Our guide to the top ten books for babies… Reading to your children is just a beautiful thing. It’s never too soon to begin exploring the world of books together – and it’s never too late to start if you haven’t quite got into it yet. Reading the right books is key if the parent is going to enjoy it too – an important factor if you are trying to show enthusiasm!
Remember you never read a children’s book once, or even twice, we’re talking 9,567 times before the little darlings grow tired of it and want to try something new. You better hope they latch onto something you like.
We are a considerate and supportive bunch at The Motherload® and want to help you out on this one so, without further ado, we bring you…
Top 10 books for babies:
1) Where’s Spot, by Eric Hill.
You may remember this 80s classic lift-the-flap book from your own childhood and it is still bloody brilliant. Follow Sally on her tense journey around the house to find her pesky son Spot, who has had the audacity to go missing, at dinner time no less.
Meet Helen the Hippo and Steve the Monkey before they were famous and watch your baby delight in opening the flaps to reveal them hiding in various items of furniture. You can also jazz it up with appropriate animal noises. You may find yourself sellotaping Spot’s flaps back on after the inevitable and brutal ripping off, but it’s all part of the fun.
Baby learns: opening flaps, different animals, animal noises, colours, locations, and best of all it has a happy ending (phew!) when Spot IS found and promptly despatched to eat his dinner without so much as a hug.
Extra points… If you manage to read this without tittering at the word flaps.
2) Peepo, by Janet and Allen Ahlberg
Peepo totally rocks. Every other page has a hole, which your baby will love to peep through, grab, and flap back and forth while you read the loveliest and most emotionally-affecting baby book known to humankind.
The late, great Janet Ahlberg’s 40s-style illustrations are simply beautiful as you take a trip through the baby’s day, and there is so much detail in them that one day your baby will be a toddler or a three year old who will still love reading Peepo and spotting the dog in the doorway and the soap in the cup.
As I already mentioned, it is emotionally affecting; this book has the power to mend souls and heal rifts and exude pure love at the end of even the most trying day of caring for your children.
Baby learns: putting fingers through the hole, playing peekaboo, about the progress of a day, about love and attachment, for who can resist giving a pudgy cheek a kiss during the final pages?
3) That’s Not My Monkey, by Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells
There’s a reason why the ‘That’s not my…’. books are so popular that they’ve even spawned a parody for mums and dads: they are really good.
And by that, I don’t mean that they are gripping for the adult reader and that you will be reading them alone in the bath (like that ever happens anyway) I mean that babies love the Usborne touchy feely books.
Okay, they get repetitive and there are limitations even to Usborne’s fabulous range of sensory materials but they are so engaging and your baby will love exploring the tactile pages, finding which bit feels different, and the bold images and chunky pages are perfect for younger babies who will enjoy a spot of solo browsing with these books.
There are so many ‘That’s not my…’ books now but the monkey one is great for learning the parts of the body, and it ends with a fluffy tummy. There aren’t many books that can say that.
Baby learns: this is just a fantastic book for getting babies to be interested in books. They will learn about different textures, body parts, types of monkey and colours.
4) The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle
Is there anything this book doesn’t do? Flaps? Check! Numbers? Check! Days of the week? Check! Fruit, veg and various items of junk food? Check! Life cycle of a caterpillar? Check! Allegorical tale about the greed of man? Check!
This is a classic, and with good reason, it crams in so much information in the loveliest way. It is beautifully written with plenty of cues for making it a really great performance.
Your baby will love poking their fingers in the little holes left by the caterpillar, turning the small chunky pages which grow larger along with the quantities of food being consumed, and the grand finale – well I won’t spoil it for you, but let’s just say you can flutter the final page.
Baby learns: pretty much everything. See above.
5) Hello Spot Puppet Play Book, by Eric Hill
Guess who’s back? Yep, it’s Spot but his time he is three dimensional. There are numerous finger puppet books available but this one has an entire glove puppet, which is fabulous for the person reading the book as Spot’s luxuriously padded muzzle protects against even the most aggressive of teething babies.
Watch as your baby delights in watching ‘Spot’ (okay, you) act out clapping, waving, touching noses, nodding and playing boo and encourage them to follow his lead. It’s a fantastic book and Spot can even be relied upon to deliver some positive reinforcement/constructive criticism as part of a bed-time round up of the day.
Baby learns: to wave, clap, point to nose, play peekaboo and nod their head. There is also a massive hole which Spot’s head pops through, which is fun to play with.
6) Little Master Carroll, Jabberwocky, by Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver
Who can resist the sound of Lewis Carroll’s words as they trip off the tongue: ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe ‘ (try writing THAT with auto-correct switched on!)
Your baby will understand some language but will also enjoy the sounds that you make, so a bit of nonsense won’t hurt. And what wonderful words of nonsense these are.
It’s a pleasure to read and quick to get through for the baby who is eager to flick through those pages. ”come to my arms my beamish boy” gives the perfect opportunity for a snuggle too.
The Babylit books are all beautifully illustrated and the vivid illustrations in Jabberwocky will be stoking your child’s imagination for years to come. I’m not joking when I say this is my one year old’s favourite book.
Baby learns: the wonder of language, the power of imagination, that fantastical creatures and words can take on meaning of their own, that reading is FUN. Oh, and the pictures reveal a whole story about a little boy who has toy Jabberwocky.
7) A Bit Lost, by Chris Haughton
Losing mummy is a recurring theme in children’s books, like low level horror for little ‘uns. But A Bit Lost is an absolute corker. Fabulous illustrations and simple language which you can build up into a bigger story as your child grows older.
Little Owl falls out of his nest while asleep and goes on a mission through the woods to find mummy, meeting various animals along the way who try to help.
Chris Haughton’s illustrations are fabulously vivid and beautiful, and his books always have plenty of action in them. Your baby will learn to spread their arms, make little ears, and big eyes with their hands and can joggle along on your lap as they follow Little Owl’s journey. Guaranteed, this will teach your baby to say “uh-oh!” in a really cute way. AND there is a massive hug at the end, which is a lovely way to end a bedtime story.
Baby learns: different animals, sizes, colours, noises, actions, love and attachment, and best of all that lost mummies CAN be found.
8) Postman Bear by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
Introduce your baby to the wonderful world of kid-lit heroes Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.
Another lift the flap book, which is a touch more sophisticated than Spot and Dear Zoo; your baby will get to reveal the three recipients of Bear’s letters, open the envelope to find out that it’s actually a party invitation (exciting!), open the oven to look at the cake being baked and reveal the guests at Bear’s party in the end. There is even the opportunity for a sing-song.
Baby learns: animals, counting, posting letters, lifting flaps, all the components of a great party.
9) Dear Zoo, by Rod Campbell
It’s another eighties classic. Dear Zoo is all about an indecisive, would-be pet owner, who repeatedly bombards the zoo with requests for a new pet, completely unaware that zoos do not even sell pets to people.
Well, apart from the zoo in Dear Zoo. Nothing is good enough for this nameless, faceless, and rather hoist-toity protagonist, but this is a delightful book and your baby will enjoy lifting the flaps to reveal the latest pet to be sent straight back to the zoo.
You can make noises, talk about colours, and eventually your baby will love shouting out the name of the animal as they open the cage or the snake charmer’s basket. It’s also a great book for your baby to explore in their own.
Baby learns: animal names and noises, colours, lifting flaps AND that most zoo animals make totally inappropriate pets.
10) My Dad, by Anthony Browne
In the first year of a baby’s life, mummy tends to be the dominant figure. Okay, Da-da tends to be the first word, but they still need a bit of help to redress the balance. ‘My Dad’ is a cracking book by the incredible author and illustrator Anthony Browne.
Baby can follow dad’s adventure (in his dressing gown, of course) as he jumps over the moon, wrestles giants and swims like a fish, we then learn about his various attributes; softness, wisdom, daftness and the ability to make the narrator – AKA the child – laugh. A lot.
Anthony Browne’s illustrations are wonderfully imaginative. This is a book to love for years to come. Best of all, it ends with a massive hug, a warm fuzzy feeling and a lump in your throat.
Baby learns: animals, colours, sports, popular idioms, love and attachment, that dads ROCK
Your own Top Ten Books for Babies:
Did we miss your favourite off the list? We love MOLO suggestions! Tell us your best books for babies in the comments below…
About Alison McGarragh-Murphy
Alison writes and edits stuff for The Motherload®, and is also a radio producer and broadcast journalist, a mum of two and a wife of one. Since becoming a mother she has (mostly) gladly swapped a busy social life of gigs, pubs, art galleries and museums for dancing in the kitchen, drinking on the sofa, finger painting and hanging out at the park. She talks incessantly about not having slept for three-and-half years.
Image credit: Alison McGarragh-Murphy