Even if you have too many books, you can never have too many books.
I love reading to my ten-month-old son. For a while, I wondered if there was much point in doing so, given his propensity for smacking and licking the pages (more on that here). But after some research, I was reassured that reading to infants is not only valuable in the moment, but it has lasting benefits for baby’s development.
For those who may not know, board books are children’s picture books with thick boards instead of thinner paper pages. Their sturdy structure is perfect for babies and toddlers, who are still learning how to interact with books (look at and turn the pages rather than grab or lick them), and whose dribbly mouths and sticky fingers can easily ruin the more delicate pages of a traditional book.
On my quest to fill my son’s bookshelves (Okay, they were already full… Okay, fine, they are overflowing…) it seems there are endless amazing options out there. But these are some of my favorites that I encourage any new parent to add to their baby’s “reading” list. If you don’t have a child of your own, wrap up one or all of these to make the perfect gift for a parent or baby in your life!
Title: How Do I Love You? by Marion Dane Bauer
Why I Love It: It’s hard to say who loves this book more — my son or myself. All I know is that when I bring it out, he is always drawn in (excited to turn the pages and stopping to paw at ones he finds especially interesting on any given day), and that has made this book a beloved staple in our house.
It’s a simple rhyming book about a parent/caregiver’s unshakeable love for a child, but it somehow feels like a personal declaration of love written from myself directly to my son. I guess that’s the point! We all love our children more than words can express, and this book somehow pulls it off. It illustrates an overwhelming emotion into simple and relatable everyday examples, such as, “I love you like the sea loves the sandy shore,” and “I love you as a bee loves a fragrant flower.” It’s a reminder than love doesn’t have to be complicated — it just is. And the brightly illustrated pages make this book engaging for even the littlest of babies.
Title: My Car by Byron Barton
Why I Love It: I’ll be honest — this one snuck up on me. It was gifted to us and I didn’t think much of it at first, but it has quickly become one of my favorite books to read with my son. With 40 pages, it’s definitely on the longer side for a children’s board book. However, there are only a few words on each page; and if you have a little one like mine, who enjoys turning pages, it’s still a quick read!
The book’s main character, Sam, talks about the workings of his car, how he uses it, and where he goes in it. The bright, graphic illustrations are sure to rope in any curious little readers.
Title: Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill
Why I Love It: This beloved classic is a “lift-the-flap” board book and it deserves a place on every child’s bookshelf. It’s a fun and engaging little story about a mother dog who is searching around the house for her puppy, Spot. As she looks in different places, the reader is invited to lift a flap that reveals various other animals hiding underneath, such as a crocodile, a snake, and a bear. It ends with Sally happily locating and embracing Spot.
The activity of looking under each flap and helping Sally search for her puppy offers an interactive experience for children. My only caution with this book is that the flaps can be easily damaged or ripped off by excitable little fingers. So, either try to encourage children to be gentle or buy more than one copy…
Title: Moo, Baa, La, La, La by Sandra Boynton
Why I Love It: If you’re familiar at all with children’s board books, you’ve no doubt come across at least one by Sandra Boynton. This classic was first published in 1981 and is still a household staple. It begins with the question, “What do animals say?” Each page then introduces a different animal with its corresponding sound, presented in a silly and rhythmic way that captures the attention of young readers.
The ending encourages children to make their own silly noises, which adds more fun to the experience. Overall, its simple and repetitive text, playful illustrations, and interactive elements makes this a perfect read-aloud book for little ones.
Title: Your Baby’s First Word Will be Dada by Jimmy Fallon
Why I Love It: I’ll be honest… I didn’t want to like this book because I want my son’s first word to be Mommy, obviously. But I’ve got to admit that it’s a good one! It is a playful and funny take on the challenge of teaching a baby to say their first word. Each spread of the book features a different animal father trying to encourage his baby to say “Dada”, but the baby responds with the sound associated with their species, such as “moo” for the cow and “bzz” for the bee.
While I wish it were not the case, my son did, in fact, begin babbling “da da da da” before anything else, even before we introduced this book. So, at the very least, I feel like reading this to him is encouraging his language development. But it can also offer a way to introduce animal sounds and encouraging the bond between fathers and their children.
There you have it: five essential board books for the babies or toddlers in your life! Now, get out there and grab your clean new copies so your little ones can immediately cover them in saliva, half-chewed cereal, and boogers… while also bonding with you, learning, and having fun :)