One of my favorite milestones is when a baby or young toddler will finally settle into my lap and let me read them a book without trying to eat it. For both of my kids, this happened around a year old, and it has become more enjoyable with every month that passes. Little ones under two won’t sit for just any book. It needs to move fast, have simple pictures, have only a line or two of text per page, and be made with thick pages that little hands can help turn. Songs and sturdy flaps or touch-and-feel additions never hurt. These are some of my son and daughter’s favorite board books from the young toddler stage and the ones I would recommend to those starting a library collection for a new baby. I had to pry many of these from my five-year-old’s room when his little sister was ready for them, so they will be loved well past the toddler stage too.
This is the first book my daughter fell in love with. We checked it out from the library twice and then bought our own copy. When she started Parent’s Day Out at 14 months they asked us to send a familiar item from home, like a lovey or blankie. She didn’t have any attachment items, not even a pacifier. The only physical object she truly was attached to was this book. So I bought a copy for her class to help ease the transition to school. We really, really love this adorable version of The Wheels on the Bus.
This flap book has a cute simple story and a repetitive rhythm that makes it easy to memorize. My five-year-old can’t read yet, but he can “read” it to his little sister from memory.
With pages that flip open to make one big picture and something soft to touch on every page, this is a perfect read for those little ones who need something to do with their hands during story time.
The whole Llama Llama series is adorable. I read this one to my daughter eight times in a row earlier this week. I’d end and she’d sign “again.” Over and over. The author Anna Dewdney passed away last year after a battle with brain cancer and one of her last wishes was that instead of a funeral, fans celebrated her life by reading to a child. There’s something especially sweet about knowing that every time I read her books, I’m in turn, honoring her dying wish.
This simple book is what you make it…and we make it really fun. The concept is how animals say goodnight with just simple statements, “Horses Nuzzle, Spiders Tickle, Sheep Snuggle, Bees Buzz…” If you nuzzle their neck with a little horsey noise, and buzz in their ear and give a light little spider-crawling tickle up their arm, you can quickly create some precious memories bonding, snuggling, and giggling with your child. (It looks like this is now out of print, but Amazon has several used copies listed for under $5, including shipping.)
True story. I took my busy little two-year-old son to a reading by the author of this famous book at the Dallas Art Museum and he was far more interested in rearranging the chairs than he was in listening to this story. I couldn’t convince him that the book and the author were the real show. My daughter loves this book though. She has to stop and give each fallen monkey a little sympathy for their owie. She likes to count the monkeys on each page too, so it’s teaching her basic math skills as we read.
Both of my sweet little ones went through a hitting stage around one and this book really helped us out of it. I have to say, I was surprised that both of them loved a book that basically reprimands their actions “Hands are not for hitting,” but it builds confidence by reminding them of all the things they are capable of doing with their hands…playing, helping, eating. We always sing The Itsy-Bitsy Spider when we see the picture of the little boy doing the hand motions. They have a whole Best Behavior series, so if hitting isn’t your child’s M.O., maybe the biting or yelling or kicking versions would be worth checking out.
This sweet book has it all: pictures of real babies and their mamas, puppies, kitties, classic Disney movie references, easy-to-turn tabbed pages. It affirms the simple truth through the pages that “I love my mama and she loves me,” connecting love with simple interactions such as singing, laughing, teaching. In few words, it speaks volumes about the love between a mama and child and helps build a trusting relationship based on the simple truth above. (It looks like this is now out of print, but Amazon has several used copies listed for under $5, including shipping.)
This classic book not only teaches about the stages of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly and the days of the week, but the board book is very interactive. Young toddlers like to poke their finger in the little hole that the caterpillar has eaten through and flip the inset smaller pages. It might be a little long for those babies closer to one, but it’s a must have in a toddler library collection.
Another classic that every toddler library should have. The cadence to this book is so soothing and the practice of saying goodnight to the things around you can be a helpful tool for toddlers needing to transition to sleepy time.
Little ones like this book because there is just one picture on each page of the same silly little baby and it teaches them about their emotions (happy, sad, silly, mad) and their body parts (fingers, toes, ears, nose…). After a long day with a tantrumming active toddler, it is a sweet reminder to you both that no amount of tears or messes changes your love for them.
Oh gosh, I could get all sentimental about this silly book. This was one of my son’s favorites. We have a video of him curled up on his daddy’s lap reading it to us with his little lispy toddler talk, “Bwue hat, gween hat, wed hat, oopths!” The silly turkey can’t seem to get his clothing on right and it provides lots of laughs while also teaching toddlers their primary colors.
This one is also by Sandra Boynton, the author of Blue Hat, Green Hat. It’s short and sweet and just silly enough to hold a toddler’s attention, but not so much to get them hyped up. It’s the perfect last book before bedtime if you slowly savor each of the last few words, “The moon is high. The sea is deep. They rock…and rock…and rock to sleep.”
Everyone needs a copy of Brown Bear, Brown Bear! With one picture in a solid color per page, it’s just right for babies learning to focus on a book. And it’s another one that will build their confidence. As they learn their animals and their colors, they’ll soon be able to read this book on their own. Older siblings can bond with baby while reading this to them as well.
I admit, this is not my personal favorite, because there are several pages without any words and I didn’t really know what to do on those pages. But I felt like I had to include it because my son and husband loved it so much. They created their own dialogue and it allowed my son to tell the story on his own and point to the things that stood out to him. It also shows that you can tell a great story without any words. It was one of the first books that my son enjoyed “reading” on his own during quiet time. So, even though I rarely reach for it, I think it’s worthy of being in a toddler’s collection.
What would you add to the list of best books for toddlers under two?
Looking for other book recommendations for children? Check out these past posts for more ideas!