The Best First Books for Small Children Under Three-Years Old
Toddler books need to be colourful, simple, with primary colours, some but not too much detail and some saving grace for a parent forced to read each repeatedly.
Even the youngest babies can be exposed to books, but it’s when the language starts to develop that reading with your child becomes truly important.
Board books are particularly good, as they can be “read” by the child themselves without ripping the pages. Not many of these are truly outstanding, but before the time comes for the greatest picture books ever made, your toddler will certainly enjoy some or all of the following.
Touchy Feely Books
These are usually board books and are excellent even for the under-ones .
- Usborne Books make very good ones, with That’s Not My… series a truly enjoyable example. Each of those books has a repetitive structure, extremely simple text and one textured part on each page-spread. They are educational (teach adjectives and nouns) and engage different sensual modalities.
- Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is a classic and makes an excellent use of bright, modern pictures, varied page sizes depicting all kinds of fruit devoured by the caterpillar and those little holes marking caterpillar’s track, so good for putting little fingers in! Add to this the wonderful butterfly-from-caterpillar climax and you have a real winner.
- Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell is a lovely little lift-the-flap book with a repetitive story line about zoo animals. It teaches names of animals, basic adjectives (grumpy camel, big elephant, scary snake etc.) and delights children with the flap-lifting and all the sounds and actions that can accompany it. Indispensable.
Books Which Play With Sounds, Language, Rhyme and Rhythm
- Rattletrap Car by Phylis Rootis a story of a family trip to the lake in a car that falls apart, but gets fixed by each family member in question. The beauty is, though, in the fantastic, rhythmical text which mimics all kinds of wonderful thunky, clanky, vrooomy mechanical sounds in countless onomatopoeias. Pure delight.
- The Bear in the Cave by Michael Rosen is a recent book by a recognised child author and it tells the tale of a bear from a seaside cave on a trip to a big city. Great rhythms, repetitive sounds and wonderful pictures make it a good candidate for an instant classic.
- Pudding and Pie by Sarah Williams and Ian Beckis a collection of old-time classics with wonderfully whimsical, old-style illustrations.
Books About Toddler Life in Animal Disguise
- Spot books by Eric Hill. This is a perennially popular series of simple, brightly coloured books about a life of a small puppy, his mum and his animal friends: rather tiring for parents but beloved of children.
- Daisy books by Jane Simmons. Another animal-as-toddler series, with a inquisitive and adventurous duck Daisy exploring her world and the common experiences and fears of childhood. Worth getting particularly for wonderful, lush illustrations.
- Maisy books by Lucy Cousins. A mouse that’s just like a toddler (though she lives in her own house), Lucy Cousin’s series is a huge franchise now but not any worse for that. Simple text allowing for a lot of parental input and bright, modern, engaging illustrations.
- Kipper books by Mick Inkpen. An irrepressible little pup and his friends get into all kinds of scrapes each with a moral lesson. It’s charming, understated and has gems of comedy that will lighten up parents’ reading load.