The 10 Best Toddler Books

Updated March 29, 2017 by Tina Morna Freitas

10 Best Toddler Books
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We spent 39 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. Most child development experts agree that the number one thing you can do to aid your little one's intellectual development is to teach him or her to read as early as possible. These toddler books make it fun and easy to get your youngster interested in letters, numbers, shapes and colors from a very early age, and can give children a head start at school. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best toddler book on Amazon.

10. Potty by Leslie Patricell

Potty by Leslie Patricell is a great introduction to potty training for your little one, featuring a smiling, bald baby with humorous graphics. While the simple wording is very age-appropriate, it doesn't have much of a storyline.
  • gender neutral story
  • readers can make entertaining noises
  • uses a bit too many baby-ish terms
Publisher Candlewick Press
Model n/a
Weight 9.6 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

9. Where Is Baby's Belly Button?

Where Is Baby's Belly Button? by Karen Katz is an adorable book that is perfect for parents and kids to share quality time together. Cute babies play peek-a-boo with easy-to-lift-flaps in this interactive book that teaches your kids about body parts at an early age.
  • large print and simple sentences
  • pages are easy for toddlers to grasp
  • flaps can rip off easily over time
Publisher Free Spirit Publishing
Model n/a
Weight 7.2 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

8. The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle has been a classic book for generations and has a way of connecting with kids like no other. It creatively depicts the metamorphosis of a butterfly on cleverly die-cut pages while teaching counting and days of the week.
  • humorous and interactive
  • fun way for kids to learn
  • binding is a bit fragile
Publisher Ingram Book & Distribut
Model ING0399226907
Weight 9.6 ounces
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

7. Giraffes Can't Dance

Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae is an inspirational tale for every child that has dreams of greatness despite their differences. It's a delightful read with beautiful watercolor and pen-and-ink artwork that exudes a fun, joyful vibe.
  • rich and vibrant colors
  • uplifting happy ending
  • story better for older toddlers
Publisher Scholastic
Model 2556
Weight 10.4 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

6. Dear Zoo

After 25 years, Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell still remains a popular choice for youngsters as it gets them to love reading at an early age. The lift-up flap feature on each page not only keeps their interest level high, but helps to develop their fine motor skills.
  • flaps reveal animals when lifted
  • repeated words help memorization
  • text does not rhyme
Publisher Little Simon
Model 9781416947370
Weight 6.4 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

5. My Big Animal Book

If your kids love animals, My Big Animal Book by Roger Priddy makes a great choice. It educates kids about pets, farm animals, birds, and creatures you would see at the zoo, plus each name is clearly written underneath the coordinating picture.
  • bright color block images
  • ideal for pre-readers
  • large size is heavy for small hands
Publisher Priddy Books
Model 1074
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

4. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. has been a classic favorite for over 20 years because of its creative way of introducing kids to the alphabet. It is a great read-aloud book that will captivate your little one with its fun, cheerful art and rhythmic text.
  • teaches upper and lowercase letters
  • ideal as a routine bedtime story
  • high quality binding
Publisher Simon & Schuster Books
Model 25383120
Weight 9.6 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

3. The Pout-Pout Fish

The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen is a New York Times best-seller bursting with colorful cartoon illustrations of undersea life. The repetition of verses and playful rhymes used throughout the book makes story time enjoyable for both parents and kids.
  • gives a powerful positive message
  • filled with different emotions
  • entertaining to read over and over
Publisher Diesen, Deborah
Model n/a
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

2. The First 100 Words

The First 100 Words by Roger Priddy is a great early learning book at an amazing price. Designed with little ones in mind, the cover is softly padded for optimal comfort while reading, plus each page is made with a tough board construction that can hold up to rugged abuse.
  • 100 real-life color photographs
  • compact size fits in a diaper bag
  • easy for toddlers to hold
Publisher Roaring Brook Press
Model n/a
Weight 8.5 ounces
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

1. Colors, Shapes & Counting

Get your toddler ahead of the game with Colors, Shapes & Counting by Rock 'N Learn. It's filled with fun characters and bright illustrations to get children excited about learning, while developing their listening and reading comprehension skills.
  • a great read-aloud resource
  • each page has interactive games
  • brief rhymes keep kids engaged
Publisher ROCK N LEARN
Model n/a
Weight 13.6 ounces
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

Choosing Topnotch Toddler Books

If there is one thing a parent or other caregiver can do that most benefits the emotional and intellectual development of a toddler, it is reading to the child. Young children who are regularly exposed to books enjoy enhanced social and academic development by developing a familiarity with situations involving everything from caring to conflict and concepts ranging from mathematics to science to history and beyond.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued formal statements urging the reading to young children in 2014, stating that the practice "Stimulates early brain development and helps build key language, literacy and social skills," according to Jeffrey Brown of PBS. The earlier a child is exposed to reading, the more likely they will be a lifelong lover of books and of learning in general. While almost any and all reading can be of some benefit to the youngster, choosing the best books for your child requires both though and intuition on the part of the book buyer (or the one who holds the library card).

In the broadest of terms, you can divide books written for young children into two categories: those directly intended to teach a specific skill or to transfer specific information, and those intended more for entertainment and/or to stimulate the imagination. In the first category we find books designed to help a youngster learn his or her numbers or to assist with a child's acquisition of the alphabet. So too can you find books with the goal of imparting knowledge of colors or shapes, or those that are focused on a specific skill a child needs to become familiar with and then master, such as using the potty, using polite manners, and so forth.

In the other category, we have books that are principally intended to entertain and engage a child, much like good fiction does for an adult. In truth, even most of these books are generally geared at teaching some life skill such as kindness, sharing, or patience. They simply do so through the medium of story and illustration, effectively serving as allegories instead of taking a more direct, didactic approach. Ultimately, it's a good idea to balance both types of book, so a child is exposed to concept he or she has to internalize but is not always expected to take a rote approach to learning.

And keep in mind that there are exceptions to both of these general rules, such as a number of the classic works by Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein, for example -- many of the works of these two authors might seem to be neither didactic nor a morality tale. In fact, playful prose is wonderful for the development of a youngster's linguistic skills and creative thinking.

While it's always a good idea to challenge a young mind, there is a tipping point at which the vocabulary, syntax, or content of a given book will too far surpass a child's level to prove valuable. When choosing a toddler book, make sure your child understands the majority of the words in it, and be ready to elaborate on the concepts covered. (Asking questions like: "How do you think the character is feeling?" for example.) Pictures and words together help a child understand a concept with greater ease, and great illustrations help to engage a child. Just make sure that whichever book you choose you are ready to set aside if it simply doesn't catch a child's attention. Also make sure that you immediately try another book, and if need be another after that.

As Your Young Child Learns To Read

Most children will be in a stage that can be called "pre-literate" at ages four through five. They will likely recognize all letters, both in capital and lower case form, and will begin to write certain letters as well. Many children at this age can identify certain words by sight (simple words like "cat" or "dog," or their own names, for example) and may be able to sound out some words using their letter sounds, and will begin to develop phonemic awareness, which is the understanding that words are made up of smaller sounds working in concert.

On the other hand, some children will be reading by age four or five, albeit on a basic level. The time at which your child learns to read to himself or herself is exciting, and, contrary to what the initial conception may be, it is a time for ever more vigilant involvement from the parent, caregiver, or teacher, not for less attention.

As a child begins to read, he or she may internalize errors that will require later re-teaching. Make sure to give a child the space to read alone if such seems desired, but keep tabs by asking questions and for the occasional read aloud to make sure they are on the right track.

And just as soon as your child begins to read books at one level, you should find a host of books that are slightly above their reading level and continue reading aloud to the youngster. In this manner, you can maintain the bond reading together forms and can keep on challenging your child to develop and excel.

A Few Words On The Toddler Brain

A toddler -- taken to refer to a child roughly between two and four years of age -- has a lot going on in his or her brain. In fact, by the time a child has reached the third year of life, about eighty percent of their brain has already developed.

Much of this development comes in the form of the muscle memory required to complete basic actions like running, jumping, and balancing, and much of it comes in developing visual and conceptual fundamentals, such as identifying shapes, colors, size, distance and spatial perception and so on.

But a child can also learn an amazing amount of information that goes beyond these basics, and much of the more in depth, nuanced concepts youngsters can (and eventually must) embrace can be introduced and reinforced through books. Concepts such as compassion, patience, and fairness do not necessarily come naturally to a toddler -- the young brain may be largely developed, but the neural pathways required for advanced thinking and the many memories that help inform it still must be created.



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Last updated on March 29, 2017 by Tina Morna Freitas

Tina Morna Freitas is a writer who lives in Chicago with her family and two cats. She enjoys making and sipping margaritas and aspires to be a crazy cat lady once all the children are grown.


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