One of the aspects of parenting I was most excited about was sharing the magic and power of books with my children. Not only do I enjoy getting lost in a really good book (when I find/make the time), but I especially love reading to my babes. There are countless benefits to reading to babies and young children, including strengthening language, attention span, memory, creativity, and emotional understanding. Not to mention it is wonderful bonding time! I’ve been reading to D since day 1 (if nothing else, there’s always bedtime!) and it makes my heart happy to see her love of books already.
Although I am not strict about it, there are a couple of qualities I look for in books for my children, following a few Montessori principles.
Most of our books are based in reality, meaning you don’t find a lot of talking animals and princesses. The Montessori belief is that young children, especially toddlers, learn best through reality (concrete) rather than fantasy (abstract). This does NOT mean we discourage pretend play. It just means we let toddlers and young children take the lead in their own pretend play, which is typically acting out real-life scenarios such as playing house or doctor. When children begin to fully understand the difference between reality and fantasy, fairy tales and fantasy books become more appropriate. So for now, most of our books involve real-life content and ideally realistic or at least beautifully-illustrated pictures!
This includes both the durability, length, and content. When D was younger, we only had board books, but now she understands how to be careful with some of our larger hardcover books. I try to choose books that aren’t too text-heavy, and if they are, involve catchy rhymes or exciting illustrations that keep her attention. Sometimes her attention span for books just depends on the time of day! Lastly, I try to find books on topics that I think she will enjoy (such as babies), as well as new ideas (such as our solar system).
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10 of D’s Favorite Books
The Big Book of First Words - This is D’s favorite book right now, and honestly, mine too! It’s a little like “Where’s Waldo” but more toddler-friendly and less dizzying. ;) Each page features a different scene such a kitchen or zoo, and on the right side of the page has images of objects or animals to find within the scene. It’s a bit trickier than her other favorite, Let’s Find Momo. I think she especially loves how it’s a giant board book!
Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth - This book offers hope for all of us who love and want to help take care of our planet. It celebrates all of the beauty of Earth and the people on it. “You’re never alone on Earth.” :) There are so many fun pictures and topics within this book to talk about with a toddler.
All the World - This is such a beautifully illustrated book. It is a simple but poetic story about a family’s day from morning to night, and all the beautiful things we see and do. It also emphasizes the importance of togetherness. Everywhere Babies is done by the same illustrator and is another of our longtime favorites.
Press Here - This is D’s favorite interactive book. Although it is simply a book of dots, each page has instructions on how to make the dots create different patterns, e.g. tipping the book on its side to make them “fall down”. D loves feeling like she has had an effect on the dots’ pattern page after page.
Where Do I Sleep? - This has been a longtime bedtime favorite. For those not wanting a Pacific Northwest specific book, I Would Tuck You In is also similar and sweet. A simple but really beautifully illustrated story of where animals and their babies sleep. I love how realistic the illustrations are too!
The Wonderful Things You Will Be - I love the message this book sends; that a child can grow up to be anything they choose and there is value in it all. D loves the beautiful illustrations of children, and the pop-out page at the end! This is a wonderful gift for new parents/babies.
You Were the First - We gave this to D before S came along and it’s still one of her favorites. It tells the story of all baby’s firsts, and how the parents get to experience it all with them. It ends with “there may be a second or a third, to sleep in the basket with the yellow ribbon wound round…but you will always be our first”. It makes me tear up each time!
Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You - Speaking of tearing up, this book always gets me! It is such a beautiful story of how a parent’s love is with their child wherever they go and whatever they feel. It’s a wonderful, comforting story for bedtime. This one’s story is a bit abstract, but as I said, I’m not super strict about every book being completely based in reality.
Eating the Alphabet - This is a colorful and classic book for teaching letters. I enjoy that it emphasizes the sound letters make rather than just the letter itself. Plus, D loves her food, so this one is extra fun for her! ;) I especially like that it introduces unusual fruits and veggies.
Seek and Count - As D becomes more interested in numbers, she’s really enjoyed this lift-a-flap number book. Each page features a surprise under the flap and counts up from one to ten. It’s simple but great for toddlers who are counting to 10. She loves to recall what is hidden on each page - great for memory!
You can find more of our other favorites listed in my interview with Kelsey Paff of Where The Board Books Are!