We all know that reading is one of the essential factors in helping children thrive. People much smarter than I am tell me that reading with your child just 20 minutes a day promotes parent-child bonding and builds early literacy skills. Now I adore getting cozy with my little one and a book, but sometimes I have to get dinner on the table. It’s so important that your kiddo learns to enjoy books by himself as well as with mama. What better age to start this habit than in the “I do it myself!” stage of toddlerhood! I created a reading space in Little J’s room, and he loves it! I’ll often find him “reading” his books (sometimes upside-down, of course) while I clean or cook. Teaching young kids to enjoy books independently not only frees up your time a bit, but also gives them a sense of accomplishment!

Create an invitation for independent reading for your little one! Check out my five essentials for a toddler reading space.

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1. Lots of (Natural) Light

Light plays such an important role in the way our brains work. Did you know that natural light can affect your toddlers mood, improve concentration, and reduce eyestrain? A more focused and happy toddler? Sign me up! “Many fluorescent lights are concentrated in the yellow-green portion of the spectrum to obtain the most lumens per watt; this unbalanced, narrow spectrum limits the blue in the source, which leads to improper functioning of the eye.Therefore, the superior spectral content of natural light makes it the best light for the eye.” (source: get your nerd fix here) For your toddler’s reading nook, this is simple. Look for a window, a spot on the porch, or somewhere with ample daylight!

2. Bundles of Books

You’re creating the perfect reading space for your little one, so don’t neglect the books! Books should be both physically and developmentally accessible. Place books low enough so your kiddo can reach them without risking pulling anything off onto his head. I love the simple pallet bookshelf I made. I hung it in that wasted space below the window, and it looks perfect! I like that the books are displayed with covers facing out, so Little J can see his options and (occasionally) not pull every book off at once. Your toddler’s books should also be developmentally accessible. Offering books that are too advanced will only frustrate your little one. Pick books with quality illustrations, hardy construction, and engaging text relevant to his age. Yes, you can- and should!- challenge your tiny reader with higher level books now and then. But at this stage, your goal is to just foster a pure, unadulterated love of books. Check out a few of our favorite train books here!

3. Billows of Pillows

Picture yourself the last time you got lost up in your favorite novel. Chances are, you cuddled up with a few pillows to make yourself comfortable. It’s easy to forget that reading for kids can be a full-body experience. Engage all their senses and fulfill your kiddos tactile desires for comfort by offering a few (or more!) pillows. Children love reading with parents because they feel safe and warm. As you encourage independent reading time for your toddler, it’s important to recreate that loving environment. Little J’s reading space has an enormous stuffed puppy he received for Christmas last year. He loves cuddling up with his puppy as he reads.

4. A Pint-Sized Chair

Along with a pillow, your toddler needs a chair to up the comfort level in his reading space. Another plus of a kid-sized chair is that it satisfies that independent spirit that marks toddlerhood. You won’t have to worry about your kiddo falling out of an adult sized chair. Don’t spend a lot of cash on a chair, either! I bought two plastic kids’ lawn chairs (an extra chair for cousins) for under $10. I love watching Little J sit in his chair. I can tell he is just so proud of flipping through a book by himself, plus it always makes a sweet photo-op!

5. A Safe Environment

Of course, the most important essential of a toddler reading space is safety! Since you’re encouraging independent reading you’ll need to find a spot where you can toddler-proof everything. Little J’s reading space is in his bedroom. I took all the regular safety steps (outlet covers, etc.) Plus, I set up my monitor so I can watch him from the kitchen. Since you’re probably creating a reading space beside a window, make sure all blinds and cords are pulled up out of reach. You’ll be worry-free as your little one reads.

Creating a reading space for your toddler is so easy! Remember that to encourage independent reading you need to do just that. Encourage. When I go to get Little J after he has read for a few minutes, I always make a HUGE deal about how impressed I am. Toddlers are independent creatures by nature. It may take a few tries, but I promise you can teach your child how to enjoy books on his own with the help of a perfect little reading nook!

Share with me! What essentials do you have in your toddler reading space?