How to read to kids who can’t sit still

Ever since Theo discovered crawling, he’s EVERYWHERE. He is always on the move unless he’s asleep . And because he’s so active, many friends ask how I manage to read to him daily and keep him interested in books. I thought I’ll pen my tips down and hopefully give parents who would love to read to their active child some hope.

1. Interactive books – Read books that require you to do actions such as wiggle your hips, shake, clap your hands, stomp your feet, roar like a lion! Make reading come to live by performing what’s in the book. Don’t just read word for word. Singalong books are great for kids who can’t sit still too.

2. Keep it simple – Too many words on a page and your toddler runs away. Don’t give up at this point. Shorten the stories. Or, don’t read the entire story. It could very well be a “point and see” activity such as “Look! Bear’s got a pink ball!” Say it with much excitement and your child will be interested too.

3. Know your child’s interest – Jungle animals, dinosaurs, fire engines, and so on are common themes that entertain young children. Bring them to your local library and let them pick the books they enjoy. Know what interests them and read those books aloud. 

4. Read when they are at their calmest – After a nap, before a meal, after a bath, before bedtime. Even if it’s only for 5 minutes. 

5. Just carry on reading – your child may be all over the room but he/she can still hear your voice. Continue reading aloud. 


No Matter What By Debu Gliori


Sometimes as parents we are so overwhelmed by work, housework, text messages, emails etc that we unknowingly neglect our children. In No Matter What, Debi Gliori reassures the little ones that they will always be loved. Be it when they are grumpy or scary like a crocodile, we will always love our children. 

This story of unconditional love is one which every parent should read aloud to their little ones. The illustrations are funny and the questions put across by Small are cheeky. Definitely one to make both adults and children laugh. 

My favourite line in the book is

“It’s like that with love – we may be close, we may be far, but our love still surrounds us…wherever we are.”

It’s the one sentence I’ll repeat to my boy who has extended family living away from us and I want him to know that they love him too despite the distance. 

Bear in Sunshine by Stella Blackstone

The Bear titles published by Barefoot Books is one of my favourite series. In Bear in Sunshine, bear enjoys different fun-filled activities in the various seasons. From singing in the rain to painting when it gets misty, each page opens a wide range of topics to discuss with children. 

My son LOVES balls. Anything that’s round is a ball to him. The first thing he spotted on the cover page was bear carrying a ball. Using the ball as an object of interest, I’ll ask him to point out the ball to me in the book. The bear series is fantastic for playing I-Spy with little children. There is always something to spot in these vibrantly illustrated pages. 

This is also a good book to introduce little readers to the four seasons and weather changes. It offers lots of room for discussion on what your little one might like to do on a rainy day or a windy autumn day. 

I Love You Through and Through By Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak


My son’s nickname is “Teddy” even before he was born. Therefore, we have the tendency to get clothings with bears on and books that feature bears as the main characters. He has recently learnt to be more affectionate towards his cuddly toys so I was thrilled to come across this book which features a little boy with his teddy bear.

The story is essentially very simple yet meaningful. It lets your little ones know that you love them for being them – love their top side, bottom side, fingers, toes, inside, outside  and so on. When I read it to my son, I point to the various body parts so he knows where they are. It reinforces that every little bit of them is being loved. 

Given that it’s a really short and simple book to read, young ones won’t get easily distracted and will probably enjoy sitting on your lap to let you read it through. I love the ending where you tell your little one that you loved them yesterday, love them today and will love them tomorrow too.

Listen, Listen by Phillis Gershator


Another beautifully illustrated book by Alison Jay which has an antique-feel to it, Listen, Listen lets children explore the different seasons through the sounds of birds chirping, bees buzzing, hammocks swaying in the wind and leaves rustling. 

It offers not just a story; children can play “I spy” and spot the various objects on each page. For older children, this is a great book to talk about seasonal changes and wildlife. 

I like the short rhyming sentences in the book which make it suitable even for babies who are notoriously known for their short attention span. At the same time, this is a keeper for its educational purposes. It also comes in a big, sturdy board book format – perfect for my one year old who’s still into chewing books!

Wow! Said the owl by Tim Hopgood

I try to read in Mandarin to my son as often as possible. However I’ve not had much luck in finding good Chinese books in Europe until I found Flip For Joy, an online bookstore specialising in Chinese books based in Singapore. 

We have a hardback copy of Wow! Said the Owl in Mandarin. It is one of my son’s favourite Chinese books probably because of the funny voice I make when I say “wa-o”. It is a fabulous book that introduces children to a colourful world through the eyes of an owl. The illustrations are beautiful and the simple text makes it the ideal book for very young children. 


Fun at the Opera by Susanna Goho-Quek


A beautifully illustrated book which introduces children to the dying art of Chinese opera. 

This is a story of excited siblings waiting to watch their brother perform on stage. At the theatre, the young children are invited backstage to try on the dramatic costumes and vivid make-up. Readers will be drawn into the fun story by the vibrant pictures. Little will you know that this book is well capable of teaching children about Chinese opera. 

Although it’s not stated when the story takes place, the fact that the granny and mum are out with that many children seem to suggest that this story takes place decades ago. The chaotic scenes are nothing but filled with joy and closeness to granny. A brilliantly written and illustrated book to introduce Chinese opera to children.