Making Books Accessible to Mouthing Babies

When you’re talking about books and babies, one of the things you often hear about is making books accessible to babies – putting them in places where babies can pick them up, play with them and enjoy them.

I can totally understand why this is important – it normalises books, makes them part of the everyday. It teaches important book skills, like turning pages and looking at pictures. And it makes for some pretty cute photo opportunities.

However, I have a Mouther. One of those babies who cannot pass something without trying to put it in his mouth. Recently he’s extended this to trying to lick things. To top it off, he started sprouting teeth really early – so he wasn’t just sucking on and licking things, he was gnawing, chewing and attempting to swallow things (his first official solid food? Wrapping paper)

Now, obviously this doesn’t work so well with traditional books. And while we know things could be replaced, we really wanted some books to make it through these early stages of baby-hood, so that he can enjoy them properly later. However, we still wanted to make books accessible to Squirm. So how did we do that?

Making Books Accessible for Mouthy Babies: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

1. Soft books are your best friend

We’ve got quite a nice collection of fabric books, mostly given to us as gifts. There’s a couple of Lamaze ones, a couple with squeaking things in them, a lift the flaps style one and a gorgeous fabric filled one which my mum made for Squirm for Christmas. (It’s filled with different types of fabric, letters of his name, counting and colours – she’s the best Nana!) These books are well loved, but being fabric, they’ve totally stood up to the Squirm Mouth Treatment. We complement this with a bath book which is also well loved.

The lovely soft book that Nana made

The lovely soft book that Nana made

2. A Few Cheap Board Books

We’re talking those itty, bitty board books which they sell in packs and which only have a picture and a word a page. These have been wonderful because their small size makes them easy to manipulate, and Squirm has spent a lot of time picking them up and playing with them. We’ve lost a few to epic chewing, but since they didn’t cost much and they don’t have much emotional weight (since they weren’t gifts or ‘favourites’) made it easy to toss them and move on.

Making Books Accessible for Mouthy Babies: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

3. Wooden Books

I was so surprised when I saw these! I found them in Toy World and they’re simply a few wooden ‘pages’ which are held together with a cord. They’re similar to the board books in content, but very sturdy

4. Putting these books in accessible places

We’ve got a big fabric box where we keep all the books which Squirm has complete access to. These go in the bottom of our book case where Squirm can get to them. This has helped in two ways – he knows he can always play with them, and often goes and pulls them out. Meanwhile, he tends to leave our books alone!

Making Books Accessible for Mouthy Babies: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

5. Sharing books often

We do a lot of reading to Squirm, but we also read with him. Recently he’s been spending a lot of time ‘reading’ other board books with Mr Pilot. Squirm holds the books and flips through them, and Mr Pilot reads whatever is on the page he stops on (or as much as possible until Squirm starts flipping again). Squirm has control over the book, but it’s supervised, so if the book goes near the mouth one of us is there to distract him and move on to other things.

6. Reassessing his ability as he grows

Recently we noticed that Squirm is spending less time chewing and mouthing the books we’ve provided him. Since then we’ve put a few new board books (bigger, different sizes and pictures, different text) into his book box. We’ve also had great success reading the ‘That’s Not My . . . ‘ series with him (a dear friend sent me three as a baby present and I’ve since bought some more – they’re brilliant!)  This week, I put three of the books into a basket near his toys (in a different area to his other books). These have been an absolute hit – bigger than his other toys. Every single day he’s had them opened up, flipping through them, searching the page for the different textures – and they rarely go in his mouth. It was a good reminder that Squirm’s abilities will change as he gets older, and that means reassessing how we provide materials for him too.

Making Books Accessible for Mouthy Babies: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Do you have a book-unfriendly child? What are your best tips for keeping books in their lives?



  1. We lost some beautiful cardboard books over the course of 3 chewing dribbling babies/toddlers. But I still remember those books with much affection, even if I don’t have them on hand. They mean more than the precious, never touched, books.

    1. Oh, I’m sure we’ll lose some as he gets bigger, and we do share them with him. I’d just like to make them last as long as possible – I’m not a big fan of buying the same books over and over again.

      (I’m also not a big fan of him actually eating some of them – he chews and swallows and I don’t know what inks/plastic coverings are used on the books)

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