Best Children’s Books for Your Baby or Toddler in 2020
When you're a new parent, reading books to your baby might be one of the best ways to bond with your little one. And the benefits keep multiplying as your baby grows into a toddler and beyond: Reading to and with your little one helps foster her development in many ways, including teaching language skills, forming word associations, and encouraging interaction.
Based on a survey of thousands of Pampers Parents, we’ve put together a list of some of the best baby books in four categories: classic books, bedtime books, development books, and interactive books. Some of the books that made the list are ideal for toddlers and preschoolers, too. We also explain how to choose the right type of book for your little one. Happy reading!
Choosing the Right Type of Book for Your Little One
Which type of book is best sometimes depends on how old your little one is. Many of the best books for babies offer simple stories with repetitive text and bright colors. As your baby passes through the newborn stage and gets closer to turning 1, stories that help reinforce daily routines, like a bedtime routine, can be a good choice.
Keep in mind, a book that’s great for older children can also work for your baby or toddler. She will love the sound of your voice as you act out certain characters, and you can highlight images by saying, “Look, there’s a big, green caterpillar.” One example is the Dr. Seuss book on our list. This story might grab the attention of a 5-year-old who is learning to read, while its illustrations might appeal to a much younger baby.
Once your little one is a toddler, you may want to choose books that help build her vocabulary and engage her imagination with enchanting tales and interesting characters.
As you’ll see, many of the books on our list can do double or even triple duty and work well for babies, toddlers, and even older children.
Deciding on the Best Book Format
When purchasing books, it’s worth considering the format, too. Board books might be the best for babies and toddlers because they can stand up to even the most precocious fingers, and the pages are easier to turn for toddlers. You might want to wait with hardcovers with paper pages, as your baby may be more inclined to rip the pages and put the corners in his mouth. Some board books come with soft covers, which are great—your baby will love the touch and feel of them!
Cardboard books are fun for babies to look at and as they get older they’ll move to paper pages.
E-books, which you can download to an e-book reader or a tablet, might be a good option if you’re riding in the car or traveling with your little one and don’t want to bring several books with you. Audio CDs and audiobooks are also available if you want to have your baby listen from a CD player, a smartphone, or an MP3 player. Keep in mind that nothing is better than reading to your baby directly. Your voice is his favorite sound!
How to Read to Your Baby or Toddler
It’s never too early to start reading to your baby; in fact, in fact, many parents-to-be enjoy reading to their baby bump! Whether you take on an entire book or just a few pages, the act of reading aloud can make all the difference in your child's development. Your newborn won’t be able to understand the story just yet, but he will enjoy listening to your voice. At the 4- to 6-month stage, your baby will start to show more interest in books. Then, between 6 and 12 months, he’ll begin to understand the pictures, and he may even babble along with you.
My daughter loves to pretend to read by just looking at the pictures and babbling. Reading is power.
As your baby grows, try to set aside some time each day for reading. You might like to establish a special time for it, such as by making it part of your baby’s bedtime routine. Books can also come in handy as a way to pass the time when you’re stuck at the doctor’s office. As your baby grows into a toddler, encourage him to hold the book and turn the pages. Read when your toddler is in the mood, and let him choose which book he wants to hear. Encourage him to name certain objects or characters in the illustrations, repeat phrases or rhymes from the book, or help finish sentences. Ask him questions about the story. Reading to your baby or toddler sets the stage for literacy, of course, but it also fosters his social and emotional development.
Classic Books for Your Baby or Toddler
These best-selling baby books have been around for more than 50 years. They’ve remained popular for generations, and their themes and illustrations are beloved. Pampers Parents chose the following as their favorite books for babies, toddlers, and older children, too.
Why pick this one? Bold and colorful collage-like illustrations help tell the story of a caterpillar’s birth on a Sunday and his successive day-to-day adventures, mostly focused on eating. Nearing the end of the story, he makes himself a cocoon, goes to sleep, and wakes up transformed into a butterfly.
Highlights: Available in hardcover, paperback, board book, audio CD, Kindle, and audiobook formats (free with your Audible trial). There’s also a loose-leaf version of the story with postcards that can be colored in.
Price*: about $5.76 on Amazon.com
Pampers Parents tip: You’ll appreciate the story of the caterpillar’s development in this book as it symbolizes the growth of your baby.
Why pick this one? Goodnight Moon’s lulling poetry and whimsical illustrations have struck a chord with many generations since the book was released in 1947. The classic bedtime story by prolific children’s book author Margaret Wise Brown is about a little bunny trying to go to sleep, or trying to delay going to sleep, by saying goodnight to everything in his bedroom, including the pictures hung on the walls.
Highlights: Available in hardcover, paperback, board book, audio CD, and Kindle formats.
Price*: about $7.69 on Amazon.com
Pampers Parents review: This book is great for little ones of different ages, from newborn to even a 6-year-old.
Why pick this one? You can’t go wrong with a popular baby book by Dr. Seuss. This charming tale is about a sleepy bug who gives off a yawn that’s so contagious that it sets off a chain reaction, making everyone sleepy. We’re sure that after reading this book to your little one, he’ll nod right off, too! Highlights: Available in hardcover, paperback, board book, and Kindle formats. Price*: about $10.39 on Amazon.com
Pampers Parents tip: You’ll love Dr. Seuss’s riddles, colorful graphics, and inspirational lessons.
Why pick this one? Written by P.D. Eastman and edited by Dr. Seuss, Go, Dog. Go! offers a tale that illustrates the variety and diversity in life. There are dogs of all sizes and colors, doing all kinds of unusual activities, like skiing. Two dogs even strike up a romance! This book is fun to read and fun to look at, and you and your child are sure to be entertained.
Highlights: Available in hardcover, paperback, board book, and Kindle formats.
Price*: about $6.99 on Amazon.com
Pampers Parents tip: This book will not only be fun for your child, it will also boost her development as she starts to identify the pictures, and correlate them to words.
Why pick this one? The Runaway Bunny recounts the tale of a little bunny who tries to run away from his mother. No matter where the little bunny tries to go, his mother promises to find him. It’s a comforting story and a touching way for your baby to learn that she can always count on her mom and dad’s protection.
Highlights: Available in hardcover, paperback, board book, audio CD, and audiobook formats.
Price*: about $5.69 on Amazon.com
Pampers Parents review: The timeless value of this book will be appreciated for many generations to come.
Bedtime Books for Your Baby or Toddler
A bedtime story is a terrific way to signal that it's time to settle down and go to sleep. These books offer some of the best bedtime stories around, and with any luck they'll help your baby nod off without a fuss. According to Pampers Parents, the aforementioned Goodnight Moon and Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book would also be on this list.
When I read a good night story to my child it’s bonding time and our bond gets stronger.
Why pick this one? This book, with its cute rhymes and silly animals, might just be the one that becomes a cherished part of your child's nightly routine. The story centers on an ark full of animals, who, before going to bed, watch the sunset, take a bath, put on pajamas, and even do some exercise.
Highlights: Available in hardcover, board book, and Kindle formats.
Price*: about $5.90 on Amazon.com
Pampers Parents review: This book is great for babies, toddlers, and even older children because it reinforces a bedtime routine.
Why pick this one? It’s the end of the day at a construction site and, as the sun begins to set, all the equipment, from the cement mixer to the bulldozer, get ready to rest ahead of another busy day tomorrow. The book features soothing rhymes and adorable illustrations.
Highlights: Available in hardcover, paperback, board book, and Kindle formats.
Price*: about $7.99 on Amazon.com
Pampers Parents review: This book has great rhyming, and your child will have fun recognizing the construction equipment when he’s out in the real world.
Why pick this one? As a zookeeper tucks in all the animals for the night, a mischievous gorilla steals his keys, and goes about freeing all the other animals from their cages. This story follows that wily gorilla as he sneaks around behind the zookeeper’s back. It’s a funny baby book that is sure to entertain your little one at bedtime. Highlights: Available in hardcover, paperback, board book, Kindle, and audiobook formats. Price*: about $6.79 on Amazon.com
Pampers Parents review: The book is simple to read, and perfect for preparing your little one for bedtime.
Development Books for Your Baby or Toddler
Reading to your little one is always about more than just entertaining or soothing your baby. It also helps introduce your child to the alphabet, new words, sounds, and more. These books have a strong focus on helping to develop your little one’s literacy skills.
Engaging and educational, many early literacy skills can be covered with these books and they go beyond the baby-toddler phases.
Why pick this one? This book features 100 simple words, such as "boat," "duck," and "towel." The words are split into categories to help your baby learn. Each word is paired with a memorable image. With this book, your little one will have lots of fun while developing his vocabulary. Highlights: Available in hardcover, Kindle, and board book format. The board book comes with a padded cover that offers the best soft touch and feel for your baby.
Price*: about $5.99 on Amazon.com
Pampers Parents review: It’s handy that every word has a corresponding picture, and that the book is divided into categories.
Why pick this one? Another book by author Roger Priddy in the First 100 series, this one focuses on—you guessed it—numbers, colors, and shapes. It offers a really fun way for your child to learn how to count beyond the 10 fingers and toes. Highlights: Available in hardcover, Kindle, and board book formats. Price*: about $5.79 on Amazon.com
Pampers Parents review: Bright colors and shapes serve as visual stimulation for your little one.
Why pick this one? Who knew that learning could be this much fun? This book turns learning the names of parts of the body into a playful game of discovery for your little one. For example, arms can go up, they can hug, they can hold, and more. The illustrations present toddlers of different cultural backgrounds doing all kinds of activities, showing in an inclusive way what our physical selves can do. Highlights: Available in library binding, paperback, and board book formats. Price*: about $6.99 on Amazon.com
Pampers Parents review: This book offers a way for your little one to learn how her body works.
Why pick this one? Beautiful watercolor collages that jump off the page will help your child learn the alphabet while encouraging an interest in fruits and veggies. The design also features bold capital and lowercase letters for easy reading. The book’s glossary has a pronunciation guide, botanical and historical information on each item, and illustrations of the plants, all of which might become even more interesting for your little one as he gets older. Highlights: Available in hardcover, paperback, board book, and Kindle formats. Price*: about $7.99 on Amazon.com Pampers Parents review: It’s a fun way to teach your baby the alphabet and about healthy eating.
Interactive Books for Your Baby or Toddler
These books invite your little one to be an active participant in story time, whether it’s by pointing out objects, pressing a button, or shaking the book.
Why pick this one? This is a great book for teaching your baby about her body, because there is an extra interactive component. There are flaps that you or your baby can lift to reveal the answers to questions like "Where are baby’s eyes?" Your baby will surely be entertained by this funny book and love that she can get involved in finding the answers. Highlights: Available in hardcover and board book formats. Price*: about $4.24 on Amazon.com Pampers Parents review: This book offers an exciting and interactive way to get your baby to learn about her body.
Why pick this one? This book takes your baby on an adventure with instructions that begin with pressing a yellow dot. A number of hilarious commands follow, such as to tilt or shake the book. You'll enjoy watching your baby react to what’s occurring on the page. Highlights: Available in hardcover and board book formats. Price*: about $7.64 on Amazon.com Pampers Parents review: Your baby and toddler will love how interactive this book is.
We hope you’ve found the perfect book to add to your little one’s library, or to offer as a baby shower or birthday gift for another lucky child. Any one of these books would do wonders for your baby’s development and imagination, and will help ensure your baby grows to love reading.
*Prices are correct at the time of writing. Prices are based on the board book versions.
How We Got These Results
We surveyed thousands of parents in the Pampers Community and asked them to choose the products they love the most, and to share their views on specific products and product categories. Based on the survey responses, we have taken the top product picks and added our own research to create this article. The aim is to help you choose the right product for you and your family. We might receive commissions on purchases made from the links in this article, but the products featured are the Pampers Community’s top choices.
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