Keeping a toddler occupied with a single activity is a challenge for anyone — parent or otherwise. And as easy as it is to hand them a tablet to take on that challenge, there are other ways to entertain them that are more beneficial to both them and you. If we retain one-third less information on an electronic device, just think what that does to our mini-selves whose attention spans are far shorter to begin with.

Here’s an idea: teach them the value of the written word with a little light reading. That’s all it takes. Children feel a sense of accomplishment when they learn to do new things. And you’ll have some quality time to savour at the same time.

Make it a habit.

Starting a reading ritual is a great way to make words old and new a part of your toddler’s day. If you do it at the same time, like right before bed or right after daycare/school, you’ll both have an easier time making it a part of every day. Choosing what story they want, whether from the public library or your own home library, is the first part of that ritual. You can even have a special spot to do it in. A fort you built together perhaps? (Sorry in advance for the mess if that’s the case). Any sort of consistency makes it specific to you.

Remember the classics.

Introduce them to your old favourite stories and characters. The Hungry Hungry Caterpillar shouldn’t be forgotten! That will bring out some nostalgia in you while it builds their vocabulary. Pretty fair trade-off, wouldn’t you say? Plus, your iPad will get the chance to take a break and recharge its battery.

Review it.

After you’re done reading, take a few moments to go over what you just read together. Discuss the moral of the story. Ask them who their favourite character was and why. Write it down. Going beyond just reading and actually thinking about it is a fantastic exercise that will help them learn better and more efficiently in the long run. You may even discover you were wrong about the tortoise and the hare all along.

If they really get into this, they may even want to start writing their own stories. Then you’ll have to give up your iPad time. What a shame.