A Toddler Summer Book to Build Language: At the Beach

A Toddler Summer Book to Build Language: At the Beach

Since I was a little girl every summer, my family and I vacationed at the Jersey shore. Now that my daughter is almost 2 years old, I have been particularly excited to bring her to the beach so she can experience the magic and wonder of the seashore.

Kerri looking at the ocean

Kerri looking at the ocean

For the past few weeks leading up to our weekend trips to the shore, I have been reading her this charming 24 page paperback book:

At the Beach" >
A toddler summer book to build language: at the beach

A toddler summer book to build language: at the beach

Yes, a paperback book! Unfortunately, this book is NOT available as a board book although a hardcover version has recently been released. I often recommend board books for little ones, especially if they’re turning pages and “reading” to themselves. However, when I read this book to my daughter I usually read it before her nap or bedtime, so I’m the one turning the pages and handling the book. At least for now, this paperback has NOT been destroyed by my precious one’s curious little fingers. Keep that in mind if you choose to buy this wonderful book.

Kerri enjoyed having At the Beach read to her, but she was pretty quiet during our first few reading sessions. Every once in a while she would point to the birds (seagulls and sandpipers) and say “birds” but that was pretty much it. Despite this, she always wanted me to read it multiple times and often requested it before going to sleep. I wondered how much she really understood or took away from our readings of At the Beach, because she didn’t yet have any firsthand experience with many of the things in the book (seaweed, lifeguards, waves, sandcastles, seashells, etc.). Yet, she was obviously fascinated because she would look at illustrations with great interest and ask, “What dat?" (for what's that?). Nevertheless, I kept reading and re-reading this book day in and day out.

About two weeks ago, we made our first trip to the Jersey shore. I made sure to connect everything we talked and read about from At the Beach to what she experienced firsthand.

What do you think happened? She said two new words “beach” and “waves”.

That night after having a wonderful day at the beach, she even repeated those words during our book reading and became really excited when she realized that we’d done some of the same activities that were in At the Beach!

This week we spent a few more days down the shore and now she’s saying even more words related to At the Beach, such as “boat”, “pour”, “dump it”, and “peach”.

A peach at the beach

A peach at the beach

Interestingly, for several weeks leading up to Memorial Day, I was searching high and low for a summer collection of toddler level beach books that I could read to my daughter and clients. There are many wonderful summer books (concept ones and narratives) for preschoolers, but I struggled to find ones that were cute and appropriate for toddlers. At the Beach fit the bill. Am I claiming that it will get your toddler talking? No, of course not. But I want to stress the following two points when it comes to book reading with your toddler:

  1. Read and re-read the same books. Research shows that toddlers and preschoolers learn new words faster when the same books are repeatedly read to them. If your toddler likes a book and wants you to re-read it, then do it. With each re-read your child’s understanding is growing. He or she is also picking up on something different each time. Ever re-watch a movie or TV show and realize that you missed something the first time you saw it?

  2. Children learn via first-hand experience. Experiencing the ocean and reading about the ocean are two separate things. Kerri may have been so intrigued with the beach and the waves (hence wanting to say them) because she saw and felt them first-hand. She was pulled by the undertow, gently and not so gently pushed by the waves and sprayed by the shore break. Reading about the ocean (or learning about other concepts such as fast vs slow, rough vs smooth) cannot be learned by reading about it. BUT – and this is important - books can introduce and reinforce certain concepts and help children to relive past events and replay precious memories. How often do Kerri and I read At the Beach only to have her pretend to bite into a peach, shout “beach” with excitement and talk about her beach related experiences?

quote at the beach

quote at the beach

If the beach is not accessible for you or if you don’t like the beach, ponder this:

  • What is accessible to you and your child?

    • A sprinkler, a pool, a lake…

    • How can that special experience or shared activity create memories that can be relived and talked about?

    • Once you find a shared interest or family activity, find a book (or create one with photos!) that can compliment the experience.

What are your summer plans? How can you prepare your child for his or her summer trip or vacation by repeatedly reading a relevant book and making connections?

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