Q&A: HOW Do You Read Aloud with Little Kids Around?

Q&A: HOW Do You Read Aloud with Little Kids Around? // jessconnell.com

This question came in response to the article where I shared that on school mornings, we read aloud for about an hour/hour and a half.

Q: “how do you keep the littles occupied during that 1.5 hr reading time? Are they sitting right there, if so, doing what? How do you keep their attention. Also what about interruptions like trips to potty, diaper changes, etc”

A: Baby is (typically) right here in the room with us, playing with toys in a pack and play. Big kids will sometimes get him out or let him crawl on the couch next to them while we keep reading. If he’s fussy or teething or just needs snuggles, I’ll strap him to my chest in a front carrier and we’ll snuggle while I have my hands free to hold open the book and read.

We basically make reading the top priority and so everything else serves that. We just muddle through with Luke however we need to. Sometimes he’ll have a morning snack, and so be in the high chair about 10 feet away looking at us while we keep reading, but more often lately he has laid down around 10:30 or so.

The (now) 3yo used to go over a room away (where I can still see him but where the noise was diminished) and play at a car table with cars and trucks… OR Duplos or Magformers. We had those 3 toy sets in that one room. Lately, though, he’s preferred to go get a quiet toy set and bring it and play in the floor near us while I read aloud. He knows he has to be quiet, and he does a fairly good job.

Those “quiet toys” are:

  • pattern blocks + the pattern block design book
  • a big bucket of various Mr. Potato Heads & parts
  • a box with various small Melissa & Doug puzzles
  • a box that has shoelaces, wooden beads, and lacing cards in it
  • colorbooks + colors
  • Magformers
  • This neat matching game
  • a magnetic car body game (similar to their magnetic doll sets) put out by Melissa & Doug that they don’t sell anymore
  • a bag of board books
  • Kapla blocks

The 5yo is probably the biggest issue and I force myself to get up and discipline him when he is out of line. He’s the one who has the most trouble focusing in on what we’re doing, so I try to keep him right near me, either working in his little “Kindergarten” workbook I bought for him or he can choose from all the offerings I listed there above.

As far as potty breaks (you mean the big kids?), they just go. We either wait/pause while they run to the potty (if it’s a quick break), or they wait until it’s a book I don’t mind them missing part of.

If It’s ME that needs to go, I tell them– “Before I get back, I want each of you to find 4 things in this room that don’t belong where they are and put them where they belong” (meaning, trash or clean up/tidy). So they have something to do while I run to the potty. (Sometimes I make the number bigger or smaller depending on the state of the living room) :) They know to hurry right back and be ready to keep going.

Diaper changes, I just do right there in front of everyone and we go on reading (I’ll sometimes hand the book to one of my big 3 kids and ask them to keep reading while I do something small like that– gives them a chance to read aloud, gives me a chance to hear them, and lets me focus on something small before returning to reading aloud).

Basically we just make reading the focus and top priority for that hour and a half or so each day.

Another reader asked:

One of my other struggles is schooling while the baby is awake. With 2 still needing a lot of my attention for school, we usually have to wait until 10 or 11 or sometimes after lunch to get started (when the baby goes down for a nap). Any advice about that?


All that said (above), we have had seasons (especially when my kids were all young– say, 8 & under) where I’ve used meals and nap time for schooling when the baby is being extra demanding. (i.e., read aloud during lunchtime while they’re eating; do lesson-type work during nap time) so I can focus in on my big kids’ education without distraction.

I don’t think it’s wrong to do it that way, and sometimes it’s necessary for a season. And it’s part of the beauty of homeschooling, that if there is a temporary need for “shift” in your daily routines, you are fully authorized to do it, and can adjust as need be, until you’re able to go back to the way you prefer for things to run.



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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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3 Responses

  1. Christy says:

    We do our reading from 9:00-10:30ish too. The 3yo just plays pretty quietly in the room with us. The older kids are allowed to draw or color quietly while I read. If there are discipline issues, I just take a break and deal with them. Same with bathroom breaks.

    We used to do our reading in the afternoon after doing book work, but I found that I’d be drowsy then and it often got pushed off. Now it’s our priority, so it’s the first thing we do.

  2. Diana says:

    This was interesting for me. We do reading time in the morning too, and I have a very hard time with the 3yo acting up. I’ve always asked him to sit down on the couch for reading time (looking at a book if he wants to, but sitting), but perhaps I should let him play quietly if he wants. I’ve always looked at it as practice for church, so I haven’t let him do that. Thanks for the great ideas!!

  1. September 12, 2016

    […] still reading aloud for the bulk of our school time. OH HOW MUCH I LOVE the effects of reading excellent books aloud, together, as a family!! Our […]

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