5 must-have books for toddlers

A child who reads will be an adult who thinks. There is absolutely no substitute for books in a child’s life and toddler-hood is an exciting time for readers. If you, my friend, are looking for book recommendations for your toddler, read on ahead.
When I started choosing books for baby V, I realised that criteria for baby books were different from toddler books. Sharing a few that I am always asked here.
Board book vs paperback
Although most toddlers are still comfortable with board books, it is helpful if you can introduce paperbacks too once in a while. Children learn to read safely, and yes, flipping pages is definitely a motor skill.
We try to lean towards books with realistic illustrations but it is okay to go with cartoony ones too. As long as the child enjoys and the illustration looks familiar.
Books that teach vs story books
I have had people gift me books with titles such as “Good Manners” or “Count from 1-20”. The latter has only images corresponding to the number and the figure on each page. These are great as first books, but personally baby V and her amma found them a bit too drab. Try to have a few books in your library that incorporate the concept into a story. Or make up a story while you read it. This is a great way to introduce sequences.
I make sure to pick up books that show not just animals of all habitats (V is still in the animal phase), but also, children of all colors, ages and genders. Apart from subtle messages, these books open up a lot of dialogue.

Baby V doing what she does best- create mess and sit amidst it peacefully, reading to her teddy that she has worn in a sling

We have a huge( modesty is not my virtue, apparently) library for baby V and I’ve found that in the beginning, it is important to expose toddlers to the types of books mentioned below. This is a perfect starting point and worked for us. Please feel free to add on to the list or be creative in your choices from the categories.

1. A full-house book

I coined the term myself ;). So there are books with loaded pictures on each page. They may or may not have a story. Do note these aren’t the systematic first words books I’ve mentioned in the previous post.
These are crammed with a variety of pictures and the child not only learns vocabulary but you can also play where is with him. We love You Choose.

A full house book – a book that bursting with pictures

2. A simple story book

These are books with small and simple stories that are easy to relate to. Complex enough to create interest and suspense, but simple enough for those little minds to understand sequences.
Rhyming words and simple one to two lined text per page are great.
Once your child is comfortable with these, you can move on to complex story books- simple stories, but more vocabulary.
Children learn the concept of a story, sequences of events, sometimes cause and effect; and always new vocabulary.
Our top picks for this genre would be
Hippo has a hat or any in the series by Julia Donaldson
Any Eric Carle. We love The Very Busy Spider
The very busy spider

A simple story book- small sentences and an easy-to-follow story

3. A wordless book

This one is not necessary if you can will yourself into not reading the text.
Id say that wordless or minimal word picture book is a must in every toddler’s library.
It enables you to narrate the story in any way possible- any language, different words, different modulations, as long as the basic story structure is the same. Thus each reading is different. This open ended narration is great because it is novel each time. Plus children learn that many words can have the same meaning. Basically, their vocabulary improves by leaps and bounds.
Our recommendation for this category is without doubt Hug by Jez Alborough.

A minimal words book- cos you are the best storyteller.

4. An interactive book

You can get a lift-the-flap/ touch and feel/ magnetic/ sound book or basically just any kind as long as it involves active kinesthetic (hand movement) participation.
You do want your child to start reading independently and at some point. Interactive books give toddlers some kind of ownership in the act of being read to.
Our favourite in this category is Knock Knock! by Kaori Takahashi.
Knock Knock

An interactive book- to give your child the pleasures of active reading

Im just going to linger on a moment here to rave about this book. Feel free to scroll on.
Unravelling this book is an absolute delight. Baby V loves doing the knock knock imitation on each door before climbing up the stairs. Every house in the apartment the girl visits is different from the inside and we are introduced to a myriad of characters who speak nothing but somehow, have a personality of their own.

5. An I-did-not-see-that-coming book

One unpredictable book with an anti-climax is a must in your child’s library to encourage lateral thinking. Cos, thats what books do. :)I do not mean fantasy where everything is possible. Just any book with an unpredictable end.
It could be anything- any theme that you would want to introduce to your child.
For us, it is The Worst Princess by Anna Kemp. What starts out as a simple princess – prince story turns out to be something else. Bonus, it teaches children to be strong too.
The worst princess

A I-did-not-see-that-coming book. With an anticlimax that says anything is possible.

That’s all folks. If there is something you feel I should have added, please feel free to comment below or email, as always.

This entry was posted in Books.


  1. Shikha says:

    Such an informative article Vaishali . I was wondering at what age we introduce ‘Press here’ to toddlers ?

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