Best Books for Infants and Toddlers

Reading is one of my favorite things to do with my kids. Not only does it help encourage speech and language development in young children, it also creates a natural bonding activity when I’m feeling at a loss as to what to do with my little one after a busy day of chasing after them! There are actually studies that show that when kids are read to they feel more secure. Reading also fosters a positive parent-child relationship. Early exposure to books fosters a lifelong love for learning. With all this said, I wanted to share some of the best books for infants and toddlers with you today. 

toddler reading book on couch

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Best Books for Independent Play

Around  6-7 months of age I started introducing my boys to independent play time. I had a difficult time finding books to safely give them, which motivated me to seek out safe, fun books because I wanted reading to be introduced to them as early as possible. Here are some great picks that are safe for little hands and a great way to foster a child’s love of books.

Indestructible Books

If I had to pick my top book for infants it would be the indestructible series, they are just the best baby books. These are nontoxic and 100% washable so if your baby decides to eat the book that is a-okay! There are so many great books to choose from and they have lots of bold illustrations for your kids to look at. These are what I quickly throw in my diaper bag because they are small and perfect for an on the go family. 

Cloth Photo Book

With our family living a distance away from us and not being able to see my kids as frequently as we would like I wanted to make sure they recognized the people that loved them the most. My kids loved their photo book with pictures of their grandparents, cousins and aunts and uncles. I would often find my boys kissing the pictures and I really think it helped when our family visited because my kids were already familiar with their faces and names. If you are looking for the perfect gift for a new baby this is a great choice!

Cloth Flap Book

Flap books are all the rage for infants and toddlers, however we have so many ruined books from my kids getting too excited and ripping off the flap. Until I was able to trust my kids not to rip the flaps I turned to cloth flap books. One of my favorite things about this flap book is that it is washable, which is perfect for that untimely spit up or if your kiddo chooses to chew the book versus read it (please tell me this isn’t just something my infants did :)). These are perfect for independent play time and make the best gifts for little ones in your life!

two children looking at books on floor

Singing Books

We try to steer away from books that have buttons or make noise because I want my reading time with my kids to be something that has minimal distractions and is just us making the fun from what we are reading. Not to say there isn’t space for books that make noise (and Lord knows we have some in our house that my kids LOVE), but this list of books requires that you provide the singing and entertainment 🙂 Remember, your infant, toddler and preschooler think you are amazing and do not care if you can’t keep a tune. They just love that you are interacting with them and infants love the sound of your voice. 

Wheels on the Bus

This sweet book is a classic. I love Wheels on the Bus because its a tune everyone knows and I can easily pair actions with it as well. It is a good choice for a quick read and often my 3 year old will ask for me to read it multiple times at bedtime.

Down by the Bay

This silly story is one that I read when my kids were infants and my 8 year old still loves to read it. It always gets giggles from my kids and often our whole family will get involved and try to continue the song by making our own rhymes (which, bonus, fosters early reading skills!). This book is fun and will be one that will stay on your bookshelves for many years. 

5 Little Ducks

This is a simple and sweet story. I often will add fingers to signify how many ducks are left with their mama and will try to help my preschooler to do the same. There are a lot of emotions depicted throughout the book which is a great springboard to talk about emotional awareness. My 3 year old will often point out when the mama duck is sad and we talk about how we can cheer her up. 

pile of favorite books

Interactive Books

I love creating an experience for my kids when reading books. I find that they are more interested in what I am doing and will have longer focus during our reading time if I engage them in the book. Sometimes it is hard to find books that allow for this engagement but I have found some favorites that make interacting with kids during reading easy and natural. 

Poke-a-Dot Books

If you haven’t had the opportunity to experience the fun of a Poke-a-Dot book I highly encourage putting this on your list for your child’s next birthday or Christmas present! These are an all time favorite at my house and my boys, starting around 6-9 months old, have loved these books. They are not only so much fun, but also interactive and promote learning. There are so many different themes from colors to numbers to farm animals, that we have now developed a little library of Poke-a-Dot books in our home. 

Ten Little Ladybugs

Every year we let our boys pick out a present for their siblings for Christmas and this book was the pick of my 6 year old to give to my 3 year old, I’m still not sure if he got it because he loved it or he thought his brother would 🙂 This interactive picture book is great for young readers. It is a simple story but there are so many ways you can read it with your child. You can create a song to the words in the book. You can let your kids feel the ladybugs on each page and work on counting skills. Since we got this they have come out with other variations that look like a lot of fun as well!

Tracing Books

We have a handful of trace books in our house and I always love reading these to my kids for story time. They allow the kids to trace letters and numbers and all of the sudden learning has become fun! Sometimes we will make silly sounds as they trace the letters or I will say words that start with the letter as they are tracing it. You can even just narrate the shape they are making (for “A” I would say : Up, Down, and now across!)

“That’s not my” Usborne Books

If you are looking to find quality books for kids Usborne is a great place to turn to. I have no affiliation with them, I just love their products! We got the book That’s Not My Tractor at a baby shower for my first son, it has been read hundreds of times over the last 8 years. Each page has different tactile experiences and it is simple and fun for even the youngest of kiddos. Usborne has so many books in the “That’s Not My” series it’s hard to just choose one favorite!

Classic Board Books

Sometimes a good ol’ classic board book is just what my toddler is needing when we sit down to read. None of the frills, just a fun catchy story line with simple, bright photos. These are great, easy gifts for baby showers as well! There are so many good books to choose from but here are a few favorites in our house. 

mother and son reading a book together

Little Blue Truck

The Little Blue Truck series is charming, sweet and a great choice to add to your nursery bookshelf. The books in this series all encompass a great tale of friendship that I find endearing. There are stories for Valentines Day, Halloween and Christmas so we rotate our books out based on seasons. There is even one focused on heading back to school, a great pick for helping kids transition back to the classroom! My kids have memorized these books because we read them so often.

Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See

This book is one that my kids started to attach to around 6-9 months and loved for years to come. The pictures are so simple and the story line is repetitive, which allows the child to help read along with you as they often know what is coming next. There are many spin offs of this classic book, but this one is my favorite. We always had one at home and one in the car because it was a top request.

First Words Books

These books are perfect for the littlest kiddos in your life. They are simple, have bright colors, and are a great tool to use to encourage language development. When my boys were infants I would take their hand and help them point to the pictures while labeling them. We made this fun with silly noises or actions that went along with the pictures. As my kids started developing more language skills they then started pointing independently to pictures when I labeled them. We then moved into them both labeling the picture and pointing independently. We read these books so often that by the time I had my 3rd kiddo we needed to replace a few of them because the books were so loved and were literally falling apart. These likely get overlooked at the store because they are so simple, but they are a perfect book for infants and toddlers.

We’re Going On A Bear Hunt

Get ready to go on adventure (and have a great time) with your little one while reading this! There are so many opportunities to add in actions and allow your child to say what is coming next due to the simple text and repetitive phrasing on each page. My boys have reinacted this so many times when we are hiking or playing outside. I would say this is in my top 5 list for children’s books. 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

I have read this book nightly to my 3 year old for the past few months, it’s his favorite. My older son loved it so much as a preschooler we had a birthday party themed off of this book! Eric Carle has written a lot of awesome children’s books, but this one takes the cake in our house. My 3 year old loves to “take over” reading when we start labeling the food, it boosts his confidence in early reading skills and is so sweet to hear him interact with me during our bedtime routine. He loves to put his little fingers in the “holes” of the food, its a great way to have them work on simple fine motor skills. Sometimes we will pretend to pick up the food off of the page and eat it which always brings about a lot of laughter. 🙂

I’d love to hear what your family’s favorite books are as we are always looking to add to our collection!

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