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Best Books for Babies

April 7, 2016 • By Stacey Maaser

My Favorite Books for Babies

While reading with our four children as babies, these have been the books that have sustained their attention, engaged them, elicited responses of laughter and delight, and that we have both loved enough to want to read over and over and over again.

Engaging Babies with Reading

When you start to read new books with babies, it might not seem like they care about them at first, but once they become familiar with the books after you have read them over and over again, they will really start to fall in love with them. Once you get a sense of what really engages your baby, you can get more books that fit that style or genre. (*Read more about how to engage your baby with reading here.)

Where I Get My Books

Usually, I love just going to garage sales and thrift stores and stocking up on whatever books that fit the genres and styles I am looking for, but by spending a few dollars here and there on Amazon, I have also worked to create a very comprehensive library of new books as well. I love storing them in baskets like these around the house so that no matter where we are sitting, there are some great books within easy reach. (Read more about how I create a stimulating learning environment here.)

ABC Books

1. Dr. Seuss’s ABC Book

When I started reading this ABC book to our first born, Ruby, starting at about 8-10 months old, I was blown away when she knew all of the letters by the time she was 15 months old. This has been my favorite ABC book for teaching all of my children the alphabet. This particular version is only available on Amazon used and from third party sellers, but you can buy the newer board version book here.

2. My First Touch and Feel Book: Alphabet Fun by Tiger Tales

I didn’t find this book until recently while at the grocery store, but it has quickly become a favorite! Each page has the upper case letter, a simple picture, and a simple sentence associated with the word…which I LOVE! My son Julian loves feeling the pages (especially the sticky jam), saying the letters, and helping me turn the pages. It’s not a board book, but the pages are very sturdy and it has held up well.

3. The Alphabet Book by P.D. Eastman

I was surprised by how much my babies have enjoyed this book, but they love its simplicity, funny pictures, and focus on one of their favorite things…the abcs. I love reading it too. 🙂

4. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.

This is such a classic, and it is so cute that you and your baby will love reading it over and over and over again. This is still one of Ophelia’s (2.5 years old) favorite books. She loves cuddling up on my lap and reading this book with me as I walk my fingers of the tree and shout, “Chicka, Chicka, BOOM, BOOM!” and shake the book.

5. A to Z by Sandra Boynton

I love all Sandra Boynton books, and this is no exception! It’s a quick read with multiple letters per page, and the little characters intertwined in between each letter are very cute and entertaining. I also like how each description is just two words: one noun and one action that shows what the noun is doing.

Number, Color, and Shape Books

1. Ten Little Ladybugs by Melanie Gerth

The raised ladybugs and the holes in the pages make it irresistible for little fingers. I have read this book over and over and over again to Julian starting when he was a few months old, and now that he is 16 months, it is his all time favorite book ever. The rhyming text makes it very predictable to say the next number. This book is only available on Amazon used through third party sellers, but I have seen it in the book section at our local grocery store as well.

2. First Numbers by Paradise Press Inc.

This book is out of print and only available used on Amazon through third party sellers, but it is a worthwhile journey to get it! Of all the number books we have in the house, this has been a favorite with every single one of our children. I love how it uses interesting images for each number and how it also shows larger numbers like 20, 50, and 100.

3. Flaptastic Colors by DK Publishing

Pretty much anything that DK publishes is gold, and this is no exception! I purchased this originally from a garage sale, but had to buy a new unripped version when my kids loved it so much! This is the type of book you want to have multiple copies of around the house! It is great for teaching little ones about colors and the interactive nature and extensive examples make it very engaging.

4. Curious Kitties: A Colors Book by Sam McKendry

The yarn that runs across each page is a true delight for babies to play with. I know it can be tempting to tell your baby, “NO!” every time they try to play with the yarn (in case they break it), but rest assured that the more they play with it, the more it will be loved, and another one can always be purchased. This particular book is only available used from third party sellers, but still very much worth it.

5. Shape by Shape by Suse MacDonald

This book uses die-cut shapes to teach basic shapes like a triangle, crescent, semicircle, oval, and diamond by posing a simple question, “Do you know who I am?” Each page is vibrant with a minimal amount of text that allows the focus to be on the shape. You will love this book.

Vocabulary Books

1. Baby’s First Words by Hinkler Books

This is one of those sleeper hits that I found at a garage sale. I love the way that there is one simple picture and one largely printed word per page. This is a very effective way to teach children that words have meaning. I would buy all of the books in this series, they are amazing!

2. Where is Baby’s Belly Button by Karen Katz

This is currently Julian’s FAVORITE book! He even sits and reads it to himself laughing when he lifts the flaps and says, “Peek-a-boo!”. This entire series of books are extremely engaging and great at teaching basic vocabulary. Yes, some of the flaps can be ripped off and it’s not super durable, but just buy another one! It’s fairly cheap and will be highly worth any damage that can be done. 🙂

3. First 100 Words by Roger Priddy

I don’t typically like getting books that are too “busy”, but this one is really great at teaching new vocabulary words, and it won’t be too overwhelming if you only focus on a few words per page. As your baby begins to show more interest (by pointing, grabbing, having sustained attention), you can start spending more time on each page. I like encouraging my babies to learn how to turn the pages so that I can tell when they are ready to move on!

4. Touch and Feel Farm by DK Publishing

I kind of prefer the older versions of these books, but the newer versions are still great! The textures provided on each page aren’t overwhelming and beckon little fingers to feel them. Animals are always fascinating for babies, and this is a great way to learn the names of some of the common animals that you would see on a farm. You can’t go wrong with all of the books in this series.

5. Let’s Talk by Roger Priddy

This is a book I actually have never purchased, but when working on this article, I ran across it and it looks amazing! I think it’s really important to work on vocabulary with babies to help them learn about their world and the interactive nature of this book seems sure to engage!

Interactive Books

1. Discover the Day by Baby Einstein

Why is it that all of the really good books are out of print? I didn’t discover this series of books until our fourth child, but they have been one of Julian’s favorites. His little fingers love lifting the flaps, and he loves hearing all of the sounds. This book is only available on Amazon through third party sellers, but maybe you’ll get lucky like me and find one at a garage sale!

2. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

This book is simply a classic that every parent MUST own. For some reason, all little babies LOVE sticking their fingers in little holes. I think that the fascination starts in the womb when they are face to face with a belly button for 9 months. 🙂 All of our kids have enjoyed reading this book over and over and over again.

3. Bard’s Rhyme Time by Julie Aigner Clark (a Baby Einstein book)

This book is another sleeper hit that I found at a garage sale. I always like looking for books that have flaps because all babies love flaps! But for some reason, this particular lift a flap book really resonated with my daughter Ophelia. I like how it’s interactive and teaches rhyming words. You can only find it used from third party sellers on Amazon, but it’s worth it!

4. Tails by Matthew Van Fleet

We bought this book for our firstborn, Ruby when she was a baby. I didn’t even know that they made such fancy books until we had a child and began exploring the world of baby books! This book was enjoyable for me to read, and Ruby loved me reading it to her every day. It’s very sturdy and held up well through our second child Elliot who loved it as well.

Cloth Books

1. Peekaboo! I Love You! by Lamaze

All of our babies have LOVED to play peek-a-boo, and this book really brings a favorite game to life! I love the simplicity of a book about playing peek-a-boo with every family member. Unfortunately, this book is really expensive and really hard to find. I don’t know if it’s quite worth $25, but again, maybe you can find it used!

2. Sunny Day: Come and Play by Manhattan Toy

This is a very cute and flexible cloth book that I got at a garage sale and have enjoyed reading with all of my children. They love playing with all of the interactive while I read (and basically just talk about what is happening on each page) which makes it fun to read over and over again!

3. Fuzzy Bee by Roger Priddy

This is a really simple and really sturdy book that has held up very well through all of our children. We enjoy reading this book so much with our little babies that we have purchased multiple copies to keep around the house. We even keep one in the car, because yes, it’s that good!

4. Peek-A-Boo Forest by Lamaze

Pretty much everything that Lamaze makes is gold, and this is no exception. I love the flaps that lift and the peek-a-boo games that ensues while reading. It is a joy to read over and over and a total delight for children to “read” on their own.

5. Discovery Farm by Lamaze

I saved the best one for last! This book (like all Lamaze books and products) is simply amazing. It is super durable, totally engaging, fun to read, and helps babies develop a love of reading. Starting out with cloth books is a great beginning to reading.

Bedtime Books

1. Bedtime Peekaboo by DK Publishing

This is where it all began for our bedtime routine! We started reading it to Ruby when she was a baby, and we have read it with all of our children since. We love getting our babies involved as we read by having them help us lift the flaps. I think for babies especially, it’s really important to have short books before bedtime. We always try to do three books and then “nigh-night!”.

2. Maisy Goes to Bed by Lucy Cousins

As far as interactive books go, this one isn’t very durable, but it is sooooo fun to read! The interactive nature of this book goes beyond just lifting the flaps and really adds to the story. As an added bonus, the Maisy DVDs are great programs for babies and watching them really makes the books more exciting.

3. Pajama Time by Sandra Boynton

We started using this for our nightly bedtime routine when Elliot was a baby and Ruby was a toddler. We even made up a little tune for it which made them love it even more. Now, as we put our four children ages 16 months to 6 year and use this book in our regular rotation of books, they all love it and sing along. You should absolutely buy every Sandra Boynton book; they are all gold!

4. The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton

“The sun has set not long ago. Now everybody goes below. To take a bath in one big tub. With soap all over. Scrub. Scrub. Scrub.” I could go on, but you get the picture. It’s simple, it’s cute, it’s fun, and by reading the same books over and over before bed, it sets up a wonderful routine that helps children to fall asleep peacefully.

5. Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

I love that this book has practically no words. It allows us to quickly read through it saying whatever we want to match the pictures that will keep our little ones engaged. We always add fun little sound effects that elicit laughter and delight. As a baby, our son Elliot loved these wordless books with added humor more than anything, and at 5 years old, he still does. 🙂

In Conclusion…

Yes, you can go to the library and check out a revolving collection of books (which I highly recommend doing on a regular basis), but there is just something so wonderful about having a collection of sturdy, engaging, and resourceful books at your fingertips that will help you to provide your baby with the foundation of reading. By reading the same books over and over and over, your baby will become familiar with the books and grow to love them dearly. Read more about how oral language development leads to reading here.

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Stacey Maaser

Stacey Maaser

Hi, I’m Stacey Maaser, author of Embracing Motherhood! I am a stay at home mother of four, and I am extremely passionate about how children learn and best practices for teaching. I love using my background in education to create an environment for learning, and I love teaching each of my children in their zones of proximal development. I also enjoy learning about the science of food, healthy living, how our bodies process nutrients, and how to prepare nutrient dense meals on a budget.

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