“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.”
– OSCAR WILDE
Your older infant will still love the brain-building favorites she enjoyed in the slug stage, but now she is capable of exploring books for more than grabbing & chewing.
Pick a dependable time of day to read to your tot so she has a dependable moment of connection that she can rely on through the tumult of introducing new foods, developing motor skills, sleep troubles, and teething. At this age, we had a rotating book bin next to the changing table and a few bedtime favorites, but even just one story before nap, or right after breakfast, will establish a calming routine for both of you.
Fun books to read for your tot – every, single, night
Little scientists use repetition to gain language and motor control mastery. You will be forced to play peek-a-boo until your brain melts, you will be saddled up for horsey and airplane rides until you’re dizzy, and this year’s library will contain the most well-worn, memorized pages of your parenting career.
These are the stories you’ll read every night for months, maybe years. Little brains pick the worst stories to obsess over, and they will demand your least-favorite again and again. Don’t even try to hide it behind the sofa after reading it just once. They will know.
So before you crack the cover of that board book – choose wisely.
Clumsy Hands & Nibbled Pages
A list of the best books for developing fine-motor control, early language skills, and giggles.
For babies aged 6 months and up
BABY’S DAY (Blake)
Ages 6 months+ (best for 6-18 months)
For first couple years, photo examples are better than illustrations. Infants and younger tots are just getting a handle on abstraction representation and categorizing.
I’m totally not biased, you guys! (Me being a photographer and all.) It’s SCIENCE.
Each page features a real-life scenario that toddlers will find familiar, highlighting an object they, too, probably interact with every day. You know when you read a blog post about an experience you’ve had, and it makes you feel connected and understood? Babies like that feeling too.
Bonus: Staggered pages, which are easier for little hands to turn!
Downsides: ‘Baby’s Day’ along with the others in this series is out of print, and I’ve never seen another book like it. Luckily, used copies are usually for sale on amazon for less than $1. Just wipe the pages down with an anti-bacterial vinegar wipe-down if you’re afraid of germs. Babies don’t care.
OINK, MOO, MEOW & THINGS THAT GO (Say & Play, Various Photographers)
Ages 6 months+ (best for 6-30 months)
Clean, vibrant, simple photos. Check.
‘Oink, Moo, Meow’ features crazy-adorable animals and the sounds they make, so if you wanted to be human-noise-machine Michael Winslow when you grew up, but it never panned out, now is your chance to live your dreams. Thanks to daily study with this book, my 2-year-old can inspire fear in a crowd using his impressive lion impersonation.
‘Things That Go’ gives allows me to make machine noises. Each vehicle is a vibrant color, so when you want to get advanced, add color labeling to the mix.
Man, toddlers just love vehicles. I have no explanation. What did they obsess about before we had cars? Horses or something?
BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR, WHAT DO YOU SEE? (Martin & Carle)
Ages 6 months+ (best for 6-30 months)
I’m going to make a lot of enemies here, but I have to be honest.
I hate the work of Eric Carle.
His illustrations give me the creeps. I get that it’s a creative decision – but look at that bear. Is that a broken neck? Are we dealing with a zombie bear? What is wrong with it?
So you can trust me – I love this book despite my revulsion for almost-all-things-Carle. There is a reason it’s on every daycare bookshelf in the country.
Bill Marin Jr. keeps it tight. The repetition and sing-song rhythm is hypnotizing. It covers animals and colors, and after the first few weeks you can read it with your eyes closed, half-asleep, like I’ve been doing for the last four years.
Don’t be tempted by the polar-bear spin-off. It lacks the charm and flow of ‘Brown Bear,’ and it’s full of stuff like hippos and flamingos. I already make animal sounds for ‘Brown Bear,’ so this polar bear nonsense just makes my life harder and adds homework to the mix. Do you know what a hippo sounds like? Neither do I.
CHOMP! & CHOMP! ZOO (Brown)
Ages 6 months through kindergarten
Most littles will destroy an interactive pull-tab book within minutes. That’s why we don’t bother requesting interactive books from the library – they always arrive in shreds. The ‘Chomp!’ books, however, are thick, sturdy and practically indestructible.
The illustrations are fun and the chomping action is a hoot. Both my 2- and 4-year-old still get a kick out of this simple book. For absolutely no reason at all, we prefer the crocodile one.
Beware ‘Big Chomp,’ a later spin-off from this series. It’s just pictures with no pull tab. I honestly have no idea why it even exists, other than to disappoint you when you receive it, destroying your evening plans for chompage.
Pat the Bunny (Kuhardt)
Ages 6 months – 2 years
The classic ‘Pat The Bunny‘ packs a range of sensory stimuli in one book, and it’s eternally in-print so you can pick them up anywhere. If you need to pack light for travel or need something small for your diaper bag, this is great. This recommendation comes with reservations, however, due to the dreaded comb binding.
The sound of the plastic comb binding can be excruciating to those of us with sound sensory issues and the perfumed page gives me a migraine. While the book now comes in ‘deluxe/hardcover’ that doesn’t help – it’s the same binding, they just added a hard cover. Ugh. But hey – if you’re not sensory-averse, you’ll probably find it delightful.
The pages themselves are flimsier than I’d like for young hands. If someone ever prints ‘Pat the Bunny’ in a full board-book form, it’d be a big winner. For now, though, we stick with our out-of-print copies of ‘Little Black Book‘ and ‘Little Pink Book.‘
Also – am I the only person completely creeped out by Paul & Judy? Those kids are the stuff of psychological horror movies.
Sensory-friendly alternatives to ‘Pat the Bunny’:
Ages 6 months+ (best for 6-18 months)
I am a terrible person, so let me introduce you to Nancy Elizabeth Wallace. Her books are amazing and I hate reading them.
This is the only one of her books you should ever read, because the rest of them are too good for you. Well, they are too good for me, at least. Maybe you are perfect-er than I am.
‘Baby Day’ was my 2-year-old’s favorite book to ‘read’ to his newborn brother. It was so adorable it almost made it worth my insane decision to have a second child and decimate the remaining shreds of my sanity.
Although ‘Baby Day‘ doesn’t feature real photos like the books above, it covers almost the entire daily routine of infants, so the littles love it.
In the background are reasonable bunny parents who do stuff like change diapers and get the baby dressed. They are not super-heroes, but they are decent parents who do what the rest of us do, even if they do look better rested and less frantic.
Every other book by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace will make you feel like a terrible parent. The bunny mom/teacher in the rest of her books is an infinitely patient home-school maven who has an unrealistic amount of time and energy for gentle guidance on geology and rock sorting, pond-life and nature sketching, bulb-starting and winter crafts. Natural science stuff. If you have the time-management skills to culture your own yogurt, you might be able to pull this stuff off.
You can base an entire home-school curriculum off of these books, and your kid will turn into a gentle, conscientious genius. Probably. I wouldn’t know, because I just can’t get my act together like mom bunny can.
Wallace’s bunny moms are never exhausted, never rushing to swap out the laundry, and never skip a nature hike because someone needs to cook dinner before little bunny gets cranky and throws a fit. Buddy the bunny would never shatter his magnifying glass or throw his paints on the sofa. Good parenting, I guess.
I keep getting these books because I really like self-flagellation. One of these days I will align a field trip to an apple orchard perfectly with this book the night before and then we will make applesauce and I will hit pinnacle great-mom-status. My hair will turn flaxen gold, I’ll lose 30 pounds, and my children will screeching for goldfish crackers when I give them broccoli. But first, I need to find my keys and catch up on laundry and pack tomorrow’s lunch using nothing but a can of re-fried beans and a tomato.
Seriously though, they are great books.
At this age – build a small, quality home library. Reading the same book 100 times is better than reading 100 books.
We keep a few extras around for novelty – sometimes it can buy me 5 minutes to wash dishes in peace. Here are the filler books that I’m not in love with, but don’t make me want to stab myself in the eye with a jumbo crayon on the 50th read.
- Little People Flap books – Babies just go nuts for flaps, and these books have a ton of them. They are excruciatingly tedious to read, and the books are too large for babies to easily wield on their own. I only bought it because it was 50 cents at the thrift shop. I wouldn’t pay more than that, as it’s annoyingly large and doesn’t fit properly on a bookshelf, but it has bought me an occasional moment to myself once a toddler gets into the groove.
- Whatever random flap book by Karen Katz – It doesn’t really matter which one, they are all the same three inane formats printed with different races and hobbies. Calamus loved ‘Grampa and Me‘ as a tot, and Nikola demands nightly searches for ‘Where is Baby’s Mommy?’ I love Katz’s dedication to racial diversity, but they are both boring and I can’t wait to get rid of them.
- That’s not my [whatever] series… A mouse keeps losing his/her stuff and needs your help to find it by touching and feeling all the things. Again, doesn’t matter which one, they are all the same. My theory is that the mouse is blind. That’s why he can’t identify his pet monkey without feeling the soles of her feet. Sure, that makes sense. Bonus for many of the books being gender ambiguous, so we can level out the playing field a bit.
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