Babies Touching Books… with Bunnies

family with baby read book 2

When I first started facilitating the Books for Babies program, I was struck by the thought, “Wow, there are a lot of board books about bunnies.” And if the combination of books, babies, and bunnies rings any bells for you, there is a good chance you’re thinking of Dorothy Kunhardt’s Pat the Bunny, which has been in print since 1940 and is one of the best selling children’s books of all time.

Pat-the-BunnyPat the Bunny was actually one of the first interactive books for children. Instead of telling a story, it is more of a collection of things you can do with your toddler. You can try on mommy’s ring by putting your finger through a hole in the page, look into a mirror, flip through a smaller book inside the book, and of course, pat the bunny’s (fake) fur. This also makes it one of the first “touch and feel” books.

Fast-forward 75 years and there are a lot of touch and feel books for children, and a lot of them feature bunnies. I won’t try to explain all the bunnies, but there are good reasons why these interactive touch and feel books are so popular with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.

Bunny_book1.  Babies and toddlers are busy exploring and learning about the world around them, and many things are not as smooth as the pages of a book. The added dimension of texture in a touch and feel book helps our little ones connect what they are seeing in the book with things they have discovered around the house, or on any trips you have taken together outside the home. Babies around 4 – 6 months old are especially drawn to things they can distinguish by touch (and taste) because their vision started out quite blurry. The more things they feel, the easier it is for them to understand the difference between textures, which makes things easier to recognize by touch.

2.  Babies and toddlers find these books so engaging because they are learning to control the fine movements of their hands and fingers. This might not sound very exciting, but if you can remember the excitement of learning a musical instrument, or the satisfaction of getting better at a sport, think of how satisfying it must be to go from near-random flailing to actually willing your fingers to explore something that catches your eye.

3.  While our tiny human friends are busy exploring their environments, they have an easier time remembering and identifying things they can associate with more than one of their senses. So if you are sharing a book with your child that features an actually fuzzy bunny, they get to see the bunny, hear you talk about the bunny, and also feel how soft the bunny is.

Sensory exploration is an important part of child development. So as gimmicky as these books might appear, they offer quite a range of experiences to growing children, and even when they enter school, many kids will still gravitate towards the books that offer them something different to touch. This bias is quite strong in young children and for good reason.


Books for Babies program schedule:

hashtag: #books_for_babies

Confessions of a Baby Whisperer


What does it mean for someone to be good with babies? I have gotten that flattering feedback from families that I have worked with (and several friends and family members), and it always makes me smile and wonder a bit. It’s true that I know better than to pinch a baby when I hold them, but I don’t think that there is anything in particular about me that would make me good with babies.

Some people are surprised to find out that I don’t even have a baby of my own. I adore my nieces and nephew, but I honestly haven’t had any of them in my care for more than a few hours at a time. So, most of what I’ve learned about babies, I have learned through spending time with families in our programs and being curious.

Large-scale population studies have lead to schedules of developmental milestones for babies. And some of the most popular parenting guides break these findings down into a week-by-week, or even day-by-day, guide of what to expect. These can be helpful to get a general idea of when behaviours and physical changes are likely to first appear. However, if your baby is not developing “typically,” those resources can become a source of stress for many people. I recommend talking to your family doctor, pediatrician or a public health nurse if you have any concerns about your child’s development.

No matter how much outside research you do, or who you talk to, your baby will surprise you. Each baby is unique. If you ever meet a parent of twins (or triplets) who suggests otherwise, I would be very surprised. This can be incredibly humbling to people who have spent years working with babies in health care and child care settings, or to parents who have a number of older children.

As perplexing (and sometimes infuriating) as it can be, getting to know your baby on a person-to-person basis is one of the most valuable and rewarding things that I can imagine. And when it comes down to it, it’s that specialized knowledge that parents and caregivers get from forging a relationship with a baby that will be invaluable if any kind of outside help is needed. We can get hints of what to expect from friends, family members, and all sorts of other sources, but being good with babies, in my opinion, has more to do with having a sense of wonder and respect for these brave little creatures.

And for the record: I’ve never actually called myself a baby whisperer. If I were going to brag, I would only say that the babies who smiled at me when we met outnumber the babies who cried.

We have Books for Babies programs starting soon at various locations around Edmonton. I hope to meet you and your baby there.

Program schedule:

hashtag: #books_for_babies

Books for Babies for Dads

Among the programs that we offer across the city, in partnership with an incredible group of community agencies, there are a few Books for Babies programs that we advertise as Dads groups. I don’t want to give anyone the impression that the rest of our programs are Moms groups, or that fathers aren’t welcome at all of our programs. We see dads in all of our locations, just not all of the time. Let me paint you a picture.

Imagine you are a new father looking for programs you can attend with your baby. Maybe you see a posting online or hear from a friend about a program that you would like to try out. You clear your schedule, bundle up your baby, and take a stroll down to your local library or community centre. You come into a room with blankets spread on the floor, snack ready on a side table, families with infants all around, and not another dad in sight.

We know there are dads who wouldn’t even blink before making themselves comfortable on the blankets and striking up a conversation with the people around them. They are outgoing people who thrive in any kind of social situation, and when the program wraps up they will probably invite everyone to meet at the park next week. And they’ll bring snack!

On the other hand, we know there are lots of dads who don’t want to be the only father in the room, and won’t come back a second time if they are. It can be uncomfortable in the same way that being the only mom in a room full of dads can be uncomfortable. As facilitators we try to make our programs welcoming and comfortable for everyone, but even though all parents have something in common and can learn from one another, sometimes dads just want to talk to other dads, just like moms will sometimes jump at the chance to talk with other moms.

That is why we offer these programs – so that all dads can come and feel comfortable in the group. It is the same Books for Babies program in the same format. And just like always, you can meet other families with young children, pick up a few tips about book sharing, sing some rhymes, get free books, and if you have any questions there are lots of us there to help.

We have a program for dads starting at the beginning of November and it is already close to capacity, but if you look at our program schedule (see link below), there are already a few booked for the new year. If you are a father with a baby, I hope to see you there.

hashtag: #books_for_babies

School for Babies

I like it when 3-BLOGThe fall season signals back to school for children and adults of all ages and in all sorts of schools. And while it’s probably true that someone somewhere is making lots of money running a school for babies, I am not that guy.

I don’t want to intimidate you with frightening statistics and insist that you need my help. I’m also not about to tell you an elaborate story about how I’ve divined the secret to making your baby a genius. Those would be lies, and I want to encourage you to think very carefully if you meet anyone who tries to sell you a story like that.

The things that we discuss in Books for Babies are pretty tame by comparison, but no less amazing if you think about what babies learn and how much there is to learn about babies. Babies are born into a life they know nothing about, and you are almost perfect strangers to one another. It’s pretty incredible if you think about how well you know them, and how much they understand about their world, by the time they are only a year old.

The trick, if you want to call it that, is that almost everything babies learn, they learn through relationships with the people they care about and who care about them. This is why we can say that parents (and other family members) are children’s first and best teachers. Babies are born wanting to understand the things around them, and they learn by watching and interacting with the important people who share their life.

Everything you do with or near your baby helps them learn about the things that are most relevant to them. If books are a part of your life, babies will want to understand them and want to be part of that experience. It’s the same reason you often see babies reaching for their parents cell phones, and why so many parents have that fond memory of the brief period when their toddler loved nothing more than to vacuum the carpet.

If you’d like to chat about how book sharing can benefit you and your baby, sing rhymes, get free books, and meet other parents, then I welcome you and your baby to join us at Books for Babies, or leave a comment below.

There is more information about the program and a full schedule of upcoming groups on our website:


hashtag: #books_for_babies

Baby’s Favourite Book

(0 – 6 months)

Did you know your baby can have a favourite book? Long before they can talk or read, and even before they can turn the pages, babies will show a preference for certain books. And what they like best might surprise you.

We like all different kinds of books as adults: they might put us inside an adventure or romance, they might help us put our lawnmower back together, or maybe they help us feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. Young babies, on the other hand, they like pictures of faces.

Yep, almost as much as they like staring up into your eyes, a book with nice big photos (not drawings) of faces will hold a baby’s attention for sometimes minutes at a time. Baby can’t see very far away, so hold the book roughly 12 inches away from them while you are cuddling or playing on the floor.

The book won’t do all of the work for you. These books typically have little to nothing to read in them, and what’s written is not very exciting. So, instead of reading to your baby, play with the book and your baby, talk about the pictures, and have some goofy fun. Watch and listen for your baby’s reaction, she will tell you what she likes, and when she’s had enough.

One of my favourite books of this type is What’s On My Head!by Margaret Miller. The photos are clear and not too busy. It’s a good size for when babies begin holding things. And, it’s silly:

·      Does the baby like her hat?

·      Who wrapped this little girl up like a present?

·      Why is there a duck on that baby’s head?

This book raises a lot of questions and doesn’t offer many answers. Still, it is fun to explore with your baby for at least as long as his little attention span holds out.