7 Activities for Your Child to Do During Read Alouds

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My preschoolers are just getting to the ages where they are loving read alouds. They’ve always loved reading (I’m so thankful and I know that’s an undeserved gift), including sitting down to “read” their own books before they knew any sight words. They’ve also listened to me (and my husband and other family members) read to them often. But, we’ve just this year started reading aloud chapter books.

Reading aloud chapter books at a higher reading level than your kid’s current abilities helps model correct speech/reading, includes inflection changes, provides quality time, encourages vocabulary development, and more. Check out posts from Reading is Fundamental and the American Library Association for more on benefits of reading aloud to your children. If you have a child with special needs, First 5 has some tips and resources listed here.

(New to reading aloud? Check out this post from Stay At Home Educator with tips for reading aloud to your child.)

Both kids love it, but my son, who has multiple special needs, adores it. He even sits beside me to track what I’m reading sometimes.

But, I don’t expect him to sit beside me the entire time I read aloud. He’s a sensory seeker and physically needs to move to get sensory input for his nervous system to feel balanced.

So what can he do that isn’t too noisy while I read aloud?

7 Activities for Your Child to Do During Read Alouds {LibraryAdventure.com}

7 Activities for Your Child to Do While You Read Aloud at Home

This list provides just seven ideas to try. These activities are useful for kids with special needs, sensory seekers, or kids who just need to move. Moving doesn’t always prohibit listening. In fact, some kids listen better when they are doing another activity utilizing different senses.

  1. Tunnel games. A couple of years ago, my kids were given an indoor play tent with a tunnel attached. The tent itself is stored elsewhere, but the tunnel remains available for my kids to use any time. We recently incorporated new movements that the kids are loving. Read about five tunnel activities we’ve played.
  2. Bounce on a stability ball. Though you probably can’t have your kid bounce laps around the house and still listen to you read aloud, your child can bounce in place on one (with your help as needed).
  3. Fidget toys. Many companies design toys that (quietly) provide sensory input, like this one. (You can search for “kid fidget toys” on Amazon to find many ideas.)
  4. Flip through another book. My son will often sit just two or three feet away from me and flip through a book while I’m reading aloud from a different book. He might not catch every word, but I don’t expect him to, and I know he’s listening because he’ll repeat certain words or sit beside me during a really interesting part.
  5. Eat lunch or a snack. Eating provides big sensory input. And your kids are relatively still while eating. It’s a good time to read aloud!
  6. Playdough. Playdough is a sensory-filled and quiet activity. My son will often just squeeze and tear apart the playdough without concentrating on making some specific thing, so he can still listen to a read aloud.
  7. Drawing. Allow your child to draw a picture about what you’re reading or just doodle while listening. (You’ve heard that doodling can actually improve memory and concentration, right?)

The options don’t end here. Give something a try and see if it helps!

What do your kids like to do while you read aloud? Which of these activities would you like to try?

About Caroline Flory

Caroline is a wife, homeschooling momma to two undeserved blessings (one of whom has special needs), writer, picture book fanatic, decaf coffee drinker, former public school teacher, and major library advocate. In addition to writing posts on special needs here at The Library Adventure, she blogs about family, faith, and books at Under God’s Mighty Hand. (including free printables!), contributes monthly to a couple of other sites, and loves to connect on Twitter.


  1. Thank you for this post Caroline. My two boys (3 and 1) rarely sit still for story-time. Having read so much about the importance of reading to you children, I was wondering if mine were the only ones who find it hard to focus on a story. I will give these ideas a try, and let you know how we get on. Thank you again 🙂

    • I hear you, Gemma. As a former teacher, I was originally in the mindest that kids had to sit still during read alouds, too, but it’s so not true, especially if at home. Some kids literally *need* to move around, and others actually listen better if they’re doing a little something else. I have to remind myself it’s okay, too! Hope one of these ideas helps!

  2. Erin Mendiola says:

    Those are good ideas for fidgety children but since my toddler was a baby she stared intently at the pages & actually trys to read. Sometimes I just put my fingers under the words & she gives it a go then I’ll re-read the sentence or I’ll read the sentence & let her repeate the sentence while I point to each word she says.

    • That’s great, Erin! My children LOVE to do that, too. They both track the words with their fingers when they read on their own, as well as when we read picture books together. These ideas just help when I’m reading a chapter book aloud for 30 minutes or more. Thanks for reading!

  3. I LOVE the ideas on this list, will start them immediately, especially for my 4yo. That green stability ball will be an awesome idea, and i’ll pull out the tunnel. I do want to say that as a child nutritionist I will I don’t recommend pairing reading/listening with eating as eating is an activity in and of itself where children need to learn hungry/satiety skills, especially for small and school aged children.

    • Nice to meet you, Tawn! I have a health and wellness background, too! You’re right that younger children still learning those signals should focus on eating, along with kids with certain special needs that need to focus on safe eating (my son sometimes included!). Perhaps that’d be a better activity for older children who have a grasp on those skills.

  4. I love the tunnel idea! I try to keep my younger kids engaged by asking them lots of questions during the read-aloud. This seems to help them stay focused a little better. And of course, the mini-trampoline is always available 🙂

  5. I love this list! Perfect… and works with any age… even adults. My 14 and 15 year old son and daughter has to do this during read out loud times. Sometime we knit, draw or play with clay.

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