.

    This post may contain affiliate links. I only recommend products that I personally use, trust, and love and think you will love too! Using these links provide me with a small commission and help support this blog, but at no extra cost to youTo learn more, read my Policies page.

    Print Motivation: The Glue that Holds Reading Together

    Print motivation is one of the 6 early literacy skills. It is often forgotten about or takes a back seat due to the pressures to teach your child to read. However, you will find that without print motivation, learning to read will be a struggle.

    Print motivation is essentially your child’s interest and enjoyment of books, print, and other literacy materials. With a strong print motivation, your child will love reading with you, attempting to “read” on their own from a very young age, and love playing games that revolve around print (think the alphabet, rhymes, sound games, etc).

    However, with a weak print motivation, you may notice your child lacking interest in books, not enjoying activities around print, and not enjoying read alouds with you.

    The Importance of Laying a Strong Foundation in Print Motivation

    What’s beautiful about print motivation is that this is something that you can nurture from a very young age. Actually, you can start working on this when your child is in the womb!

    Research has shown that around 25 weeks of gestation, your child can start hearing your voice in the womb. Take advantage of this time to bond with your baby and start reading out loud. It doesn’t even have to be a children’s book. Just reading a book of your choice, magazine, or article can truly make a difference early on.

    One of the easiest ways to lay a strong foundation with print motivation is to set a daily reading routine with your child as early on as you can. The earlier your child sees you engaging with reading and enjoying your reading and bonding time together, the more your child will see the value in reading and print.

    This high motivation early on will support your child in developing a strong print motivation, leaving you less to worry about as Kindergarten approaches.

    Charming mother showing images in a book to her cute little son at home

    Parents Who Have Children with a High Print Motivation Do This

    Building interest in reading is such an important skill your child needs to acquire. Here are some tips to get started!

    1. They Start Their Reading Routine as Soon as Possible

    Like I mentioned above, the earlier you start your reading routine, the better. Why?

    First of all, it becomes something that they expect and look forward too. When you read to a newborn every night, nap, or other playful time, they come to expect it as they grow up. They enjoy the predictable routine of getting in their jammies and snuggling up to read their favorite book every night. It’s a comfort to them and a way to create a strong bond.

    Secondly, a reading routine demonstrates how much you value reading. Your child is going to value what you find valuable. You are the role model. When you ensure that your reading routine is honored and not sacrificed for a lack of time or sanity, you’re saying, “Reading with you is really important to me.”

    2. They Give Their Child Choice

    When parents give their children choice, it makes them feel important and like they have a say. It’s a part of growing up. So just the same as when you go out to a restaurant and list off meal choices from the kid’s menu for your child to choose from, choosing their own books can make them feel like you value their opinion and choice.

    Letting children choose what you read with them ensures that their motivation and engagement while reading stays high. They are more likely going to interact with you and the book, which supports their learning processes of reading.

    Just remember that attention spans aren’t much longer than 10 minutes before Kindergarten, so don’t worry if your child only gets 50-75% through the book. They will love the time spent reading just as much as if they finished the whole thing.

    Little boy looking at a sound book with animals to support print motivation

    3. They Are Very Aware of Their Child’s Interests

    You may already know your child’s likes and dislikes, but I implore you to really observe what lights them up. What goes beyond “like” and into “mildly obsessed”?

    Using these interests to support reading is a fantastic way to get your child on board with books. Gather a bunch of books from Amazon or the library that feature their mild obsession. They’ll love exploring the pictures and learning even more about their interests in the process.

    4. They Don’t Force Reading

    It’s not uncommon for a toddler to sit down for one page of a book and run away grabbing another toy off of the shelf. The important thing to remember in this scenario is that you don’t go and pick them up to continue your reading session with child in lap.

    But, that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to read! Even if your child isn’t on your lap, you can still continue to read aloud to them as if they were.

    Following your child’s lead is the most important part of this tip. Whether they are sitting on your lap or you’re just reading aloud, if reading is upsetting to them in any way…stop. Forcing only causes frustration. There’s always another opportunity for a reading experience right around the corner.

    5. They Celebrate

    Celebrations, for even the littlest of victories, are an amazing way to boost your child’s self-esteem and confidence. They will even inspire your child to keep reading and growing.

    So whether it is turning a page, participating in reading, or just finally being able to sit through one story from beginning to the end, CELEBRATE!

    Children with high print motivation sitting in row and reading books at the park

    How Do You Motivate Children to Read Books?

    Sometimes you might have a child who shows absolutely no interest in reading with you or even playing with books. Don’t worry! There are lots of things you can do to pique your child’s interest.

    Make Playing with Books a Game

    Sometimes all your little one needs to gain a little print motivation is for you to make a game out of it. Play I Spy with a book by asking your child to find different items either on a page or within the book. The key to this is choosing objects that your child already knows very well. This could backfire very easily if you’re choosing items that aren’t in their vocabulary causing frustration.

    Spend no more than 5 minutes playing games like this. You want your child to keep wanting to play after you’re done. This ensures that they will want to play on multiple occasions.

    Consider Their Interests

    This one has to be repeated. You need to really think about things that your child is mildly obsessed with and gather books that feature those things. Your child will be more interested in looking at pictures featuring their obsession than actually realizing they are looking at a book.

    Try Interactive Books

    There are so many choices for interactive books out there ranging from touchy-feely books to sound books and more. All of these are great choices to get your child interacting with books in a positive way.

    My favorite interactive book is actually a series from Usborne. They have a “Busy Books” series that have pull-back vehicles that actually travel across the pages of the books.

    This is truly a perfect book to inspire some print motivation in your little if they really are resistant!

    What Do You Do When Your Child Hates Reading?

    stack of children's books

    The most important thing to remember if your child hates reading is to not force reading and books on them. That’s only going to cause more trauma, reluctance, and frustration.

    You can use all the tips mentioned above, but remember to practice patience and follow your child’s lead. If they do show interest in reading, keep it short. Don’t read a whole book. You can just casually flip through the pages and talk about what you notice on the pages.

    If you notice your child starting to lose interest, stop and move onto something else. You can tank print motivation by waiting until your child is outwardly frustrated or lacking engagement.

    Finally, be a reading role model. You want your child to see how much you love and enjoy reading yourself. Let your child see you reading recipes, emails, books, and more. The more your child sees reading in your life, the more likely they are going to see how important it is to theirs.

    Print Motivation is the Key

    Noticing your child’s motivation towards print is going to be a key indicator of how they are going to take to reading as they grow and develop. It is such an underrated skill, but one that could save a lot of frustration later on during the school-aged years. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to it now!

    If you want to learn more about how to support your child in print motivation and all of the other critical areas of early literacy, I encourage you to check out my Grow Your Reader activity pack filled with the perfect way to simultaneously develop all areas of early literacy in only 10 minutes per day.

  • Confessions of a Clubfoot Mama: Our 2nd Year in a Nutshell

    Have you ever woken up one morning just wondering where the time went? Our 2 years flew by us in what seemed like 2 weeks. I can’t even begin to describe how grateful I am for every moment with my baby and I thank my lucky stars every day for his health and his happiness. If you’re reading this, you might be expecting a clubfoot little one or are just starting your journey. I hope that this post gives you some insight on how to purposefully and patiently support your toddler’s growth and development by learning about the challenges and celebrations we’ve had along the way. So grab a snack, and let’s dive in.

    This post may contain affiliate links. I only recommend products that I personally use, trust, and love and think you will love too! Using these links provide me with a small commission and help support this blog, but at no extra cost to youTo learn more, read my Policies page.

    What is Clubfoot?

    If you are just finding me through this post, let me give you a little bit of background of what clubfoot is.

    Clubfoot is a congenital birth defect, which just means that it is present from birth. It is actually a very common since 1 in 1000 babies are born with it.

    Clubfoot can affect either one foot or both feet. In our case, my son had bilateral clubfoot, meaning that both feet were affected.

    The condition makes the feet turn upward and inward, making the foot look like a golf club. The shape and severity can vary from case to case, but all bones, muscles, and toes are present…just a bit misshapen.

    If you would like to read more about clubfoot in general, please check out my Ultimate Guide.

    How We Got Here

    It’s been a long journey, but we are almost towards our end. No matter how long it may seem on the inside, know that it will be a flash before your eyes in no time at all.

    clubfoot baby in casts with legwarmers

    We learned our little man had clubfoot at our 20 week ultrasound. Since that point in time it felt like we had embarked on an emotional roller coaster. You can read more about our journey through our first year here.

    But at our second year checkup, our Dr. confirmed that my son’s feet were in great shape and he was on track for only about another year to year and a half of wearing his bar. Woo hoo!

    How is the Second Year Different from the First Year?

    So how is the second year really different from the first year?

    In all honesty, it’s not that different! The second year is all about maintenance and patience. You have gotten through the hard parts of casting, surgery, and full-time bar wear during your first year. Everything is now second nature and you won’t even think twice about the routines you’ve set up to put the bar on.

    clubfoot baby in dobbs bar

    During year 2, my son only had to wear his bar at night and during naps. The main thing to remember is the importance of consistency.

    2nd Year Successes

    We had some wonderful successes during our second year.

    My son really got used to his bar and even though he still doesn’t understand WHY he is wearing it, he knows he has to. He started to remind US that we needed to put it on before bed!

    Somewhere during your child’s second year (barring any unforeseen complications), your child will begin to walk and talk.

    No, wearing the bar won’t prevent your child from normal developmental milestones. It might take a little bit longer depending on your child’s balance, muscle tone, and pace of development, but it will happen!

    Remember, your child is stronger than most! They’ve been carrying around heavy casts and boots and bars for over a year. Their core strength and leg strength is heightened because of this. But every child develops differently depending on a multitude of factors. Just meet them where they’re at and support them with love and patience any chance you get.

    2nd Year Challenges

    We had a couple of challenges during our second year that made life a little bit more difficult. Not all of them were typical to clubfoot experiences, so don’t get too anxious!

    Break a Leg!

    At 15 months old, my son fell at school and fractured his leg. This meant going right back into a cast. I was absolutely devastated as I never want to have to see him in casts ever again (at least not for a very long time).

    toddler boy with broken leg in a cast

    I started freaking out because I thought this was going to cause major issues since he couldn’t wear his bar at night. Luckily, the cast kept his foot in the position it needed to be in and he could just wear the boot on his other leg.

    Breaking his leg did cause him to delay walking a bit and he didn’t start to walk until almost 19 months. But he was a trooper and is now running around like a maniac at 2 years old.

    Trip and Fall

    For some reason, whether it be his balance or something with his shoes, my little man was constantly tripping and falling. Yes, this is part of learning to walk. But it also was odd and frustrating how often he was falling for no reason that we could put our finger on.

    Eventually this resolved right before his second birthday, but not without a lot of scrapes and bruises along the way.

    Tips to Support Your Child in Their Second Year

    I know you’ll find your second year a lot easier than your first. What we noticed is that what was tedious and heart-wrenching with the casts and bar just became our normal. We knew no different! So by this time, you’ll be a pro. But here are a few tips to help you along the way.

    Patience and Love

    Patience and love is going to be your motto of the year.

    Like I mentioned, a lot happens developmentally between years 1 and 2 with any child. Your child will be no different.

    Take their lead and encourage them when you can. Don’t fall into the comparison trap…your little one WILL walk!

    Build Strength through Climbing, Playing, and More

    Support your child in reaching those milestones by building up their strength.

    Climbing, crawling, balancing, and any sort of active play is a wonderful way to build strength in the core, arms, and legs. It also improves balance, which is helpful when learning to walk.

    mom and toddler boy playing on couch

    Take advantage of your toddler’s growing energy to get active. Crawling on pillows, through play tunnels, and on and off of couches is a great way to stay strong.

    Find Appropriate Shoes

    This was probably our biggest challenge of the year.

    While I love those smushy, pudgy little feet, they sure made it difficult to find shoes that fit! Nothing was wide enough, which leads me to believe that this could be the cause of all of my son’s falling.

    After searching everywhere, we found that New Balance and Stride Rite, though expensive, had shoes in extra wide. This made it easier on us to not have to buy a size 5 shoe for width, when he was only in a 3.

    Massage Those Feet

    Wearing shoes all day and boots all night can be very restricting. Giving breaks for bare feet time is so important to improve muscle strength in the bottoms of the feet.

    I also loved to give a little extra love by massaging the bottoms of my son’s feet during his “free feet” time. Anything I could do to remove the tension from his little feet, I would!

    Toddler boy playing with a number puzzle

    Create Normalcy around the Bar

    If there’s one thing you can do to make life easier, is to make your child’s bar a part of their everyday routine.

    Luckily, your child won’t remember a time when they didn’t have the bar so that is a great first step. You may also want to try other ways to normalize the bar for them.

    Maybe you make a “faux” bar for their favorite stuffed animal. Whatever you can do to keep the struggle at bay the better. Like I said, my son won’t let us forget about it!

    See You Next Year!

    So there you have it…our second year in a nutshell. Despite some challenges, it really was a year to treasure and admire. My son made so much growth and I’m truly looking forward to what joy he will bring us next.

    Whether you are expecting a clubfoot little one or have already started your journey, I hope that this gave you some insight on how to purposefully and patiently support your toddler’s growth and development.

    Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

  • Powerful Intentional Play in Only 10 Minutes per Day

    As parents, we are constantly trying to do the best for our children. We take them for check-ups, provide nutritional food, and keep a loving and nurturing home for them. It’s not easy. In fact, it’s exhausting! Sometimes it’s all I can do to keep myself upright until it’s time to tuck my little munchkin in for bedtime. And if we’re so exhausted by trying to keep our little ones healthy and happy, when are we supposed to worry about their development? The answer is in intentional play. “Play, in all of its forms, is an essential part to a happy and healthy life” (Mraz, Porcelli, & Tyler, 2016).

    Intentional play has so many benefits for your developing child. Imagine doing something that supports your child’s social, emotional, language, academic, motor skills, and cognitive functioning development all at the same time. But Jenna, I’m so stressed and tired as it is…how am I supposed to incorporate this intentional play into my daily routine? I get it. The struggle is real! But, I can tell you that you can exponentially increase your child’s development through intention and simplicity with only 10 minutes of purposeful play per day. Let’s check it out, shall we?

    cute boy and his mother doing an intentional play session with colorful blocks

    After reading this post, you will know:

    • Why intentional play is an important piece of the development puzzle
    • The difference between independent and guided play
    • The benefits of play
    • Quick, simple steps to make play more powerful

    This post may contain affiliate links. I only recommend products that I personally use, trust, and love and think you will love too! Using these links provide me with a small commission and help support this blog, but at no extra cost to youTo learn more, read my Policies page.

    Why Intentional Play?

    Play is a significant way in which children learn to negotiate and discover the world around them. Their interactions with the toys they choose to play with help them to create meaning, negotiate difficulties, and build perseverance.

    Take my son’s wooden train set. He is not yet two years old, but he is learning about the different types of transportation through the different shapes and purposes of the vehicles. He is learning how bridges work and how something that is elevated needs to be supported or else it will fall down. Additionally, he is learning how wheels work and when a vehicle like the boat doesn’t have wheels, it doesn’t glide smoothly across the track like the train does.

    Play results in magical learning.

    The Effectiveness of Intentional Play

    We know that all children learn differently and at different rates. This is due to how children process information and what their preferred modality is for learning.

    Children learn best when they are engaged and active. It’s also helpful when children have access to learning through different modalities. This means that they can access the learning socially, visually, physically, audibly, musically, etc.

    How Intentional Play Supports Learning

    Play is one of the most engaging activities for children. They can choose what they want to play and how they want to play, allowing them to become more invested in their play and learning.

    Kids play with wooden railway. Child with toy train. Intentional play for young children. Little boy building railroad tracks on white floor at home or kindergarten. Cute kid playing cars and engine.

    Engagement creates opportunities for learning. The brain is soaking up the child’s play experience as it is happening and creating meaningful and long-lasting learning.

    The Difference Between Child Directed and Intentional Play

    Understanding the difference between these two types of play is an important distinction.

    Child Directed

    There are many different types of play that fall into this child-directed category. But, the main idea is that the child is 100% in charge of the play and is creating the rules, parameters, and understandings within their play.

    Imaginative (pretend) play, games, building blocks, and movement play are all examples of child-directed play.

    These types of play still hold tremendous benefits and learning opportunities as children negotiate and learn about the the world around them.

    Children are highly engaged in this type of play because it is on their terms, at their pace, and is of high interest to them.

    The best part?

    It supports critical thinking, gross and fine motor development, social development, and emotional development, just to name a few.

    Guided: Intentional and Purposeful

    Toddler boy playing with toy truck for intentional play session

    Guided play is a type of play where you, as the adult, sets the purpose, but allow the child to freely play within the parameters you’ve set.

    The beauty of this is that your child is still involved in play and receiving the benefits of play. However, they are also getting the added benefit of your intended purpose of the play session.

    There are two ways that you could implement intentional play. A healthy mix of both options are ideal!

    First, you could incorporate your goal into your child’s play. This means that even though you have an intention behind the play, your child still is freely playing and just using materials and your ideas to support their own play.

    An example of this would be if you were to expose your child to letters in the alphabet. You might have some magnetic letters or bathtub letters for your child to explore and add them into their play. They may put these letters in their construction trucks and bring them to the construction site or put them inside of the castle they are building.

    The other way you can make play intentional is by leading the way that the play happens.

    So, this might mean that you want your child to distinguish letters from numbers. You could have them dig through the bathtub letters and numbers in a sandbox and sort them as they pull them out.

    In both situations, play is involved, but the amount of guidance changes.

    Benefits of Intentional Play

    There are many benefits to intentional play that support your child’s overall development. Check them out here!

    Boosts Learning and Brain Power

    Because intentional play is still engaging, it can increase your child’s learning potential. When your child is engaged, they are able to attend to whatever task you have placed in front of them, allowing them to commit this task to memory.

    Because they are engaged and enjoying themselves, they will want to do tasks like this more often. This repetition will support their learning and growth as they develop.

    cute boy and his mother doing an intentional play session with colorful blocks

    Boosts Creativity and Imagination

    Intentional play also boosts creativity and imagination. When you are incorporating items that don’t belong in a specific category into your child’s play, they have to find a way to make sense of it.

    They know they wouldn’t see bathtub letters at a construction site in real life, but they use their imagination to create a scenario where this makes sense!

    They are creating the rules!

    Steps to Creating 10 Minutes of Intentional Play Every Day

    So you want to try to create some POWERFUL learning experiences for your child in only 10 minutes per day? Here’s what you need to do to:

    Step 1: Decide Your Focus

    What do you want your child to learn? Maybe it is a letter in the alphabet. Or maybe it is that pull back cars go faster on certain surfaces (a little lesson in physics!). Maybe you want your child to understand how certain objects sink or float in water.

    Whatever it is, you first need to decide.

    For my example, I will choose identifying a letter in the alphabet because that is my jam. Let’s say I want to my little munchkin to be able to recognize the letter s.

    Step 2: Strategically Set Up Play Area

    The next step is to ensure that your play area is conducive to your goal. Think about what materials you need for your child to understand what you want them to.

    Where is the best place to do your activity? What do you need? How will your child participate?

    Maybe you have a bunch of different pull-back cars and you want to play with them on tile, hard wood, and carpet to see where the car moves fastest.

    Maybe you want to fill up a baby pool outside and gather different waterproof objects to play with in the pool under close supervision.

    For my example, I know how much my son loves sticky walls. I want him to be able to distinguish and name the letter S from other letters. So I will have a part of the sticky wall for S and one for all other letters. I will also have a bunch of cards that have different letters on them.

    Step 3: Observe and Guide on the Side

    Now for the fun part!

    Sit back and watch your child interact with the play-land that you’ve created.

    While you’re observing, notice if your child is achieving your goal for playtime. Can they understand what you want them to understand?

    Are they noticing how the pull-back cars move at different speeds on different surfaces?

    Are they seeing how a spoon sinks to the bottom of the kiddie pool, but an apple floats?

    In my example, is my munchkin able to identify the letter s from all of the other letters?

    This is where the magic happens. This play is not as powerful if you’re not there talking your child through it. You need to say what you’re observing, and don’t be afraid to use big words!

    Tell your child that there is more friction on the carpet and that’s why the car is moving slower.

    Your job is to guide on the side and narrate the play. The more language, the better!

    Step 4: Reflect

    Now it’s time to take a step back and reflect on your intentional play.

    Was your child engaged? Were they able to accomplish what you wanted them to?

    This is where you think about what went well and what you can change for next time. Tweaking your approach to meet your child’s needs is a powerful way to make the most out of play. You have to experiment to find what works and what doesn’t. But the most important thing is that you’re taking action and trying!

    10 Powerful Minutes

    So there you have it! My few steps to create an intentional play experience that will supercharge your child’s learning in 10 minutes. When you tack on a goal and set some parameters around play, magical things can happen.

    You can exponentially increase your child’s development through intention and simplicity with only 10 minutes of purposeful play per day. So even the busiest and most tired mamas can take advantage of this simple approach.

    If you’re really looking to maximize results in minimal time, you definitely need to check out my FREE Ages & Stages Read Aloud Guide. This guide will take you from simply picking up a book and reading it TO your child to reading WITH your child and making magic happen. The simple, actionable tips are easy to follow and all you need is a book! Download now for FREE!