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Beguiling Books: Recommended children's books for reading out loud to toddlers

book recommendations books books for toddlers children's books fairy tales favorite read alouds read to your kids

best books for toddlers

At 18 months to 3 years old, children are busy. However much they love to read, they may only have time for a favorite page or two before they are on to the next thing. My toddler likes to see the bouncy ball in My Daddy and I, and wants to talk about the cheese and strawberries on a lift-the-flap first words book, and then she's done. Encourage reading time by choosing books where you can clap, sing, or have other motions that accompany the words, e.g. beautifully illustrated renditions of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," and "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." Older toddlers may begin to recognize that letters and pictures accompany the words you say, and may be unwilling to skip a page, stop in the middle, or have a book read in an unfamiliar way (for example by a friend or family member who does not use the same voices or sounds you do). 

Continue reading favorites such as Susan Wise Brown and Eric Carle. The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a wonderful auditory, visual and sensory experience for little readers. 

Poetry and rhythm are still great tools for increasing language skills. In addition to nursery rhymes, Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses will delight you and your little one. Choose a richly illustrated edition such as the Simon and Schuster version. Another favorite acclaimed by critics, including those in our house, is Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young, by Jack Prelutsky. This compilation of poems gives a gentle verse for everything from getting up in the morning, to going to sleep, including feelings, activities, and changes of season. You'll find many poems you forgot that you knew as you read to the kids. 

Beatrix Potter's The Tales of Peter Rabbit is great for being a non-preachy, cautionary tale that the angelic and mischevious alike can identify with, although sometimes the naughty get the switch. While it may be old-fashioned, some would argue that this style of book leads the child to better reasoning and imagination than books such as Dr. Suess (and is on several "Great Books"-style homeschool lists for this reason). I would argue that there is a place for both!

There are so many wonderful books out there for young children, it hardly seems fair to give a list. Instead, here is a list of lists! There are more out there, but below are my favorite.

Before the list, however, one book that I feel has been woefully neglected on these lists, perhaps because of its age, is Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. It is a lovel tale, that speaks to beauty, togetherness, solitude, world travel, and "home". It resonates with little global nomads as well as those who stay put, and is beautifully illustrated. 

Don't forget to check out some of our great developmental toys for toddlers, such as Guidecraft's toddler STEM toy and all-around-fun magnetic building set



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