Board Books to Promote Bonding
I’ve been reviewing quite a few board books lately, and I’m back with another round for the littles. These playful books are especially suited for infants, and bigger babies who aren’t quite toddlers yet.
[Disclosure of Material Connections: I received complimentary Baby Gym books from Timberdoodle in exchange for writing and publishing this post. All opinions — and photographs! ;) — are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.]
Timberdoodle includes the Baby Gym series — Touch & Tickle and Bounce & Jiggle — in the Tiny Tots kit, which is designed for the very littlest learners ages 0 to 2. (Of course, the books are available for purchase separately as well.)
Baby Gym books are so cute. Each two-page spread contains a rhyming poem, song or chant — and corresponding motions. The movements are what make these books super special!
Baby Gym books incorporate motion and sensory input into storytime
The activities in Baby Gym remind me of traditional finger-play activities often used in preschool and kindergarten, except they’ve been heavily modified for much younger children. Rather than hand motions, these are baby motions! On each line of the rhyme, instructions directly guide the adult reader through gentle activities which bring the rhyme to life, such as:
- tap baby’s feet together,
- wiggle baby from side to side, and
- move baby’s arm in circles.
Baby Gym books encourage a wholistic approach to reading to babies, and create a delightful bonding experience.
Unlike many board books which are designed to appeal directly to a tiny audience, Baby Gym is targeted instead to the adult reader. While the adult reads, the baby’s attention will be on the adult and the adult’s interactions with them, rather than on the pages of the book itself. This makes Baby Gym very unique, and I suspect it was a large part of why Timberdoodle chose to include these two books in their Tiny Tots (birth to age two) kit, which is chock full of homeschool ideas for kids too young for preschool.
Timberdoodle’s colorful homeschool kits are uniquely hands-on: Timberdoodle integrates learning games, toys, and other experiential educational resources into the curriculum.
Both titles in the Baby Gym set are produced by Child’s Play International and illustrated by artist Sonja Rešček (side note: she’s from Zagreb, which I find so cool!)
Touch & Tickle contains five nursery rhymes which are not original, but collected and compiled for the book:
- Two Little Eyes
- Round and Round the Garden
- Criss-Cross Apple Sauce
- Slowly, Slowly, Very Slowly, and
- Shoe a Little Horse.
Bounce & Giggle contains five more nursery rhymes:
- This is the Way the Ladies Ride
- Humpty Dumpty
- Horsey, Horsey
- Here We Go Looby Lou
- Father and Mother
Along with the instructions for the motions, the bottom of each page also includes additional tips for bonding and engagement. Baby Gym makes reading a whole-body experience.
What ages are best for the Baby Gym books?
The products in Timberdoodle’s Tiny Tots kit have been especially chosen for ages 0-2, and each item in the kit is classified as either “infant” or “toddler”. The Baby Gym books fall under the “infant” category, and I agree that this is accurate.
While the books could be adapted for an older preschooler who is not especially mobile, the illustrations definitely depict lap infants or infants enjoying tummy time. (My three-year-old was very quick to point out the book was about babies.)
More relevantly, the activities, too, assume a young baby. Humpty Dumpty, for instance, asks the parent reader to “Hold baby on raised knees facing you, slide baby down onto your stomach, and tickle the baby all over.” While it also suggests “the rhyme can also be played with baby sitting on lap”, my three-year-old is simply too large for us to comfortably complete many of the activities. This may be, though, because he’s in the 90th percentile and is just physically a very large kid. (Here’s a recent picture of us I posted on Instagram.)
Even though this giant toddler has long outgrown tummy time, he does very much enjoy pouring over the illustrations in these books, laughing “Cute babies tickle, book funny!” I love the illustrations as well; they’re wonderfully inclusive. The Baby Gym books depict
- parents and children with various skin tones,
- a parent in a wheelchair, and
- babies with hearing aids.
You’d benefit most from Baby Gym if you…
- …want to offer eager older siblings a directed activity to do with the baby, or
- …are a brand-new mom, or
- …are a teenager who babysits infants, or
- …run childcare or baby storytime in a homeschool co-op or church nursery, or
- …want to structure your days with intentional play, or
- …are a mom who struggles to know how to “play” or connect with her baby.
I hear from so many moms for whom playing just doesn’t come naturally. If that’s you, you’re not alone. It can be hard to connect to a “stranger”, as Dickens’ Mrs. Micawber described her infant in David Copperfield, especially if you’ve had a traumatic birth or are experiencing post-partum depression. Books like Baby Gym aren’t the solution, of course, but they can help.
And honestly, sometimes the days are just long, long, long. Especially if your eldest kids aren’t very old yet, it’s easy to run out of good ideas for interactive screen-free engagement.
Structured play — like the guided activities in Baby Gym — can be great way to break out of the rut and bond with your little one.
Learn more about Baby Gym on the Timberdoodle website, and browse
- the Tiny Tots kit for Christmas gift ideas for infants and toddlers ages 0-2
- the Preschool kit for fun Christmas gift ideas for preschoolers ages 2-3,
- the Pre-kindergarten kit for Christmas gift ideas for pre-kindergartners ages 3-4.
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