Kids Corner: Introducing Chapter Books to your 3-4 year old

July 23, 2014 kids 1

Welcome to the second post in our new feature: Kids Corner!

Here at Tea in the Treetops, we’re big fantasy and fairy tale fans. With a few of us having small children now, we’ve begun to look around for ways to introduce them to the joys of the fantasy worlds we love.

Today, I’m going to discuss introducing your child to chapter books and provide a few suggestions for good books to begin with.

This is something I’ve only recently started to enjoy with my 3.5 year old daughter so if there is anything useful I’ve missed please tell me in the comments. I’ve also started a listopia on Goodreads for this which you can find here so please add any other tried and true favourites you have!

So before I suggest some good books there are a few things to consider before tackling a chapter book with your 3-4 year old.

Does your toddler love story time?

We have always done books as part of our bedtime routine however we also read throughout the day whenever the mood strikes.  Caitlin my 3 year old loves me reading to her and will often try to negotiate more than 2 or 3 books in sitting.  Through conversations I’ve had with other mums not all kids are that keen on books.  Many will sit through a book or 2 before bedtime but more out of habit than enjoyment.

Can you child sit still for a reasonable length of time?

I think this one is fairly obvious – if you child can’t sit (reasonably) still for a simple picture book then there is a good chance that they will struggle with a chapter book! Obviously all toddlers are fairly twitchy wriggly creatures but if they are wandering off and unable to pay attention to picture books then its probably worth waiting until they are older to try a lengthier book that doesn’t contain images.

Has your child entered the world of toddler imagination play?

Imagination play is both a developmental leap and a personality thing.  Generally somewhere between ages 3-4 your toddler will start carrying on long verbal role-play’s both during solo play and while playing with friends.  Some kids are more engrossed in this type of play than others – girls especially seem to thrive on imagination and role playing at this age.  Caitlin has various themes she currently loves to role-play which include, mummy/baby care, witches, super heroes, fire fighters, ghosts and being a doggy.

I believe that kids with a strong sense of imagination will probably settle into this new style of reading fairly well as its really an extension of this type of play.

If your child ticks all the above boxes then I think it’s worth giving it a go! Here are a few tips that have worked out well for me:

Read a chapter or two as part of your bedtime routine. 

The good thing about doing it before bed is that they are (hopefully) already fairly tired and more likely to lie down and listen to the story.  I love that each night Caitlin falls asleep curled up next to me while I read to her.

Consider reading on your phone or Kindle.

I know this one will get a lot of looks of horror and I agree I think there is something extra special about real books. However by reading on your phone or Kindle you can have the lights out meaning less distractions and more chance your child will get super sleepy.

Make Use of Amazon’s Sample Chapters Not sure whether a book will be interesting for your child? The beauty of reading on the Kindle is that you can download a sample chapter first.  If they are enjoying the story you can then purchase it which will save you money in the long term and you don’t have to worry about purchasing books that never get read!

And here are a few books that you might like to get started with.  The language and stories contained are both engaging and simple which is the perfect combination for a toddler!  Enjoy 🙂

the enchanted wood The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton (Book 1 of the Faraway Tree Series)Joe, Beth and Franny move to the country and find an Enchanted Wood right on their doorstep. In the magic Faraway Tree live the magical characters that soon become their new friends – Moon-Face, Silky the fairy, and Saucepan Man. Together they visit the strange lands (the Roundabout Land, the Land of Ice and Snow, Toyland and the Land of Take What You Want) atop the tree and have the most exciting adventures – and narrow escapes.
dinosaurs before dark Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne (Book 1 of the Magic Tree House Series)Jack and Annie are ready for their next fantasy adventure in the bestselling middle-grade series—the Magic Tree House!

Where did the tree house come from?

Before Jack and Annie can find out, the mysterious tree house whisks them to the prehistoric past. Now they have to figure out how to get home. Can they do it before dark . . . or will they become a dinosaur’s dinner?

the tale of deasperaux The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamilloThis is the story of Desperaux Tilling, a mouse in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl with a simple, impossible wish. These characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and ultimately, into each other’s lives.

And what happens then?

Listeners, it is your destiny to find out.

james and the giant peach James and the Giant Peach by Roald DahlWhen James accidentally drops some magic crystals by the old peach tree, strange things start to happen. The peach at the top of the tree begins to grow, and before long it’s as big as a house. When James discovers a secret entranceway into the fruit and crawls inside, he meets wonderful new friends–the Old-Green-Grasshopper, the dainty Ladybug, and the Centipede of the multiple boots.

After years of feeling like an outsider in his aunts’ house, James finally found a place where he belongs. With a snip of the stem, the peach household starts rolling away–and the adventure begins!

a bear called paddington A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond (Book 1 of the Paddington Bear Series)Mr. and Mrs. Brown first met Paddington, a most endearing bear from Darkest Peruon a railway platform in London. A sign hanging around his neck said, “Please look after this bear. Thank you” So that is just what they did.From the very first night when he attempted his first bath and ended up nearly flooding the house, Paddington was seldom far from imminent disaster.

Jonathan and Judy were delighted with this havoc and even Mr. and Mrs. Brown had to admit that life seemed to be more filled with adventure when there was a bear in the house.


Email | Goodreads | | Twitter | Instagram Philippa lives in Brisbane, Australia with her partner and two daughters. She is an avid reader and reviewer of Young Adult literature as well as being a student midwife, closet geek, procrastibaker and coffee addict.

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