40+ Ideas to Engage Children During Read Alouds

40+ Ideas to Engage Children During Read Alouds


Reading aloud is the foundation of our homeschooling. We began reading aloud to our children consistently during the toddler years. As they grew and books got a bit longer – requiring more attention and sitting still for longer periods – it became increasingly difficult to keep their attention as I read aloud and they took turns narrating.

Some of our most valuable “supplies” in our homeschool aren’t what you would expect; they are materials and toys that lend themselves to quiet activities and keep hands busy and minds engaged while I read aloud. 

The key is finding something quiet that doesn’t require too much concentration and won’t tempt your child with imaginative play. For example, anything with small animals or people doesn’t work for us because my children end up getting distracted by creating little “worlds” with their toys. 

ideas for reading to toddlers

You want to find the right activities that are engaging, quiet, and easy for your child to do (so they aren’t interrupting you or asking for your help every few minutes). I often ask my child if the activity is helpful in their listening or distracting. I try to encourage them to be self-aware of this and give them ownership of that choice. 

Many of these activities can be spread out on the living room floor. Others are best suited for the table with a tray with high sides to contain the mess.

Here are 40+ ideas for you to try with your children. Not all will work for every child, but something from this list is bound to! 

40+ activities for children during read-alouds

Snacks and meals

help toddlers during read aloud

This is my top recommendation. Every homeschool day we do our Bible lessons over breakfast and our read-aloud during lunch. Often we do another read-aloud with an afternoon snack.

Related: Narration in the Early Stages and How to Teach a Child to Read

Building toys

ideas to encourage toddlers during reading

  • Legos - We love both Duplo and classic Legos
  • Plus Plus - These are amazing for fine motor skills, but I do recommend getting quite a few to allow for more creativity. 
  • Magna-Tiles - These are the most played-with toys in our home!
  • Brain Flakes - It’s amazing what the kids can come up with using these.
  • Wooden Blocks - The crashing can be loud, but other than that, these are perfect for building during stories.
  • Playstix - These are newer to us, but are a lot of fun!

Sensory play

  • Kinetic Sand - Try adding spoons and little pebbles in for more play.
  • Non-Drying Modeling Clay - My kids love to sculpt characters from the book I am reading!
  • Wax Sticks - These are a great activity to use alongside clay for unique creations.
  • Play-Doh - All ages love play dough, especially with some fun accessories.

Puzzles, games, and more

  • Puzzles - Try keeping one on a large board and tucking it under your couch between readings.
  • Pattern Blocks - We especially like using them with these sheets.
  • Etch A Sketch - This one is a huge hit with my older children.
  • MagnaDoodle - The younger children really enjoy this one.
  • Rubik's Cube - Our 10-year-old has been working on mastering this!
  • Geoboard - Don’t forget the rubberbands! These are fun to make shapes and designs.
  • Dot to Dot Books - I like to keep a few books like this around, even my older kids get into them.
  • Seek & Find Books - These are so great if your child can still listen to the story while they hunt.

Related: Best Educational Board and Card Games for Kids and Families

Arts and crafts

toddler ideas arts and crafts

  • Stencils - There are so many fun stencils out there. Try some colored pencils or thin-line markers
  • Spirograph - Our daughter is crazy about this right now! This is also something you may be able to borrow from your local library.
  • Drawing and sketching - Encourage them to draw what you are reading about or anything at all!
  • Whiteboard drawing - My young ones especially love drawing and erasing as they listen.
  • Coloring - Adult coloring books have been a big hit with my older children.
  • Tracing - We love tracing paper and thin-line pens. They especially enjoy tracing illustrations from books.
  • Cutting - My kids love to make snowflakes or simply cut small pieces of paper and glue together a collage.
  • Perler Beads - Allow them to make a few creations and iron them after read-aloud time.
  • Scratch Art Doodle Pad - These are so fun, but they do make a little bit of a mess. 
  • Lacing and jewelry making - Try pipe cleaners and pony beads for young ones and string or elastic with any kind of beads for older children.
  • Rainbow Loom - Girls especially love this!
  • Paint by Number - They could work on this for many days as you work through a good book.
  • Origami - We like getting a big pack of origami paper and an instruction book like this.

Related: My Favorite Homeschool Supplies by Subject and Open-Ended Play Must-Haves


  • Hopper Ball - If your child can stay nearby and quietly hop while you read, this is perfect!
  • Swing - Take your story outside and allow your child to swing while you read.
  • Small trampoline - Sit by the trampoline while they bounce some energy out.
  • Balance board - We love this wooden balance board. They can stand and rock while you read.
  • Hammock - Try laying and gently swinging together in a hammock while you read aloud.


  • KnittingTry finger knitting or knitting with needles. This is great for winter.
  • Crocheting - After some initial basic instruction, crocheting can keep hands busy while you read aloud.
  • Embroidery - This is such fun, especially for older children.
  • Latch Hook - This is a great introduction to handcrafts and is perfect for ages 6+.
  • Leather Crafts - Check out different leather crafting kits.
  • Model Kits - Wooden cars, planes, and boats are fun to work on while listening to stories.
  • Loom Beading - This is a great project for girls and easy once you get the hang of it.
  • Polymer Clay - Kids can make a ton of figures and animals and you can harden them in the oven after you finish your reading time.

View my complete list of items on our Amazon storefront. If you have any activities or tips that help make reading fun for your toddler, please share them in the comments below. I'd love to hear!

Looking for books to add to your read-alouds? Download our free Abundant Autumn book list!





I’ll be beginning my homeschooling journey this coming fall. Thank you for the list of activities children can be doing during read alouds. This is soo helpful!

Treehouse Schoolhouse

Hi Molly, I pull a few options for them! The other items are put away and we will rotate them.

Molly Bonow

Logistically, do you give them options each day or do you pull a few options for them? This is a great list but I assume you don’t have them all on your table before you start?! :) or, do you kids pick their own?

Treehouse Schoolhouse

Hi Andrea, we do a variety of long readings and short stories!


Love all the ideas you shared here. I didn’t think of this before, giving them something to do while doing aloud reading. I will definitely have to try this with my daughter. Do you do long readings or short stories as well? I am doing short readings from my own stories https://cozyanddreamy.com/ but if I can manage to keep her entertained longer with some of your ideas then I might start writing some longer versions.

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