Reading books to your toddler has many benefits, including developing language skills and teaching life lessons.
But as any parent of a toddler knows, they don’t always want to sit still. That’s why the book must be intriguing and easy to understand. We’ll help you curb a toddler’s restlessness, and we have found 25 of the best toddler books for you both to enjoy.
Why Reading Is Important
Reading with your child is good for them. Sharing stories, singing, and simply talking every day supports your little one’s development in various ways. Here are some benefits:
- It helps them recognize sounds, language, and words.
- It develops early literacy skills.
- Sparks curiosity and imagination.
- Teaches your child to value stories and books.
- Develops your toddler’s brain, communication, and social skills.
- Helps them understand changes and new events, as well as the emotions that may follow.
- It helps them understand the difference between make-believe and reality.
It isn’t always necessary to read for your toddler. Sometimes, merely looking at the pages can make you the best storyteller. Your little one will watch you hold the book correctly, turn the pages gently, and show interest in its contents (1).
The best toddler books are those that address daily events like eating, sleeping, and potty training. Look for board books, as they’re less likely to break if your toddler gets handsy.
Handling Toddlers Who Won’t Sit Still
My little one would rarely sit still during storytime unless it was before bed. It became frustrating, but then I discovered that sitting isn’t a requirement (2).
Keep in mind that a toddler’s attention span isn’t long — this is why short stories are often best. If your little one prefers to stand up while you read, then that’s okay, too.
Engage them in the story, ask about the pictures or make funny voices. Try to find a favorite book that you can read repeatedly.
If that doesn’t help, don’t force it — instead, leave the book for now. Perhaps your toddler prefers singing nursery rhymes or simply hearing your voice.
The Best Toddler Books of 2020
We tried to find simple books with little text and intriguing illustrations. That’s your best bet for engaging your child. We researched expert sites and collected a list of 25 of the best toddler books around.
1. Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site
In this New York Times bestselling book, your toddler gets to say goodnight at the construction site.
The rhyming text and colorful illustrations tell a soothing story, helping your toddler get ready to turn off their engine and rest.
2. One Sheep, Two Sheep, Three Sheep Dance
With this newly-released book from Christina Young, your toddler gets to follow 12 little sheep during their day. It’s a quirky bedtime story that teaches your little one how to count using sheep and rhythmic rhymes.
You and your toddler can snuggle up and count together until they’re fast asleep. The illustrations are adorable, great for grabbing a little one’s attention.
3. The Giving Tree
In this old classic, your child can learn about generosity and self-sacrifice, but also to be thankful. The story is about an apple tree that unconditionally gives and gives to a little boy. As he grows, he continues to ask for more, until the tree sacrifices itself.
Since the moral of the story isn’t set in stone, it allows for questions, which sparks curiosity. If you have a sensitive child at home, though, you should be aware that this one can be a tearjerker.
4. Dear Zoo: A Lift-the-Flap Book
With this fun board book, you and your toddler can enter the zoo to discover and play with the animals. The lift-the-flap design creates an interactive experience, enabling your little one to feel more included in the activity.
There’s much to discover. Your toddler can try to find the monkey, the lion, or the elephant — you can ask them questions about their favorite animals. The illustrations are bold and bright, eye-catching, and intriguing for toddlers.
5. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Let your toddler’s eyes wander and discover the various forest animals hiding within this book. As you turn the pages, you’ll reveal a different animal — then ask your child what they see. The animals include a frog, a cat, a duck, and a handsome blue horse.
Each animal is bright and bold, fun for toddlers to look at. Preschoolers can feed their curiosity while learning about animals. Some of the animals fly, others crawl, and some run — it’s a fantastic book to read from an early age.
6. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
Teach your toddler the alphabet with this fun book by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault. The alphabet letters race each other up the coconut tree, but is there enough room?
The book’s text has a fun rhythmic beat to it, which your toddler will love to hear repeatedly.
7. The Wonderful Things You Will Be
The Wonderful Things You Will Be expresses some of the loving things parents think of their children. It includes thoughtful rhymes with stunning, and sometimes, humorous illustrations. It’s a book you will love reading to your little one.
It teaches your toddler about unconditional love and how parents see them, even during tough periods. It’s not a book full of long sentences and words, which makes it a great choice for a little beginner to read.
8. Llama Llama Red Pajama
If your toddler struggles to sleep alone, then the Llama in the red pajama might help. The book is about a little llama tucked into bed by his mom — but as soon as she leaves, he starts to worry.
The story addresses bedtime anxieties while reassuring children that parents are never far away. Your toddler can probably relate to the worries that mom isn’t coming back. But, she always returns just in time to set things right.
9. The Kissing Hand
This book helped my child right before the first day of school. It’s the story of Chester Raccoon, who doesn’t want to go to school in the forest. His mom then shares a little family secret to give reassurance when it’s most needed.
The book includes stickers, so your little one can take the kissing hand with them to fight their insecurities at daycare or school. Even if your toddler isn’t struggling with separation anxiety, it’s still a fantastic, sweet book to read. Toddlers can relate to Chester Raccoon, which reassures them that such feelings are normal and okay.
10. The Snowy Day
Upon its release in 1962, The Snowy Day broke new ground by portraying a realistic, multicultural urban setting. Parents praise the inclusion of children with various ethnic backgrounds in the story. It’s now a timeless classic.
It tells about the first snowfall and all the magic and possibilities it brings. It’s a good book to read around Christmas time.
11. Make Way for Ducklings
You and your toddler can get lost in this enchanting story about the duck family. Follow along as the duck parents try to find a safe spot to raise their ducklings.
At last, they settle on Boston’s Public Garden, but how do they get all their little ones safely there? Along the way, the ducks are helped by a friendly police officer. The book teaches about kindness and the importance of helping one another.
12. Press Here
There are few words in this book, but a whole lot of fun. Press Here consists of colorful dots on each page — then it instructs the reader to press, tilt, or shake it. It’s a real belly blaster that will get your little one to giggle.
As you turn the pages, the dots multiply, “responding” to your toddler’s actions as they follow the instructions. There’s something new on each page.
13. Big Girl Panties
With a light and positive approach, this book might motivate your little one to ditch the diapers for good. Big Girl Panties follows a little girl as she gets to wear big girl underwear just like mom.
It’s fun to read as the text is snappy and rhyming, with colorful, stylized illustrations.
14. Where's Spot?
With this fun, colorful book by Eric Hill, you get to help the mother dog find her lost puppy, Spot. She looks everywhere — under and over, inside and outside — she sees a lot of animals on the way, but no Spot. Your toddler can help open the different flaps to expose who’s hiding.
It’s a great book to teach your child about spatial concepts such as over, under, and inside. The colorful, simple illustrations are toddler-friendly.
15. Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
We all know the song, but did you know that reading it to your toddler could be even better? The book is full of goofy, mischievous images of the five little monkeys getting in trouble. There’s no lesson to the story, other than not to jump on the bed.
Toddlers will find this story fun, as they laugh along to the images of the monkeys bumping their heads.
16. Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale
Follow Trixie and her dad as they venture off to the neighborhood laundromat along with Knuffle Bunny. Trixie is a toddler who doesn’t speak yet — she helps her dad fill the machine and put money into it.
Once they’re ready to return home, she realizes she forgot her stuffed toy bunny, but her dad doesn’t understand her gibberish. Her mom immediately understands, and Knuffle Bunny is found.
This story addresses the common issue toddlers face of not being understood, but it’s also about trying to use one’s words.
17. Diapers Are Not Forever
For toddlers who are potty training, this is one book they can relate to. It addresses the process in a charming, straightforward way that’s easily understood by small children. The colorful and intriguing illustrations make it a hit.
The book discusses how to use the potty and why it’s essential to do so. It encourages confidence as tots approach this milestone. We also love this book because the story is in both English and Spanish.
18. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
The well-known book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, is beloved by many of us. The story follows a little caterpillar, transforming from an egg into a butterfly. But along the way, he overeats and gets a stomach ache.
The book not only tells a sweet story, but it also teaches about the days of the week and numbers. It’s great for toddlers as they can follow along, seeing the holes the caterpillar has eaten.
19. If Animals Kissed Good Night
How do animals say goodnight? This is a whimsical little bedtime story about a girl asking if animals kissed goodnight and wondering how they would do it.
Giraffes must stretch high in the sky to kiss. Sloths move slowly, so they’ll still be saying goodnight after the other animals are sleeping. The book tickles your toddler’s curiosity, forcing them to use their imagination and ask questions.
20. Bright and Early Board Books by Dr. Seuss
In this bundle from Dr. Seuss, you’ll receive four board books wrapped together in a cute blue box. You get Hop On Pop, Oh, The Thinks You Can Think, Ten Apples On Top and The Shape Of Me And Other Things.
We love Dr. Seuss, and this bundle is a wonderful beginner’s package.
21. Olivia Helps with Christmas
The little piglet is at it again as Christmas is coming, and she has a lot to do. This book by Ian Falconer follows the piggy Olivia as she makes sure her dad and mom are getting ready for Christmas. Olivia is simple with few words and sentences on each page — but the illustrations are whimsical and cute.
Toddlers can relate to the excitement of December when Christmas is approaching. Olivia must hang up the stockings and open her presents.
22. P is for Potty! (Sesame Street)
Let Elmo and friends from Sesame Street tell your little one about using the potty with this lift-the-flap book. It includes more than 30 flaps to flip, so there are plenty of things for your toddler to discover.
The book is sturdy and can easily be read while on the potty.
23. Hands Are Not for Hitting
This book will teach the many things that hands can do other than hitting. It addresses an important topic — that violence is never okay. Instead, it shows that everyone is capable of performing positive, loving actions.
It’s bright and inviting, but also durable with simple words toddlers understand. Additionally, there are tips for parents and caregivers.
24. ABC's for Boys
For small boys, this take on the ABC’s teaches the alphabet using all the things boys love.
This includes airplanes and construction vehicles, among many other things. It’s excellent for boys from an early age up to 5 years.
25. The Feelings Book
Toddlers can’t always label their feelings, which often leads to tantrums. The Feelings Book can help your little one learn about the various emotions they experience.
The book illustrates different moods with fun images the young reader can relate to.
Any Time Is Storytime
Reading books to your toddler is one of the best ways to aid their development. They establish early literacy capabilities, expand their vocabulary, and build social and communication skills. It’s also a way for you to bond and have special time with them.
Try to find a favorite story — one that revolves around their interests. Still, don’t worry if your little one doesn’t want to read a book — some toddlers prefer songs or simple talks.