The best books for babies and toddlers

Kinderling News & Features

Jaquelyn Muller is a child literacy advocate and author of children’s books I Love You 5 Lollipops and Elizabeth Rose on Parade.

While encouraging the interaction of babies and toddlers with any books is key to their development, there are some types of books that are more appropriate for certain ages. Here are some useful ideas for your baby or young child the next time you visit the library or bookstore!

Listen to Jaquelyn’s interview on Kinderling Conversation:

Four - 12 months old

What do babies like at this age?

  • being close
  • watching facial expressions and hearing their parents’ voices
  • listening to sounds and music
  • looking at books with baby faces and bright colours
  • hearing the same stories and rhymes being repeated
  • touching and tasting books

How can support you reading at this age?

  • smile and hold your baby close so they can see your face and the book
  • copy the sounds your little one makes e.g. “da-da-da”
  • help baby bounce and move to the rhythm of your voice or music
  • talk or sing about what you are doing when around the baby
  • notice what your bub is looking at and name it
  • share stories with your baby in the language you feel most comfortable with
  • start at the front of a book — you don’t have to finish it, a few pages is great!
  • keep books in easy reach for kids
  • repeat words from the book when playing with your baby e.g.“Splish, splash, scrub-a-dub” when in the bath
  • make animal noises

Books suggestions

  • Peepo Baby - Sebastien Braun 
  • Where is Baby? - Sally Rippin 
  • Tickle, Tickle - Helen Oxenbury 
  • W is for Wombat. My First Australian Word Book - Bronwyn Bancroft 
  • I Went Walking - Sue Machin & Julie Vivas

 12 - 18 months old

What do babies like at this age?

  • sitting close, seeing the book and your face
  • looking at and listening to the world around them
  • moving to the rhythm of stories, nursery rhymes and music
  • touching objects with different textures (soft, smooth, prickly)
  • hearing the same songs, books and stories over and over again
  • feeling and holding the book and helping to turn the pages
  • looking at books about family, food, animals and colours

How can you support reading at this age?

  • ensure bub can see your face and the book you are sharing
  • play and laugh with your baby
  • give them different textures to touch and talk about what they feel like
  • sing songs that your baby can clap, dance and move to
  • talk about what your child is doing or pointing to
  • tell their favourite stories and rhymes over and over again
  • name the pictures your little one touches or points to in the book
  • keep books at home to share with your kids
  • do actions to the story
  • take your baby to the library to look at books and join in reading sessions and activities

Books suggestions

  • Count My Kisses, Little One - Ruthie May & Tamsin Ainslie 
  • Old MacDonald had a Farm - Mandy Foot 
  • Where is the Green Sheep? - Mem Fox & Judy Horacek 
  • Dear Zoo - Rod Campbell 

18 – 36 months old

What do toddlers like at this age?

  • pointing to and naming things they see
  • reciting the same rhymes, songs and stories over and over again
  • listening to songs and stories with his or her name in them
  • filling in the words in songs and stories they know
  • reading about animals and making animal noises
  • choosing the book and helping to turn the pages
  • talking with you about the games they are playing

How can support you reading at this age?

  • talk to your toddler about what they are doing as they play
  • help your child notice words, sounds and letters in everyday life e.g. street signs, grocery packaging
  • sing simple songs together, make your own music and dance to the rhythm
  • find words that rhyme in stories and songs
  • play and have fun — you don’t have to read the whole book
  • encourage your toddler to turn the pages and talk about what he or she sees e.g. “Show me the snake.”
  • share books, read-along storytelling apps and eBooks wherever you are
  • carry books when you go out
  • visit a library, borrow some books

Book suggestions

  • Giraffes Can't Dance - Giles Andreae & Guy Parker-Rees 
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Eric Carle 
  • Elizabeth Rose on Parade - Jaquelyn Muller
  • Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes - Mem Fox & Helen Oxenbury 
  • The Wheels on the Bus - Penny Dann

3 - 5 years old

What do toddlers like at this age?

  • naming the things they know
  • talking, singing and moving to music
  • hearing words that rhyme
  • making up their own stories and drawing the pictures
  • listening to stories about themselves, families, friends and going to school
  • reading alphabet and counting books
  • helping to tell a story or song they know

How can support you reading at this age?

  • point out signs, grocery packaging and other words and pictures when you shop
  • help your child to draw and talk about the drawings they make
  • make up actions to go with the words of songs
  • as you read, run your finger under the words
  • talk about the story and ask questions e.g. “What is the bird doing?”
  • help your child find the first letter of their name in the book
  • share eBooks and apps to help your child learn about sounds and letters in words
  • have children see you read books you enjoy
  • visit your local library regularly and borrow books

Book suggestions

  • Can I Cuddle the Moon?  - Kerry Brown & Lisa Stewart 
  • I Love you 5 Lollipops - Jaquelyn Muller
  • Dig Dig Digging - Margaret Mayo & Alex Ayliffe 
  • K is for Kissing a Cool Kangaroo - Giles Andreae & Guy Parker-Rees

Also see:

:: 10 tips to help kids learn to read
:: Extending books into creating art
:: Helping kids to plan and write a story
:: An author’s guide for getting kids into books