I am so glad that my children love books. And since they have a mother (me) who is also a book lover, and both sides of the family also love books, they always have lots of books to read! There are so many great children’s books out there. And some not so great ones. So if you’re looking for some inspiration for some great books for your own young children, I give you my top 5 books for babies, younger and older toddlers!
I specifically limited this list to five (well, six actually) books in each category for good reason. I have come across many posts on Pinterest which have huge lists of book recommendations, such as 50 books for two year olds and 50+ of the best child picture books, which seem great but 50 is a large number and I don’t even know where to start when I look at them. So for that reason, this list is small and you can pick one or two books off the list knowing that they are high on my own list! Each list is in no particular order, I love all the books equally :)
Another thing to note is that my husband and I love the funny books that rhyme the most, so a lot of these fall into this category. If you like that sort of book too, then you’ll love this list!
My children started showing an interest in looking at books at around 9 months but this varies widely between children. I would suggest that children around 9-18 months would like these books, but again this is just a rough age range for guidance and my children still regularly read many of these at 30 months.
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
This is a cute, rhyming book with charming pictures of lots of little children just like yours. And there is even a little action bit at the end to join in with. (This book has been so well-loved that you can see the scotch tape sticking it together!)
Where Is The Green Sheep? by Mem Fox, illustrated by Judy Horacek
Another rhyming book with bright, funny pictures of lots of different sheep in different situations. But not the green sheep. Where is he?
That’s not my… by Fiona Watt, illustrated by Rachel Wells
We have That’s Not My Panda and That’s Not My Kitten, but there are loads and loads of these books. They are great for very young children with lots of textures to feel and bright illustrations.
Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill
A classic. Search for Spot in all kinds of places around the home and come across many different animals along your way! This is a lift the flap book so probably not ideal for young babies as they will pull the flaps off but after they are over a year old you might be able to persuade them to leave them in place! We also have Spot Visits His Grandparents and Spot At The Farm, but there are many other Spot books too.
Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
Another classic, and another lift the flap book. The zoo keep sending animals as pets but they are all unsuitable! We also have It’s Mine! and Buster’s Birthday by the same author, which I would also recommend.
Special mention: Hide and Seek Pig by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
This is a nice rhyming lift-the-flap book, but unfortunately our copy didn’t survive the baby years – every single flap was ripped off! There are other books in the series which I have heard are also great (Fox’s Socks, Postman Bear, Rabbit’s Nap).
Young toddler books
These books are very appealing to little ones but there is a bit more text so it might take a while before they will actually sit and listen to you read them (or at least that’s what I have found!). Suitable for 1-3 years.
The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr
An oldie but a goodie, with very retro looking pictures. But who can resist a friendly tiger who eats you out of house and home?!
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd
Another oldie. This took a little bit for me and my husband to get into as it is very old fashioned and a little bit random but our children love it and now, so do we! The story is really just identifying things in the room and then saying goodnight to them. Great for bedtime.
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram
So cute! Little Nutbrown Hare tries to outdo Big Nutbrown Hare with how much he loves him, but Big Nutbrown Hare always manages to win.
Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman
A lovely rhyming tale of forest animals who meet up in the bear’s cave while Bear is asleep. Gorgeous illustrations. (And I only just saw from that list of picture books I linked to above that there is a whole series of Bear books – excuse me while I get onto Amazon to order them…)
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
Very funny story about a bear who has lost his hat. My children got this book for their second birthday and it was an immediate hit!
Special mention: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
Classic rhythmic tale of a family going on a bear hunt through lots of different types of landscapes, and what happens when they actually find a bear!
Older toddler books
These books are significantly longer and require real interest from your child, as well as being able to follow a more complicated storyline. Age 2+
Peace At Last by Jill Murphy
Repetition is used to great effect in this funny story of Mr Bear who just cannot sleep, no matter where he goes to try and find rest.
Hairy Maclary by Lynley Dodd
As you can see from the picture we have a set of six Hairy Maclary books. They’re all great but my personal favourites are Hairy Maclary’s Bone and Scattercat. Great illustrations and language throughout (especially the names of all the animals!), and lovely rhyming stories.
Kipper by Mike Inkpen
There are many Kipper books and the kids love them all but particular favourites are Kipper’s Snowy Day and Kipper and Roly (confusingly recently re-released as Kipper’s New Pet). Lovely stories about Kipper the Dog and his friends. I particularly like these because they are very non-formulaic and natural.
What the Ladybird Heard by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Lydia Monks
Julia Donaldson can do no wrong in my eyes. We also have What the Ladybird Heard Next, The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child, Stick Man, Monkey Puzzle and The Smartest Giant in Town. All full of wit, great stories and wonderful rhymes, but in my eyes What the Ladybird Heard pips them all (although it might just be because it’s the first one I read). All have great illustrations too, with so many sharp details.
Little Beaver and The Echo by Amy MacDonald, illustrated by Sarah Fox-Davies
Neither rhyming nor funny, but a very sweet tale of a beaver who sets out to find a friend. Beautifully illustrated.
Special mention: I Really Want To Eat A Child by Sylviane Donnio, illustrated by Dorotheé de Monfreid
Originally published in French, this off-beat, humerous story follows Achilles the baby crocodile as he decides that his normal diet of bananas will no longer suffice and he wants to eat a child instead.
So those are my top books, but I’m sure that if you have children (or even, if not) you have your own favourites. Let me know in the comments below – I’d love to hear more recommendations!
Thanks for reading!