Wondering how to choose books for toddlers and babies? Discover the best tips for choosing books for infants, selecting books for 2 year olds, and even beyond three years of age! Including a check list of criteria to choose suitable books for babies and toddlers and some of the best books for toddlers + babies I've found!
- Watch Best Tips For Choosing Books For Infants + Toddlers:
- How To Choose Books For Newborns:
- How to choose books for infants (4 mo-1 year old): tips for choosing books for infants
- What are the best books for babies?
- How to choose books for babies 1-2 years old:
- How to choose books for toddlers 2-3 years old: best tips for selecting books for toddlers
- What are the best books for toddlers?
- Final thoughts
- Best Books For Toddlers + Babies:
Watch Best Tips For Choosing Books For Infants + Toddlers:
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How To Choose Books For Newborns:
For a newborn, you don't need a ton of books. Newborns only see in black, white and grey and begin to recognize color around 4 months (source).
If you are nervous about not talking enough to your baby, you could get some rhyming books. Rhyming/music help lay a foundation for early literacy, so some people find sing-songs type books helpful.
How to choose books for infants (4 mo-1 year old): tips for choosing books for infants
Opt for durable board books at this stage. Don’t be surprised if your baby nibbles on them too which is why we love our Lovevery subscription, the first year of play kits really have some great choices for durable board books!
Not only do they check off other items on the list above, but they also are make their products with with soy based inks, sustainably FSC harvested woods, organic cottons, and are free of flame retardants, toxic dyes, perfumes, formaldehyde or pesticides. Plus they are BPA and phthalates free.
Basically, they are the cleanest and highest quality books and brand I've found. I never stressed about my daughter nibbling her wooden high contrast board book (nor did she ever damage it). The one book of theirs she did eat up pretty well, I at least didn't stress about what she just ingested.
As babies get older, they’ll want to explore the items around them after all. Initially they may chew on the book, but eventually they’ll point and babble.
Choosing board books with thick pages can be helpful to work on fine motor skills as your baby reaches for the book and explores turning pages. At some point during this period, your baby will likely turn pages independently of you!
Opt for books that still utilize overly simple imagery; like how the high contrast board books just had shapes.
This can help encourage concentration, which is important for fostering independent play later on!
Montessori Inspired: Babies also love seeing the real world. So follow montessori at this stage and really try to find books that show real people, places, and things. As a bonus, these books tend to utilize overly simple imagery as well!
Sensory textured books during this stage can be great options too. Try to stick with ones that encourage gentle touches though, nothing that encourages yanking/pulling. So find ones with interesting textures, not pull tabs, etc.
What to look for content wise at this age:
Look for books with content that makes your life easier!
What we found particularly helpful were the Lovevery books “my first signs” “parts of me” and “how I feel.” You can get dupes for these here:
Basically opting for books that can help your child identify things they are seeing or experiencing. Or that will lay a foundation for high frequency words/language you’ll want them to have sooner rather than later.
For instance, having the my first signs book give my daughter a way to communicate milk, book, help etc. This was INVALUABLE especially since she had a speech delay.
Her knowing her body parts was another invaluable early concept. I had always modeled “gentle” to her from the time she was born because we have a dog, but to be able to say “gentle hands” as she moved closer to a year, a concept that later was even more valuable as she interacted with other kids, etc.
Or in when she was a 2 year old and started to run away on walks and I could say “freeze your feet.”
Teaching body parts is one of the most important early skills we can give our kids from a safety perspective as well.
List of criteria to choose suitable books for babies:
- Thick pages
- Simple imagery (only 1-2 words a page, one object on a page, etc.)
- Montessori inspired real life people, places and things ideal
- Sensory experiences
- Concepts that will make your life easier
What are the best books for babies?
Here's a list of books for babies that I love:
How to choose books for babies 1-2 years old:
Between 1 and 2 years old you’ll still want a mix of board books, but you may also notice your child is able to handle more activity type books or traditional paper books.
My suggestion is to follow your child.
If they are still rough with their books, stick with board books longer. As they can handle lift-flap books without tearing them, introduce them. Your child may not be ready for paper books until after 2; and with that said, most paper books are geared towards preschoolers aged 3 years old and up anyway, so don't feel the need to rush. My daughter really started loving them around her second birthday.
During this stage you’ll still want to opt for books that have real people, places, and things. But your child may start becoming interested more in cartoon books at this stage too. Personally, I'm okay with both styles of imagery, I care more about the content than the pictures.
Rhyming books can be invaluable at this stage in engaging a toddler too.
Again, they help with early literacy and language development, but they can also be more engaging.
Opt for short books.
Don’t be surprised if your child goes through a period during this time though where they just flip-flip-flip the pages and don’t let you read a word on the book.
Piggybacking off the early literacy and language from earlier, it's helpful to choose books with repetition as well. It's not super important, since if the book is short you'll likely read it 15 times anyway creating a natural repetition. But books like “Brown Bear Brown Bear” are helpful as your child begins to talk as it's easier for them to fill in a blank.
As far as choosing the content of a child’s book at this age, what I said before about useful words/things to know from foods you frequently eat to body parts are all still super helpful.
You can also start to look for books that show sequences your young toddler may face in a given day, like bedtime routines or looking for their shoes before leaving the house.
Around 12-18 months, I suggest introducing potty training books too. Dr. Montessori identified this as a sensitive period where children innately express interest in toilet learning so getting them used to the sequence of toilet learning and questions they made have was helpful in our experience.
The important – and hard to find – thing is making sure these are still portrayed NEUTRALLY.
I‘ll dive MUCH deeper into this at the end of the post though.
How to choose books for toddlers 2-3 years old: best tips for selecting books for toddlers
When it comes to selecting books for 2 year olds to three years of age, everything that applied in the 1-2 year old section still applies here.
I'd also add on to it though, that at some point during this year your child will likely be ready for paper books or more story books. Sure, your child may have been interested in them earlier, but you'll find longer books can begin to hold their attention.
Personally, we started doing a bi-monthly library run during this time. I let my daughter pick the books. Our libraries usually have a lot of books on top of the shelves or in the shelves that are forward facing. So she can see a ton of covers while we walk around. I'll hold her and ask “do you want this one?” and we'll go around picking around 10 at that time. I found when she's involved in picking library books she reads them NONSTOP versus when I send my husband to pick some up for us. I'll also pick some books from the stacks, and give them to her on the floor while perusing so we have more options, and then just pick the ones she engaged with.
I also do this with online books and even clothes: I show them to my daughter on the screen and let her choose before buying.
If your child has screen time, I suggest looking to see if any of their favorite shows have books too. We've found this particularly helpful at limiting screen time. For instance, my daughter's absolute favorite show is Trash Truck. I read mixed reviews on the book, so we picked up a copy at the library before buying. She reads it at least 15 times a day. When she asks for Trash Truck and points to the TV I tell her he's sleeping but we can read the book right now and she's always happy to. She sleeps with it. Eats with it. And just loves it.
List of criteria to choose suitable books for toddlers:
- Montessori (real people, places, and things)
- Rhyming books
- Cause-and-effect or sequencing books bringing concepts to real life (toilet learning, bedtime routine, etc)
- Pre-school primers like colors, shapes, ABCs, numbers etc. (only when they show interest, don't force it!)
- Characters they love
- Neutral content
What are the best books for toddlers?
Everything previously shown still works for 2 to 3 year olds, but here's a list of books for toddlers that we overall love and would add this year (swipe to see them all):
Selecting books for babies and toddlers that are both engaging and suitable for their development is key. Don't stress about “montessori books,” ABCs, and 123s. Everything you are reading, watching, and doing IS educating them at this stage. For us, developing a love of books and bonding are really all that matters at this age.
It helps to know montessori sensitive periods. This way you can prepare the environment with books that meet your child developmentally where they are at. For instance, around 18 months kids typically have an innate interest in toilet learning, this is a good time to add some potty training books to your shelf!).
It's also important to select books carefully for preschoolers, toddlers, and babies using these 3 questions which will help you figure out what to avoid in children's books!
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