The 50 Best Books for Toddlers list is complete! Who knew there were so many amazing kids books?! Based on my research I’ll definitely be expanding our own library, which I’m very excited about.
The final list is a mix of classics, bestsellers, and lesser known but highly regarded books appropriate for toddlers. Thank you to everyone who made suggestions on the Facebook page! Many of your suggestions made the list. If you have a favorite that’s not here, please let me know in the comments! Maybe there will be a part two down the road.
And now, onto the books…
Whether you think the Green Toad is a hero or a glory hound is up to you. Either way it’s true: a lot depends on the helping hand of a few good friends.
2. I Am a Bunny
There is nothing flashy about this book whatsoever. It’s hard to pinpoint the appeal of it, but the illustrations have a richness to them that I love, and my toddler loves the simple, straightforward story.
I know, there are some issues with this classic (yes the bedroom is the size of a palace and definitely that fireplace is not properly child-proofed). And yet still, the rhythm of this book can’t be beat. Just repeating a few phrases from it puts my toddler to sleep (not that that’s always the goal of reading, but it’s a win at bedtime).
Ok I’ll admit it: as I was first reading this book I kept thinking that it was super creepy. Until I got to the end, at which point I was sobbing. At heart this is not the story of a helicopter mom gone awry. Rather, it is “a testament to a parents’ love that persists beyond time and space…” (You still may think it’s creepy, but I gave you fair warning).
Although I remember it from childhood, when I revisited it with my son I was still startled by how good it is.
This #1 New York Times Bestseller has it all: irresistible artwork by best-selling illustrator Tom Lichtenheld and sweet, rhyming text. This book is a hit with truck enthusiasts big and small.
This is the type of old-fashioned children’s book that parents are seeking out 30-odd years after they fell in love with it during their own childhoods. That kind of nostalgia? Priceless.
8. Hop on Pop
Loved by generations, this “simplest Seuss for youngest use” is a Beginner Book classic.
This is one of the most popular children’s books of all time, having sold 15 million copies since its release in 1942. My aunt sent this book to Nolan as a gift, and as soon as I opened it I remembered seeing these pictures when I was a young child. I loved them then and I still love them now.
10. Everyone Poops
This may not be a literary classic, but I dare you to find a toddler who doesn’t enjoy a little poop talk.
This book has a great rhythm and is useful for practicing the alphabet. I also really like the shorter version, Chicka Chicka ABC.
You’d hope this baby bird would be slightly sharper in the recognition of familiar faces department. Try not to judge the little guy and you’ll love this book.
13. Pat the Bunny
This book is for the littlest reader. It is an interactive, multimedia experience for your young child and it’s not an iPad. Can’t beat that.
This book has some major awards to its credit: ALA Notable Children’s Book, New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year, Golden Kite Award winner, California Young Reader Medal winner, Booklist Editors’ Choice. I’ll be buying this one.
A bear comes alive at night in a department store. What’s not to like about that?
16. Little Pea
A good book choice for picky eaters.
The narrative of this story is conveyed almost entirely through pictures, which makes it a good bet for very young children.
This is the “profoundly comforting story of a bunny’s imaginary game of hide and seek, and the loving steadfast mother who finds him every time.” This book has never been out of print since 1942, and is a well loved classic by the duo of Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd (who are also responsible for Goodnight Moon). Hit-makers, those two.
19. The Gruffalo
If you enjoy Where the Wild Things Are, this is a good (albeit derivative) bet.
Ok I’ll admit that I don’t find this book totally enthralling. But you know who does? MY TODDLER. So I’m going to have to recommend this book of animals staring each other down even though we all know they would never bump into each other in the wild.
21. Dear Zoo
This book is considered a children’s classic. Also, it’s about the zoo, and aside from barnyards the zoo is where it’s at when you’re a toddler.
This old-standby has stood the test of time, and is still a winner when it comes to teaching little ones to read. Seuss uses simple, single vowel vocabulary to great effect when it comes to developing early literacy.
This book just came into our lives and I wish it had sooner. Sometimes you just can’t get enough llama drama.
24. Possum Magic
This book has a universal appeal, but it is also a distinctly Australian story with its vocabulary, locations and characters.
This book is a “simple, playful celebration of diversity.” As a parent I love Todd Parr’s messaging, and my toddler loves to look at the bright, whimsical pictures. Both silly and serious, this book is a good bet for those wanting to promote acceptance of differences from an early age.
26. Press Here
This book will make your child believe in magic. Ready?
This is a cuddly book about unconditional love. There is no real plot to speak of, but there is an affirmation of love that will work well for young children (ages 1-3).
28. The Boss Baby
Can we all just agree that babies are dictators? The comedy of this book is more geared for parents than toddlers. That’s ok, though, since you’ll have to read it 10,000 times you might as well get a kick out of it.
This is a weirdly awesome little bedtime book. The characters are doing the opposite of unwinding for bed (they decide to bang out a quick exercise routine before rock, rock, rocking to sleep). I think Sandra Boynton is just messing with us. Nolan and I both love this one.
30. I Like Myself!
This book is high on energy and imagination. Its message of self-love and acceptance is great for emerging discussions on self-esteem. If your kid already thinks she’s the bomb maybe skip this one. 🙂
This book shows how even a mother’s love can be tested by 500 asinine questions. (Love triumphs, obviously. It would be a weird children’s book if all the annoying questions of the little boy drove the mother to leave her family, now wouldn’t it).
32. Toddle Waddle
This is a fun, playful, follow-the-leader story for young toddlers.
Ferdinand is the world’s most peaceful–and–beloved little bull. While all of the other bulls snort, leap, and butt their heads, Ferdinand is content to just sit and smell the flowers under his favorite tree. He probably wouldn’t do very well in gym class, but that’s not the point. This book has an old fashioned sweetness to it that’s hard to resist.
34. The Giving Tree
‘Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy.’ This story has a tender melancholy to it that is undeniable. Shel Silverstein hits a poignant note in his children’s books, creating classics for readers of all ages. This one belongs on your shelf.
This caterpillar is an overeater. But unlike human overeaters, he doesn’t have to worry about his cholesterol and instead can just be psyched that he turns into a butterfly.
“I like to be thankful for all I receive…” I can recite this one by heart, but I will spare you. This book encourages gratitude, the illustrations are adorable and it’s a quick read. My toddler loves it.
Children will love the repetition of verse in this New York Times Bestseller. The Pout-Pout Fish was named a Time Magazine Top 10 Children’s Book of 2008.
“I think I can! I think I can!” This beloved tale of the Little Blue Engine who isn’t afraid to try hasn’t lost any steam (see what I did there?) over the years. Start ’em on self-help books early with this classic.
39. Bear Snores On
From the New York Times bestselling team of Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman comes the story of a bear who doesn’t realize a party is happening in his cave as he snores and snores. Sure the guy may need a CPAP machine at some point, but let’s not focus on that.
This is the classic story of how toys–and people–become real through the wisdom and experience of love.
41. Love Monster
The Love Monster needs someone to love him just the way he is. And don’t we all?
This book is funny because it is so accurate. (Not the whole pigeon as a driver deal, but the ridiculousness of bargaining with a pre-schooler will ring true to anyone living with a “threenager”).
Since its original hardcover release in 2001, You Are My I Love You has sold nearly half a million copies worldwide. The verse can get a little overdone (“I am your dry towel; you are my wet bath”), but the wonders of love between a parent and child still make this a sweet book for little ones.
You probably remember this book from your own childhood – it’s often listed by adults as an all-time favorite story. Sometimes you just can’t beat good old Grover.
This book was awarded the Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children in 1941; it has since become a favorite of millions. I especially love it being from the Boston area – if you’re from Massachusetts this is more than a classic. It’s a symbol of home.
The scale of the pictures make this read-aloud story ideal for sharing in larger groups.
This Caldecott Medal Winner breathes a youthful spirit of adventure into the pages. This is an endearing story of irrepressible curiosity. Don’t miss this one.
48. The Family Book
No matter what type of family you have, Todd Parr assures readers that every family is special in its own unique way. Parr’s message about the importance of embracing our differences is delivered in his trademark style – playful, with bold, bright colors and silly scenes. This book will encourage children to ask questions about their own families.
With unmistakable characters and signature rhymes, Dr. Seuss’s beloved favorite has cemented its place as a children’s classic. Also, it makes me want to go to a diner.
This was the Amazon Best Children’s Book of 2013. It is a hard hitting look at what happens when crayons have had enough and go on strike. Or something like that. This book has been a huge success, and is geared toward older toddler/early school-aged kids.
What would you add? Leave a comment, I’d love to expand on this list!
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