Did you know that from birth to age 3, a child’s brain produces more than a million neural connections per second? The brain, our most phenomenal organism, skyrockets in development during the early years, making reading the young brain’s best friend.
Science continues to prove that reading to your baby, toddler, or young child boosts their vocabulary and strengthens reasoning, conceptual abilities, and memory. For example, the ability to recognize familiar words or anticipating to the next word in the sentence. Also, a high-quality book can act as a safe classroom for toddlers to develop new understandings of human behavior.
But outside of the incredible developmental benefits, and perhaps more important, reading gives you a genuine way to connect with your young one when it can sometimes feel you're miles away from each other. Could you imagine coming home to tell your toddler about your mundane day at work or trip to the doctor's office? Getting lost in a good book will always come to the rescue and provide thoughtful, engaging, and humorous material for bonding.
To ensure you have great options, we consulted both our mom group and community pediatricians to curate a well-rounded list of books you'll both enjoy. From nostalgic classics to heartfelt comedy, there's something in here for any proud parent. Happy reading.
Even though new children's books are published every day, historically, imaginative storylines and the lessons learned are timeliness. Take a trip back to your own childhood favorites with the innovative illustrations found in Dr. Seuss books such as The Cat in the Hat, published in 1957, or the fun adventures of Norman Bridwell's big red dog, Clifford, created in 1966.
For heartfelt reads, Runaway Bunny, published in 1942, chronicles a mother bunny who will follow her little bunny to great lengths, and Corduroy, published in 1976, are great selects. As one MyDomaine community mom says of Corduroy, "We read it nightly. There's just something special about imagining that teddy bear coming to life and wandering around the big department store," says Sylvia Rutherford. "The diversity in the book is a wonderful added bonus."
Mercer Mayer's famous Little Critter, published in 1957, is sure to deliver some fun adventurous learnings, some of which you may recall. Your little one can try and find the spider and cricket hidden in each page. The Little Critter series includes bedtime series read as well. For another feel-good bedtime classic, try Good Night Moon published in 1947.
Sweet Adventures and Learnings
Just like adults take in new ways of thinking, sometimes the best way to build moral understandings with a toddler is through simple storytelling. This becomes especially true when your little one is going through a big transition such as preschool. Owl Babies tells the story of an owl mommy who leaves the nest with her three little baby owls worried she won't come back, but she always comes back. The theme of "mommy always comes back" is great for daycare or preschool transition. Similarly, Llama Llama Red Pajama can help your toddler understand that when they go to sleep, a parent is always just a room away.
For everyday educational lessons Big Words, co-authored by Jamie Lee Curtis, is a playful vocabulary booster for all ages. For you urban mamas out there, Last Stop on Market Street offers a beautiful storyline to real-world city living, such as taking the bus.
Miss Molly's School of Manners teaches behavior basics through the lens of young animals. For example, what you say to someone after they sneeze or understanding when to offer to help a friend. (It can't hurt as a refresher for us adults, too.)
Another adorably illustrated animal stars in Slumber Sloth, a genius bedtime book that teaches toddlers how to relax their minds and bodies before bed. It's a guided meditation in rhyming story format. Also, Time for Bed is a beautifully soothing bedtime book.
Is your child learning how to skateboard? My First Skateboard Book is written by professional skateboarder Karl Watson. "It's a sweet introduction to the welcoming and diverse community of skateboarding, and how the hobby can connect you to all different types of people all over the world," says MyDomaine community mom Elizabeth Kennedy.
A few more books that encourage diversity and acceptance include 10 Little Fingers and 10 Little Toes, which shows how many different babies from many places around the world can all have similarities. Thank You Bear is a sweet, simple story about friendship, while Little Blue Truck teaches forgiveness.
For underscoring all the incredible things your toddler can accomplish in his/her lifetime, a few books of inspiration include Isabel Sánchez Vegara's Little People Big Dreams Series. A set of books that profile incredible historical women such as Maya Angelou, Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo and more. They provide powerful reminders to us mamas as well.
Also, the Flora Series, featuring young Flora who embarks on many adventures. The book is written without words, but with beautifully drawn illustrations and flaps for the kiddos to lift. How to Catch a Star is such a lovely story about a young boy who is reaching for the stars, and fails and tries again. And then learns to compromise for another different star—his very own.
Laughs and Lessons
As mentioned earlier, books serve as excellent material for you and your little one to bond over. Which is why you should feel empowered to be selective about one of your main entertainment sources and have some funny reads on hand. Besides, sometimes after a chain of breakdowns or tantrums, comic relief can be good for both of you.
Written in a how-to style, How to Babysit a Grandpa is a funny role reversal of a child and grandparent where the child learns what type of snack to give grandpa or what to play with them. Julia Donaldson's books The Gruffalo or A Squash and a Squeeze are witty, wise, and fun to read. "The stories never get old for either the parent or the child," says MyDomaine community mom Devon Larsh Fischer.
For another clever series, Mo Willems's books crack into the mindset of a young child as highly relatable and funny while teaching valuable lessons such as Waiting Is Not Easy or Should I Share My Ice Cream? Also, Pout-Pout Fish stars a sad puffer fish and teaches how our bad moods can impact those around us. (Again, another subtle reminder for us adults.)
MyDomaine community moms also declare Sandra Boynton books as pure genius. "They are short, silly, and now my girls can basically 'read' them by themselves," says Aly Bauer. "Also, many of them are to the tune of a song, which makes them even more fun," Nicole Mulvaney says in agreement.
Without the need of much explanation, I Need a New Butt consistently gets laughs. Also, The Book With No Pictures, written by actor B.J. Novak, is told in a way that forces the narrator to read out silly gibberish—quite entertaining for the little.