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The Best Books for Toddlers

Toddlers rarely get credit for their fun, engaging natures, their wacky sense of humor or their budding independence. Instead, popular culture is quick to focus on their tendency to be stubborn and moody. After all, hearing your toddler say no a hundred times a day can be exhausting. Can we really blame them, though, for wielding such a neat, newly discovered power?

Story time offers a wonderful respite for weary parents and defiant little people. The routine of sitting with mom or dad and enjoying a few good books, allows toddlers to engage, to learn new language skills and to explore the world safely from the comfort of a caregiver's lap.

Toddlers are ready to take on more complex picture books that have a beginning, middle and end to their stories, books with smaller, more challenging flaps that they can lift for a fun surprise and books that incorporate humor. Stick to books with colorful illustrations, simple text and endearing characters. Then be prepared to read the same book again and again...and again!

Here are some types of books to include in your toddler's home library:

Stories with Characters Engaging In Familiar Routines

Routines are reassuring for toddlers - even if they are just reading about them! Books that reinforce the routines you have at home for bedtime, bathtime, mealtime and more validate these rituals and good habits. We love the bedtime story Kiss Goodnight which tells the sweet story of a bear who just can't go to sleep without getting a kiss goodnight from Mama Bear. Goodnight I Love You puts the ritual of getting ready for bed into a neat rhyme that also serves as a checklist of sorts - take a bath, brush your teeth, read a book and you're ready for sleep!


Stories with Repetition & Rhyme

Rhymes are great for early childhood development on multiple levels. Rhymes encourage the listener to notice pitch and inflection and to recognize the pattern of the rhyming sounds. Children can easily remember the repeated phrases in a rhyming story, much like the chorus of a song. So, your child can confidently chime in as you read to him, ready to deliver that repeated phrase on cue. Chicka, Chicka Boom, Boom is a good example of this. Your child can participate in reading the story with you, offering a loud "Chicka, Chicka Boom Boom!" at several points in the book.

Go, Dog. Go! is another perennial favorite that combines repetition, rhyme and lots of humor.


Stories that incorporate colors, numbers and spatial concepts

The best books for toddlers weave important concepts and vocabulary into stories that are just plain fun to read. You'll likely find that you don't even realize how rich the text is as you read to your child. The Fred and Ted series is a great example featuring simple stories about a memorable pair of dogs that find themselves in hilarious predicaments. All the while, children learn about opposites, colors and spatial concepts like over and under.

Mouse Paint is the perfect book for teaching toddlers about color. It features simple, clear text paired with adorable, boldly colored illustrations.


Stories With Humor

Is there anything sweeter than a child laughing? Ok, perhaps a child sleeping, but I digress. Developing a sense of humor is a milestone for toddlers. At around 5 months, children begin to understand the humor in situations that deviate from the norm. The beloved children's author Sandra Boynton is a master at this. Her quirky board book Moo, Baa, La, La, La, gives children the giggles every time the reader comes to the part where the pigs say "La, La, La." Any self-respecting toddler will tell you that pigs go "oink!" We also love the book Little Pea, which tells the tale of a pea who has to finish his dinner of candy every night before he can get dessert. (Spoiler Alert: For a pea, spinach is his favorite dessert) The Laura Numeroff series launched by "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" is a must for older toddlers.


Stories with a conflict that needs to be resolved

Older toddlers are more aware of problems that can make us sad and require solving. We love Mo Willem's modern classic, Knuffle Bunny. Toddlers can follow along as a routine errand to the laundromat with Dad puts little Trixie's lovey in jeopardy but finishes up with a happy ending. Books where the character faces a problem like this offer parents the opportunity to teach empathy and problem-solving skills.

Filling your home with the right books for your toddler pays huge dividends. Toddlers who are read to every day have longer attention spans, better language skills and develop into happy readers. Books open opportunities for conversation and help toddlers recognize parallels between themselves and the characters in the stories they hear. Reading is as essential as play to a toddler's development!


Share With Us! What are some of your favorite books for the toddler set?