5 Kinds of Books We Pack for Waiting Rooms & Restaurants

I’ve shared in the past a bit of the impact Hands Free Mama has had on me as I think about the literacy rich environment I want to create for my family. Today as I packed the diaper bag for a double well visit with the pediatrician (love those back to back appointments!), I got to thinking about how I could make use of our anticipated wait time for literacy. In Hands Free Mama, Stafford describes a long wait at a specialist’s office as a time of connection with her kids: “After all, when you’re waiting, there’s nothing you really have to do; there’s nowhere else to go. So why not be– really be– with the loved one sitting next to you?” (59). She goes on to describe how their time in the waiting room became a gift, describing the activities & connection they enjoyed during an otherwise grueling time of forced patience.

This shifted my perspective from “preparedness packing” to selecting a few special books that we could look forward to pulling out during our wait. I’m not sure that packing a book is a novel idea (no pun intended), although it does seem rare to spot someone reading “in the wild.” Here are some of the types of books we pack in anticipation of downtime– restaurants, running errands, doctor visits, even stopping at the gas station.5 kinds of books for waiting rooms1. Visual Puzzles

We packed Have You Seen My Dragon? and Where’s the Pair? because they are like a game while also providing lots to look at, inviting readers to linger on each page. Have You Seen My Dragon? works on several levels: it’s a counting book, and we spent time on each page counting the featured items. It’s also a “seek and find” book, as the title suggests.  Have You Seen My Monster? takes the same format but rather than a counting book, it teaches shapes. Have You Seen My Dragon

Where’s the Pair? has intricate “seek and find” puzzles on each page– and to be honest, it stumped my husband and I SEVERAL times. As the title says, the reader is challenged to find the matching items, but for Preschool Bookworm, we spent a lot of time talking about the various animals in the illustrations, comparing & contrasting, finding colors, counting scarves & polka dots. At 3 years old, he’s on the younger end for this book, which I think can be enjoyed up through elementary school. Also look for The Odd One Out, by the same author.

Where's the Pair

2. Wordless Books

Wordless books are great for filling time with literacy related fun! The illustrations in wordless books are detailed and vivid, because they do not have words but must tell the entire story through the images. This equates to lots to talk about!  These books encourage readers to make the language for what they see in the images, and spark language rich conversations between adult & child readers. Some of our favorites are Flotsam, The Lion & the Mouse, and Where’s Walrus? (You can read more about how we enjoy wordless books at various ages here, in my feature of a classic wordless book.)

Entertaining the Baby/Toddler

Baby Bookworm’s attention span is short, so I packed books with him in mind, and that would double for Preschool Bookworm:

3. Favorite Books: I selected his favorite books, sure to catch his interest (we were even able to distract him from tearing apart the entire roll of paper covering the exam table with Go! Go! Go! Stop!).

4. Word Books: I also chose First 100 Words and it succeeded in holding his interest for an extended time. He loves the photography, and points to his favorite pictures, asking for us to name each object. This book was great at having the two boys interact together, as Preschool Bookworm delights to help Baby Bookworm develop his vocabulary. Win-Win!

5. Interactive Books: Both bookworms also love Is There a Dog In This Book? (third in a series) because it has oodles of flaps to lift, in addition to being a FUN read aloud, similar in plot to There’s a Monster At the End of This Book (read why we love that classic book here). We often pack “peekaboo” books like Eyes, Nose, Toes, Peekaboo which keep Baby Bookworm entertained nicely, too.

Bonus Idea: 


The variety offered in magazines is nice for filling in smaller gaps of time, and they’re oh-so easy to tuck away in your bag. We enjoy the Highlights magazines (High Five is our current subscription for my 3 year old). Libraries usually have a nice magazine collection that you can borrow, with tons of back issues to keep you busy.

What ideas would you add to infuse literacy into the mundane task of waiting?

The titles mentioned in this post should be readily available at your local library, or at the Amazon affiliate links provided. 

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