Reading Tip and Book List: How to choose the best books for toddlers

I’m regularly asked to compile a list of top books for toddlers. With so many incredible books available, the task is almost impossible for me.

Instead, I thought I’d provide you with a list of tips for helping you to choose the best books to read with your toddler (and I couldn’t resist recommending a few of my favourite books at the end of the post)

Don’t forget to add your toddler book suggestions to this list.

1) Toddlers like to exercise their newly found independence

  • Look for books that allow children to interact with the book
  • Board books are still great for toddlers too because they can turn the pages independently, and without frustration

2) Toddlers become more active, so their attention span can be short

  • Look for books that have only one or two sentences per page (Toddlers can lose interest in a book if the story is too long) but still have an interesting/engaging story
  • Look for books that have simple illustrations on white backgrounds for your child to focus on
  • Look for books that invite or encourage children to be active
  • Wordless books can be great as you can adapt the story to suit the temperament of your toddler

3) Toddlers like to sing along to rhymes and songs

  • Look for books that have rhyming or repetitive text (e.g. sentences that are repeated on each page)
  • Look for books that feature nursery rhymes and well known songs

4) Toddlers are developing their language at a rapid rate. They imitate sounds and learn the vocabulary of familiar people and objects.

  • Look for books that feature sounds
  • Look for books that include some of your child’s daily activities (role play/routines/imagination)
  • Look for word books that feature familiar objects or books that highlight some of the words in the story

5) Toddlers are developing strong bonds with family members

  • Look for simple books about mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, etc.

6) Toddlers begin to become more aware of their feelings

  • Look for books that touch on feelings and emotions

7) Once toddlers begin to walk, they are curious about the world around them and enjoy exploring their environment.

  • Look for books that feature settings similar to your child’s environments (e.g home, playgroup)
  • Look for books that tap into your child’s interests

8) Toddlers are further developing their fine motor skills.

  • Board books are still great, but you can start introducing your child to books with paper pages to practise page turning.
  • Look for books that allow your child to pull tabs and lift flaps.

Some suggestions- My family’s favourite books for toddlers:

Where are Snugglepot and Cuddlepie? by May Gibbs

Baby Gets Dressed by Katrina Germein and Sascha Hutchinson

Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek

Maisy books by Lucy Cousins, especially What’s the Time Maisy? and Go, Maisy, Go!

Once Upon a Time by Nick Sharratt

Books by Matthew Van Fleet

Books by Hervé Tullet (especially Press Here)

Who’s Driving? by Leo Timmers

The Carrum Sailing Club by Claire Saxby and Christina Booth

Can We Lick the Spoon Now? by Carol Geoss and Tamsin Ainslie

Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Not Me! by Nicola Killen

Bom! Went the Bear by Nicki Greenberg

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

Foxly’s Feast by Owen Davey

Knight Night by Owen Davey

These are My Hands, These are My Feet by Judy Horacek

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? By Bill Martin and Eric Carle

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

Good Night, Sleep Tight by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek (review coming soon)

Noni the Pony by Alison Lester

Squeezy, Cuddly  Dangly Legs by Peter Whitfield and Jacqui Grantford

There’s a Goat in My Coat by Rosemary Milne and Andrew McLean

Nursery Rhyme Treasuries

What’s That Noise? By Sally Rippin (Also in the series are Hush Baby Hush, Go Baby Go, and Where is Baby?)

Yellow is My Favourite Colour by Judy Horacek

Hattie and the Fox by Mem Fox

Apple by Nikki MClure

And Red Galoshes by Glenda Millard

Rudie Nudie by Emma Quay

Mummy’s Kisses by Paula Clarkeand Lisa Stewart

A Bit Lost by Chris Haughton

I Love My Mum by Anna Walker

I Love My Mummy by Giles Andreae and Emma Dodd

My Dad’s the Coolest by Rosie Smith and Bruce Whately

Some Dads by Nick Bland

I Love My Dad by Anna Walker

My Grandma by Jeanette Rowe

Spot Visits his Grandparents by Eric Hill

My Sister Olive by Paula Russell and Gaye Chapman

Fluff and Billy by Nicola Killen

Ivy Loves to Give by Freya Blackwood

‘When I’m Feeling’ series by Trace Moroney

Yoyo goes to Playgroup by Jeanette Rowe

Our Nest is Best by Penny Olsen and Penny O’Hara


Reading Tip and Book List: How to choose the best books for toddlers


  1. Great post Jackie.. We found that ones with short sentences on each page were great (Where is the green sheep and The very hungry caterpillar are particular favourites).. Neither of our toddlers have been good at sitting through books, wanting to turn the page lots and preferring to crawl around the couch rather than sit still and listen. However our oldest who is now 3.5 has become a lover of books over the last year or more so the persistence of reading when we thought she probably wasn’t listening has paid off!

    • Persistence does pay off, I agree. Toddlers are active little people but it doesn’t mean they’re not taking it all in. Thanks for sharing your experiences too.

  2. Such a great post Jackie! There are quite a few books you have included that we haven’t read yet so I am looking forward to finding them. My little toddler loves Maisy, the Pip and Posy series and Boom Bah. Although at the moment she has been carrying around my battered copy of The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and ‘reads’ it just like Mummy! She even had to take it with us while we were shopping :)

    • What a cute story- thank you for sharing. Boom Bah is an excellent addition to the list- lots of fun noises! Thanks.

  3. Great suggestions and amazing list of books! Happy to see many of our faves on there and so many new ones to discover!!

  4. What a wonderful list and some great ideas to create out own.I really need to start a book piggy bank. I love all your suggestions, they make me want to go to the book store. I have to add Can you Cuddle like a Koala by John Butler. The Twins LOVE that book and Squish Rabbit by Katherine Battersby. They love that one too.

    • Squish Rabbit- we love that little bunny too. Great book suggestions that touch on feelings and emotions for children. Thanks for sharing.

  5. AMAZING Post Jackie!! This is going to be a massive resource for so many parents out there who are looking for great books for their toddlers. There are some new ones here for me and as always, adding them to our list of books :)

  6. My 18 month old and I both love to read “I love you through and through.” Such a sweet story with bright pictures and references to body parts and activities she understands.

  7. At the moment we love reading whos in the loo and Hugless Douglas. I love the list!

    • We find Hugless Douglas very endearing too, but we haven’t read Who’s in the Loo- sounds like it might be a funny one. Thanks.

  8. Everything is right here in this post. Thanks for pointing out some new titles to look for. Love the book cover images, makes it much more simple to sight them at the library ♥

  9. Great post! One of my favorite books for toddlers is Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchinson. It very cleverly lets toddler’s in on the joke with only a few words.

  10. Incredible post Jackie! Really wonderful- nicely done!

  11. The youngest fleshling in my dwelling LOVES “Monkey and Me” by Emily Gravett. We would also like to suggest (in the category of books with only one or two words) “Banana!” by Ed Vere. It is a story about the titanic struggle betwixt two monkeys who covet the same banana.

    • Thanks for the suggetion. We love Ed Vere’s Chick but haven’t read Banana. It sounds perfect for toddlers though.

  12. Awesome post! Thank you so much for linking it into the Kid Lit Blog Hop. I’m sharing it with my Fans on Facebook because I think everyone should have this list of tips!

  13. Icky Sticky Frog by Dawn Bentley. Karen Katz is my favorite toddler book author.

  14. Excellent post! Love it! I’ve tweeted about it to my followers. Thanks so much for linking in to the Kid Lit Blog Hop once again. You have a pretty comprehensive list of books. We loved Dear Zoo. The only thing I could thing to add is anything by Sandra Boynton. We LOVED her books. :-)

    • Thank you for sharing, and for your suggestion. I can’t believe I left Sandra Boynton off the list- toddlers love her books. Thanks.

  15. Very nice post. So helpful and then a list on top of all the help. I bet this took a while to complete. Very nice.

    SueM Kid Lit Hop co-hostess

  16. Wow Jackie, this is such a GREAT post. Whenever I am looking for a new book for my two I always find myself coming back to your site. So happy that I finally got around to reading this post closely. I am now off to reserve quite a few of these from the library!
    Many, many thanks.

  17. Thanks for linking in this great post! I can only imagine how long it took you to put this together so it deserves the extra exposure. I’ve tweeted about it again! (Yes, I’m THAT excited by it!) lol

    • You’re so sweet Renee. Thank you. I’m trying to find the time to add to the series (How to choose the best books for preschoolers).

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  19. Wow some great suggestions here – thank you so much for compiling this!

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Reading Tip and Book List: How to choose the best books for toddlers

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