I spent hours in the most glorious of maternal thrones – my glider – while reading board books to both of my baby boys. I loved the beauty and ingenuity of board books. Searching for the best baby books for us to enjoy together was as much fun as shopping for those cute little clothes and shoes!
My first son loved all. the. books. He had endless patience for stories – even at a young age. We went through book after book. He wasn’t like other kids who wanted to hear the same stories over and over again. For the most part, he wanted to hear one story and move on to the next. But there were a few…
There were a few board books that we would read again and again.
And when my second son was born, he enjoyed chewing the corners of the books as much or more than actually listening to the books. But there were a few…
There were a few of these board books for babies that he would really enjoy listening to.
So I’ve had both kids – the one the wanted to have all the books read to him and the one who thought that books and Cheerios served basically the same purpose.
Pediatricians now recommend daily reading with children from infancy.
Reading, as well as talking and singing, is viewed as important in increasing the number of words that children hear in the earliest years of their lives. Nearly two decades ago, an oft-cited study found that by age 3, the children of wealthier professionals have heard words millions more times than have those of less educated, low-income parents, giving the children who have heard more words a distinct advantage in school. New research shows that these gaps emerge as early as 18 months. (Read From Infancy)
So I wanted to share our list with you. The best thing about our list – I believe that each book on this list really truly is one of the best board books for babies because each one was one of the few that both of my boys enjoyed repeatedly. That tells me that each one has that unique magical ability to capture the attention, imaginations, and hearts of babies and young children alike.
Our Family’s Top 10 Favorite Board Books for Babies
Little Blue Truckby Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry. Beep! Meet Blue. A muddy country road is no match for this little pick up–that is, until he gets stuck while pushing a dump truck out of the muck. Luckily, Blue has made a pack of farm animal friends along his route. And they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get their pal back on the road.
But Not the Hippopotamus by Sandra Boyton. A shy hippo makes a big impact in this Sandra Boynton classic.
Serious silliness for all ages. Artist Sandra Boynton is back and better than ever with completely redrawn versions of her multi-million selling board books. These whimsical and hilarious books, featuring nontraditional texts and her famous animal characters, have been printed on thick board pages, and are sure to educate and entertain children of all ages.
Sandra Boyton is one of those author / illustrators. Don’t try to fight it – just get ALL the Sandra Boyton. They are sweet and gorgeous and everyone loves them!
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton. A modern classic that no child should miss. Since it was first published in 1939, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel has delighted generations of children. Mike and his trusty steam shovel, Mary Anne, dig deep canals for boats to travel through, cut mountain passes for trains, and hollow out cellars for city skyscrapers — the very symbol of industrial America. But with progress come new machines, and soon the inseparable duo are out of work. Mike believes that Mary Anne can dig as much in a day as one hundred men can dig in a week, and the two have one last chance to prove it and save Mary Anne from the scrap heap. What happens next in the small town of Popperville is a testament to their friendship, and to old-fashioned hard work and ingenuity.
Monster Trucks by Mark Todd. Filled with playful verse and lively illustrations of all types of trucks, each with a distinct personality, this bright book is the ultimate pick for storytime with truck-loving toddlers. There is the milk truck, Señor Moo, and the snow plow, Mr. Salty, and don’t forget every little one’s favorite, Big Red, the fire truck. Included at the end of the book is a guide to these fourteen types of trucks with all sorts of interesting features and facts about each one.
Russell the Sheep by Rob Scotton. This is Russell. Sometimes Russell is just a little bit out of step with the rest of the flock. All the sheep are falling asleep — except Russell. What’s a sheep to do? Russell tries everything … until, at last, he falls asleep.
Jamberry by Bruce Degen
This bestselling classic features a berry-loving boy and an endearing rhyme-spouting bear. The fun wordplay and bright paintings with lots of details for young readers to explore make Jamberry a perennial favorite.
A small boy and a big friendly bear embark on a berry-picking extravaganza, looking for blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries. Their fun adventure comes to a razzamatazz finale under a starberry sky.
The Mixed Up Chamelon by Eric Carle. There once was a small green chameleon that wished to be handsome like a flamingo, smart like a fox, and funny like a seal. But with each transformation in size, shape, and color, the chameleon learns that maybe being yourself is best of all!
Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell.
Young readers love lifting the flaps to discover the animals the zoo has sent—a monkey, a lion, and even an elephant! But will they ever find the perfect pet?
With bright, bold artwork, a catchy refrain, and a whole host of favorite animals, Dear Zoo is a must for every child’s bookshelf.
The Mitten by Jan Brett. When Nicki drops his white mitten in the snow, he goes on without realizing that it is missing.
One by one, woodland animals find it and crawl in; first, a curious mole, then a rabbit, a badger and others, each one larger than the last. Finally, a big brown bear is followed in by a tiny brown mouse and what happens next makes for a wonderfully funny climax.
As the story of the animals in the mitten unfolds, the reader can see Nicki in the borders of each page, walking through the woods unaware of what is going on.
That’s Not My Dragon by Fiona Watt. There are five amazing dragons to meet in this magical addition to the much-loved That’s not my… series. Babies and toddlers will love turning the pages and touching the textured patches as they try to find their dragon. The bright pictures and textured patches to stroke are designed to help develop sensory and language awareness. They will find tufty ears, knobbly claws, and soft spots. The bright pictures and textures to stroke are designed to help develop sensory and language awareness.
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Again, this is a series and we had a lot of them in our library! We also enjoyed That’s Not My Lion, That’s Not My Panda Bear, That’s Not My Duck, That’s Not My Dinosaur, and That’s Not My Train. They have since published many new titles: That’s Not My… Fairy, Pony, Monster, Robot, Otter, Hedgehog, Dolly, Donkey, Meerkat, Squirrel, Monkey, Llama, Kitten, Snowman, and many more!
So, those are our top ten favorites. Before I give you the second top ten, I thought that I would share how and when we fit our reading in. Reading can really happen any time. I always threw a book or two in our diaper bag and was read to entertain at a moment’s notice. – even if we just looked at and “talked about” the pictures.
Of course we read at bed time, but we also read throughout the day and before naps. Really anytime!
How Do I Read Books To My Baby? It’s Not Like She Understands…
First and foremost, always remember that what your baby loves more than anything else about having you read to her is the close physical connection to you and listening to the sound of your voice.
Even if you think they’re not listening, they are. “They’re looking and they’re learning,” says Straub, who notes there’s also no wrong way to read a book to a brand-new baby. “You can skip as many words as you want until the child is old enough to know the whole thing by heart, and then they will call you on it. But until then, you can say literally any words that you want.” (How To Read To Your Baby)
When you first start reading to your baby, you can gently make it a multi-sensory experience to keep them engaged since they aren’t really following a sophisticated plot line at this point.
So, for example, you might want to take a break between pages and include a quick game of peek a boo. You can also play peek a boo with the image on the next page! If the next page has an image or a bunny or teddy bear, voice that character and have her say “Peek a boo!” Get your baby engaged and wanting you to get to the next page!
Other books are made specifically for this purpose – pop-up books, fabric books, bath tub books, books with finger puppets or toys, or lift the flap books all serve a sensory function that helps keep baby engaged.
As I mentioned, my second son loved to gnaw on the edges of the book. He was exploring it with his mouth – the way babies explore so many things. He also love to touch and feel the book – one reason the “That’s Not My…” series is such a hit with babies! And then, of course, he also loved to toss the books. These are powerful sensory experiences as well, so let your baby explore the book in any (safe) way that feels comfortable to her.
Our Family’s Second Top 10 Favorite Board Books for Babies
I’ve divided the list because, as I mentioned, my second was not necessarily a book lovin’ baby. But, he especially disliked any book that discussed sweet things like how much I loved him. Go figure. Tough guy.
Nevertheless, I did include my top two favorites in the “I love you” department.
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney. “Guess how much I love you,” says Little Nutbrown Hare. Little Nutbrown Hare shows his daddy how much he loves him: as wide as he can reach and as far as he can hop. But Big Nutbrown Hare, who can reach farther and hop higher, loves him back just as much. Well then, Little Nutbrown Hare loves him right up to the moon, but that’s just halfway to Big Nutbrown Hare’s love for him.
I Love You Stinky Face by Lisa McCort. A mother and child discuss how the mother’s love would remain constant even if her child were a smelly skunk, scary ape, or bug-eating green alien.
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crocket Johnson. One evening Harold decides to go for a walk in the moonlight. Armed only with an oversize purple crayon, young Harold draws himself a landscape full of wonder and excitement.
Harold and his trusty crayon travel through woods and across seas and past dragons before returning to bed, safe and sound. Full of funny twists and surprises, this charming story shows just how far your imagination can take you.
I’ll confess: we didn’t even have this board book until both boys were well past the baby stage. But they both loved it over and over again. Otherwise, this one would have made the top ten!
Good Dog Carl by Alexandra Day. The favorite original story about Carl the responsible rottweiler is presented in a sturdy board book edition and follows the adventures shared by the babysitting dog and his infant mistress.
My favorite part here is that there are no words – but the illustrations tell such a delicious story of mischief. So every time you read / tell this one to your baby it will be a little different. As my son grew up – he would tell me the story!
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. The sweet story of a caterpillar eating his way through the week. It’s remotely possible that my second son liked this as much for the pictures of food as anything else!
Ok. So the truth is – you may as well just get ALL the Eric Carle now. They are all amazing. And they will keep you and the little ones busy for hours!
Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Eric Carle. A big happy frog, a plump purple cat, a handsome blue horse, and a soft yellow duck–all parade across the pages of this delightful book. Children will immediately respond to Eric Carle’s flat, boldly colored collages. Combined with Bill Martin’s singsong text, they create unforgettable images of these endearing animals.
I Want To Be Your Personal Penguin by Sandra Boyton. Your Personal Penguin is an irrepressible, read-aloud, listen-along favorite for young children and the grown-ups who read to them. Fun to hold, the book tells the story of a slightly bewildered hippo and the loyal penguin who wants nothing more than to be his pal.
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina. Caps for Sale is a timeless classic beloved by millions…one of the most popular picture books ever published! Children will delight in following the peddler’s efforts to outwit the monkeys and will ask to read it again and again.
On My Beach by Sara Gillingham and Lorena Siminovich. Turn the colorful die-cut pages of this irresistible board book to discover just what makes little crab’s beach so cozy. Is it the soft sand? Is it the salty seaweed? No, it’s his loving family! Bright pictures, a sweet reassuring message, unique layered pages, and an adorable finger puppet combine to create interactive reading and playtime fun!
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The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle. One day a tiny cricket is born and meets a big cricket who chirps his welcome. The tiny cricket tries to respond, but there is no sound. The quiet cricket then makes his way into the world, meeting one insect after another, each of whom greets the little cricket with a cheery hello–the hum of a bee, the whirr of a dragonfly, the whisper of a praying mantis. The cricket rubs his wings together each time, but nothing happens, not a sound. Until the day he meets another cricket, a female…
What Are You Favorite Board Books?
So whether you have a book worm baby who came out of the womb appreciating the fine nature and stories of good board books or a baby who is just as happy to eat the board books, throw them, or spit up on them as to listen to them – I think you’ll find something amazing here!
If I’ve missed one of your favorites, let me know in the comments below!
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