Let’s talk about the best picture books for toddlers.
Have you read Brown Bear, Brown Bear a few too many times?
Are you dreaming in Chicka, Chicka Boom Boom rhymes?
Parents, I get it. I’ve lived it. There are only so many times you can read a book before you consider hiding it on a shelf out of toddler eye sight. Not that I’ve ever done that…
Need a few new books in your collection?
I’ve got the perfect list of picture books for toddlers!
Here’s my credentials:
- I taught kindergarten and first grade so I’ve read a few picture books in my day.
- I’m a Mom to two toddlers (with a baby on the way) – I’m currently living the life of The Constant Reread.
What is this list and what is it not?
These are picture books, not board books. Board books are a subset of the picture book genre and meant to be durable and played with – aimed at the youngest readers (babies).
For the toddler crowd, picture books have an air of being “big kid books”: they are simple stories with pictures accompanying text and come in paperback or hardback.
On my list, I’ve chosen books with real stories, important lessons, captivating language, and pictures that bring the child into the book. And books that are short enough for toddler attention spans (oh look, squirrel…).
Let’s see this list (in random order)
This list is full of Amazon affiliate links – the book titles and photos are clickable. That means I get a small commission from Amazon, but at no additional cost to you. Helps me buy more picture books for the kids.
This “cautionary tale” won a Caldecott Award for its pictures – and for good reason. The story is one kids of all ages can relate to: losing your stuffed animal. Oh and the title character is pronounced “KUH-nuffle”. Trust me.
WHY I LOVE IT: It’s a great book for making predictions, asking questions, and getting even toddlers to empathize with the main character.
The pig, mouse, and rooster set sail on a day of adventures. This book follows a typical day in their friendship and their activities.
WHAT I LOVE: The message of friendship. “Good friends decide things together”. Toddlers can learn some basic friendship skills from these three characters: making group decisions, sharing, and working together.
A Little Golden Book Classic, this story is about a little red caboose who is just plain fed up with being last in line. Sounds a bit like a frustrated toddler, huh?
WHY I LOVE IT: It teaches and demonstrates that all parts of a system are needed – everyone has a place and everyone can be helpful.
Get this cat into your home library ASAP. Pete loves his white shoes, but how will he handle them getting stained a different color? How will he manage this crisis?
WHY I LOVE IT: Pete teaches toddlers not to sweat the small stuff because “it’s all good”. It’s a great lesson for adults too.
If you know a toddler who loves to say “NO” (wink), this is your new favorite book. The bus driver leaves your toddler in charge – they need to make sure that pigeon doesn’t drive the bus.
WHY I LOVE IT: The interaction children have with this book is incredible. No matter if they are 2 or 8, they just have to tell that pigeon NO. It creates a bond with this book that’s everlasting.
This book tells the tales of your piggie fingers. Sometimes they’re good and sometimes they’re bad. But it’s all about the pictures in this book. The text is simple so you have to watch the pictures for the whole story.
WHAT I LOVE: Piggies shows toddlers that pictures can tell just as much story as text does. Pick any page and you’ll always find something you’ve never seen before.
The Pig Family is headed on vacation but oh, the crazy life in Busytown that they encounter. The story is simple, the book is long, and it’s full of labeled vehicles. Some of the things that go are real (a rock crusher) and some not so much (the pickle mobile). It’s perfect for boys and girls – you’ll never get bored looking at this book (or trying to find Goldbug).
WHAT I LOVE: This book would take years to read. Ok, that’s a little hyperbole but you get it. I’m in my second straight year of reading this book and it hasn’t gotten old yet. It’s a long one so you only read a page or two a night and it’s the perfect book for toddlers to look at on their own.
Hands down the simplest book on the list, but it packs a lot in the limited words. This story follows a freight train on its path.
WHAT I LOVE: This book has so much to offer – color words, sequence and simple text that children can memorize and “read”.
9. NO, DAVID!
If you think your toddler is a handful, you should meet David. He gets into so much trouble but (spoiler alert) Mom still loves him.
WHAT I LOVE: For my kids, this has been a good reminder that all kids get into trouble and all kids can be a little naughty every now and then. And yes, even this Momma still loves you.
10. HATTIE PECK
Hattie Peck dreams of being a Mom but that dream nearly escapes her. Hattie sets out on an adventure to find all the unwanted eggs in the world and becomes the Mom she knows she’s meant to be.
WHAT I LOVE: Hattie shows the beauty of adoption and the perseverance we should hope our toddlers have in making their dreams come true.
11. BUT NO ELEPHANTS
An old story that follow Grandma Tildy as she opens her small home to animals. But she knows she can’t take on an elephant in her small space. What happens when one is dropped off?
WHAT I LOVE: The phrase “but no elephants!” keeps being repeated and repeated text stories invite toddlers to “read” along. This story is simple and a little silly – it’s perfect for toddlers.
What happens when you give a mouse a cookie? A whole lot in this simple story with an easy to follow premise.
WHAT I LOVE: This book is all about cause and effect, and sequence. It offers a lot of comprehension skills to our toddlers.
Three frogs find an alligator egg on Pebble Island and are sure it’s a chicken egg. Even once this alligator is born, they are sure they’ve met their first chicken.
WHAT I LOVE: Toddlers will love the silliness of calling an alligator a chicken. They will see the humor in this story! Plus, the vivid language is amazing for toddler vocabulary.
A fantastic rhyming book about a little Llama with some serious drama: Where is his Mama and why is she not dropping everything to get to him?
WHAT I LOVE: The message in this book is so important for toddlers – sometimes, parents are busy. Sometimes, you have to wait. Plus, there are now many many many additional books in this series that all teach important toddler life skills.
From the same author and illustrator of Goodnight Moon, the Runaway Bunny is all about a mother’s love and how far she will go to be with her little bunny. Bonus points if you can find the illustration from this book that the illustrator hid in the famous green room in Goodnight Moon.
WHAT I LOVE: This was my personal favorite story as a toddler and child, and I still love reading it today. The text follows a structure/pattern and the pictures also form a pattern which only adds to the fun of reading this old story.
What did you think of choices for picture books for toddlers?
Did I miss any?
What would you add?