The Best Books as Gifts for Babies and Toddlers

When my oldest was about six months old, I handed him a board book to hold while I checked out my own books from the library. A kindly elderly woman scowled at me as I walked past.

"Don't you think he is a bit too young?" she scolded.

Nope, in fact, I think it is never too early to introduce your baby or toddler to books! Books are the perfect gift for a baby or young toddler. Finding the right type of book for a little one takes thought, but it's worth it as you watch him or her fall in love with reading.

My baby, who just turned one, received books for her first Christmas, when she was not even three months old. She did not engage with them until she was about four or five months old, but from then on, she's been surrounded by books. True, some get chewed on. But I know that a damaged book means that my child has a great literary beginning to life. 

Check out some of my favorite books for young babies and toddlers below!

Note: I include affiliate links below, for which I receive a portion of the proceeds of any purchase.


Baby's First Books

As I mentioned when I posted about playing with your very little baby, babies love high contrast items. 

Baby's First Black and White Library is one of my baby's favorite and first set of books. They are very small (a few inches square) and thus perfect for her tiny hands to hold. They fit into an adorable book sleeve, so she loves to put them away. Finally, each page of the book has one word to describe the image, which is predominately black and white with a few other dots of color (such as red dots on the baby's cheeks). My older kids love to read it to my baby. Although these are small books, she loves to play with them and flip the page

The MOMAK High Contrast Book is another more helpful high contrast book, and these ones open up to form a panel. There is a little color but mostly, there are black and white animals, shapes and scenes. I love to unfold it and let my little one enjoy looking at it. Before, she would stare at it. Now that she is more mobile, she'll grab it and try to play or eat it! 

I love that these books can still have a theme. Some of the books I've shown above, such as Baby Animals by Phyllis Limbacher Tildes and Black Cat & White Cat by Claire Garralon, still have a theme that make them adorable and even fun for older children. Others simply are wonderful to look at the creative black and white collections, such as Black & White by Tana Hoban and Look Look! by Peter Linenthal. This kind of goes without saying, but another great things about high contrast books is that there are not stereotypical "boy" books and "girl" books. Black and white (and some color) work for any type of baby and toddler! 

Board Books and Activity Books for Toddlers

It's true that a baby younger than six months or even 18 months will probably not sit still or otherwise treat a book with tender and loving care. In this day and age, it is not necessary to hand them a book that will be immediately destroyed! There are tons of sturdy book options that will be adored by still live to see another day.

Books with "slide and see" features are a physical hit for toddlers. Lift-the-flap books tend to be ripped too easily by toddlers, but a book with a slide feature is definitely hands-on. Slide-and-Find Animals was my choice for my daughter's first birthday. She loved that the finger tabs let us move the animals around the pages.

Some slide books even have favorite themes and "stories" of sorts. Check out Hoppity Frogs by Emma Parrish What's in My Truck? by Roger Priddy for example.

Textured board books are also a clever option for young hands to enjoy. The classic Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kundhart was the first of this kind and is still adorable today.

The Usborne Touchy-Feely That's Not My... series is also a popular set of books with lots of textures. Each book in the series focuses on an object, such a dog or other pet, or a popular item, such as a truck. Then, most pages say "That's not my...." because there is something about the texture that is not "right". The last page is the correct object, again with a unique texture. My older daughter quickly discovered the pattern and my baby is sure to figure it out too!

Finally, toddlers love books that are tiny, just the right size for their little hands. Often, these include books are chunky and fit into a box. It is a combination of mini-books with 3d puzzle and/or a set of blocks to stack. My daughter loved them in her toddler years and loves them still, even though she's a preschooler now!

A bonus to these books is that they are educational as well as fun! As kids play, stack, and sort the chunky books in the counting, words, or animal books, they are also able to learn from them. What a perfect combination!

Favorite Durable Read Alouds

Even the most rowdy kids will learn to listen to a book at some point in their lives, especially if you have kept books around them all the time. I've mentioned before a number of my favorite picture books for toddlers, so I won't repeat that list. I'll hold to those as favorites of mine. Since they do, for the most part, have stories and nice covers, I don't often hand them to my children during their most destructive phase of toddlerhood!

I'll read them books while they play. I'll read them books while we cuddle or while they are extra sleepy.  Since I've been reading Kitty books since infancy, she knows when she can't snatch the books from my hands. I'm also willing to risk the fact that some of them may get ripped! Reading together is worth the chance of a few ripped pages.

That said, some other read alouds are more sturdy. Here are some of them.

I've written before about I'm a Dirty Dinosaur! and I'm a Hungry Dinosaur! see my posts on painting with mud and painting with chocolate! Both of these books come with extra durable pages that do not easily rip. Have a dance party or make a chocolate cake as you read them! The books lend themselves well to dancing. A series of books that also claims to be sturdy is The Indestructibles.

You can also give a book that is a board book but still has plenty to read and talk about. Very First Book of Things to Spot is lots of fun for parents and toddlers to read together. It asks the reader to find things in the pictures, such as "Where is the dog wearing a hat?" and so forth. It is a perfect discussion book to read with a little one who was just learning words. Talk about your reading to help build vocabulary and your relationship.

Beautiful Gift Books

My favorite book in baby Kitty's room is her Nursery Rhyme CollectionI admit that this is one that I don't let her play with. It is large and gorgeous. Yet, I have it on display on her shelf in her room. We have read it together since she was little, but I don't hand it to her. My preschooler is old enough to turn the pages with me. I assume, at some point, the pages will get ripped. But we're keeping it in a special place to help avoid that possibility for as long as possible. It's a special time when we read it together, and it was a lovely gift for her when she was a little baby.

Another gorgeous slipcase book is The Illustrated AlphabetThe illustrations are gorgeous and the content is age appropriate for infants and toddlers, although it is so beautiful that I probably won't hand it to them until my children are a little older. It's a special book to read together.

I love so many more favorites that are just right for the baby and toddler age. Some are simply worth setting in a special spot so they stay a special book for your reading time with your child as he or she grows. Other books should be available for your little ones, despite the fact that sometimes books get damaged. It is incredible how many great books there are, and so many are wonderfully appropriately for babies and toddlers.

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