Some books are funny, some books teach important social skills, some books are perfect for helping with early literacy skills, some books are more like songs when you read them… there are many reasons to read a book to a child. However, there are some books that don’t need to be read at all!
Hidden picture books or “Look and Find” or “I spy” books are some of my favorite non-reading books for little ones. Yes, there are often a few sentences written on the top of the page but who cares!? Picture books are great for learning language and INTERACTING – so, if you have a little one who doesn’t sit long for books then skip the passive listening expectation and go straight to the fun!
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Sure, you can ask your little ones to find all of the pictures listed, but that only requires them to point. How do we get them to talk?
Here are some ideas for using hidden picture books to encourage talking:
- Pretend to not be able to find the picture. Yes, the large red apple may be front and center on the page but if you pretend you can’t see it, then your child has the opportunity to help you! “Apple? apple? hmmmm…I can’t find it.” You may want to ask “Is this it?” as you point to a banana. Your child may want to tell you “no” or say “banana” or just look at you like your crazy, but either way, at least you have his attention.
- Wave to all of the people in the pictures. Of course, you are supposed to go through the given list of pictures to find, but maybe it’s fun to just wave to Elmo! Find Elmo on every page (even if he isn’t listed as a picture to find) and just enthusiastically wave “Hiiiii”. Maybe even blow him a kiss if you haven’t seen him in a long time. Blowing kisses is great for imitation and silly mouth play “mmmwah”.
- Use playdough. What? In a book? Yes. Many times these “Look and Find” books for toddlers and preschoolers have wipeable pages. Use playdough to cover the entire picture list and then just peel a section away to reveal the next picture to find. OR, allow the child to cover the hidden picture with playdough once it’s found.
- Describe the picture instead of naming it. “Ok, next let’s find something that you eat and it’s red.” You can even think aloud… “No, not a banana because that’s yellow. No, not a car because I don’t eat that….” Give your little one time to figure out you’re talking about the apple! If they just point to it, you can start the sentence but let her finish “yes, we can find the …. (apple)… next!”
- Help your little one find the hidden picture with location clues. It’s under the rock, it’s on top of the boat, it’s next to the tree, it’s at the top of the page… Once it’s been found you can announce “Hooray!” or “Tada!” or “Woot woot!” or whatever other excited sound you prefer. Exclaim it 2 or 3 times then give your child an open-eyed expectant look and see if they shout “Yippee” also!
- Make it active. Take a photo of the list of pictures to find. Print it out and cut it into cards. Place the cards on the opposite side of the room or in a Mystery Box and then he has to go to one location to find the picture of what he is supposed to search for and then run to the other side of the room to find that picture in the scene. Repeat.
- Ask “wh” questions. Just because there is a picture list, you don’t have to be limited to finding hidden pictures. I like to ask about the larger scene: “where is this?” Help your child see the whole picture and figure out if it’s in a kitchen or at a playground or at a school, etc. Offering choices might be helpful. “Maybe it’s a park or a bedroom”… hmmm. I also ask “Who wants to turn the page?” They can decide if the answer will be “me” or “you”.
- Sound play. If you have a little one, use the sound that a car or animal or person might make instead of asking questions or using long sentences. Want to find the dog? Just point to it and bark! Then think loudly while looking “hmmmmm”. When you find it, just bark again! Your little one might do the same. If you have a preschooler, think about the first letter sound of the pictures you want to find. “Let’s find something that starts with the sound “d”.
One of the most important things to remember when interacting with books is to follow your child’s interests. This may mean sitting across from her so that you can watch her eyes and only comment on the pictures that SHE is interested in. When you make a noise for the dog that she is looking at, there is a better chance she will associate the barking with the dog. She may even think it’s funny and try it herself. Even if you are making the most amazing train noises, but she is looking at the person in the car, your efforts may not fully be appreciated or replicated.
The good news is that these books come in various levels of difficulty so your toddler through school-age kids (and even adults) can join in the search. You can also find books with just about any princess, superhero, or TV show theme!
Here are some of my favorite books for finding things:
Another type of book to NOT read would be books without words (or just a few words). You get to create your own story for your child’s interest and level of understanding, use your own meaningful sounds, or let your child make up their own ideas and tell YOU…
For a book that will help you learn how to make books fun and silly and NOT read to your little one…but really help your little one with noise making and talking… I highly recommend this book:
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