The Best Picture Books for Toddlers

My Guide to the Top 28 Early Readers

I’m delighted to bring you my guide to the best picture books for toddlers.

It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of books for the early stages of your child’s development. Books inspire, excite, nurture imagination and create a thirst for learning.

best picture books for toddlersToddlers love picture books

I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by wonderful children’s books from almost the day I was born. Some of my earliest memories are tied up in those books and the exciting worlds hidden between their pages that drew me in and enthralled me.

I still have many of those books today and, although most are outdated, it still gives me a thrill to open them up and recall the joy I felt pouring over the pictures as a young child.

I’ve made sure every new member of my family has been blessed in the same way and had an abundance of books to learn from and enjoy from the time they were babies.

Now I want to help you find the very best picture books for toddlers for your young family.

The Magic of Picture Books

Picture books offer a world of fun, wonder, and discovery, all wrapped in colorful illustrations and engaging stories. But not all books are created equal and there are a few things to think about when deciding which ones to buy.

I’m here to make that easy for you. Here’s what we’re going to cover in this guide:

In the final section, I’ll introduce you to 28 of the finest picture books available from eight different categories. Some of them you may already be familiar with but I have some real gems to share with you that you probably haven’t come across before.

The Benefits of Picture Books For Toddlers

Picture books offer a host of benefits for toddlers as they embark on their early reading journey.

Firstly, the vibrant illustrations and engaging visuals in picture books capture their attention and spark their imagination, fostering a love for storytelling and creativity. These visuals also help toddlers make connections between the text and the images, aiding in their comprehension and language development.

Secondly, picture books often contain simple and repetitive text, allowing young readers to participate in the reading experience by predicting and reciting words and phrases. This involvement boosts their confidence and establishes a positive association with reading.

Thirdly, picture books introduce toddlers to a wide range of concepts, emotions, and experiences, expanding their knowledge and promoting empathy.

Overall, picture books provide a valuable foundation for literacy skills, cognitive development, and a lifelong love for reading. And, of course, they are fun to explore and share.

By selecting the very best picture books for toddlers, you can be confident that your little one is reaping all these benefits.

Toddler reading a picture bookPicture books are a portal to an exciting world of discovery

How To Choose the Best Picture Books for Toddlers

Age-Appropriate Themes and Content

When selecting picture books, it's important to look for age-appropriate themes and content that align with your child's interests. Toddlers are naturally curious, so choose books that spark their curiosity and capture their attention.

Look for stories that introduce simple concepts such as big/little, happy/sad, up/down, familiar objects, and relatable experiences. This way, you can ensure that the content is meaningful and engaging for your little one, promoting their early learning and development.

Engaging Illustrations and Interactive Elements

Engaging illustrations, vibrant colors, and interactive elements such as flaps, textures, or pop-ups can make the reading experience more exciting and immersive for young readers.

When toddlers can actively participate in the story by lifting flaps, feeling different textures, or manipulating movable parts, it enhances their sensory exploration and keeps them engaged throughout the book. These visual and interactive elements not only capture their attention but also stimulate their curiosity, imagination, and fine motor skills.

Sturdy Construction and Child-Friendly Design

Another factor to consider is the construction of the book. Toddlers are known for their enthusiastic exploration, so choosing sturdy board books or books with reinforced pages can ensure that the books withstand their active handling.

This also allows toddlers to interact with the book independently, developing their fine motor skills and fostering a sense of ownership over their reading experience.

Tips for Maximizing Enjoyment and Learning

Create a Cozy Reading Environment

To make book time special, create a cozy and inviting reading environment. Designate an area in your home just for reading and sharing books, such as a comfortable corner with soft cushions, a snuggly blanket, and a few stuffed animals. Add a bookshelf filled with your toddler's favorite books.

Encourage Active Participation and Discussion

Active participation during reading sessions is key to fostering your toddler's engagement and learning. Encourage your child to turn the pages, point to pictures, and describe what they see.

Ask open-ended questions that encourage them to think critically and make connections with the story. For example, you can ask, "What do you think will happen next?" or "Can you find the red ball?" This not only develops their language skills but also promotes their cognitive and analytical abilities.

Incorporate Reading into Daily Routines

Integrating reading into your daily routines can help establish a strong reading habit and make it a natural part of your toddler's day. Set aside dedicated times for reading, such as before naptime or bedtime. You can also incorporate books into other routines, such as reading a book while waiting at the doctor's office.

By consistently exposing your child to books, you create a positive association with reading and reinforce the importance of literacy.

Explore Various Book Genres and Styles

As your toddler grows, introduce a variety of book genres and styles to expand their knowledge and understanding of the world. Explore different themes such as animals, nature, emotions, and numbers. This not only exposes them to a range of concepts and ideas but also helps develop their vocabulary and comprehension skills.

To give you a head start on this, I’ve included books from eight different genres in my list of the top 28 best picture books for toddlers coming up below.

I recommend visiting your local library or bookstore with your toddler to discover new books together and allowing them to choose books that spark their interest. Many local libraries have toddler’s clubs and run fun events that open up the world of storytelling to their youngest members.

toddler and Dad reading a bookSpecial moments sharing a book together

The Best Picture Books for Toddlers – My Top 28 Books

It’s now time to explore my carefully compiled list of the best picture books for toddlers. I’ve chosen each of the 28 books based on its captivating storytelling, enchanting illustrations, and ability to engage and educate young minds.

They are divided into eight categories, from ‘adventures with animals’ to ‘science and exploration’, with three books in each category.

I’m sure some of them will already be well-known to you but others will probably be less familiar. I hope that all become firm favorites of both you and your toddler.

1. Adventures with Animals

i) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

This timeless classic takes young readers on an imaginative journey alongside Max, who sails to a land of wild creatures. Through vivid illustrations and poetic prose, children learn about the power of imagination and the importance of love and belonging. The book’s exploration of emotions and the wildness within each of us resonates with toddlers, who are just beginning to navigate their own feelings and identities.

ii) Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

In this interactive lift-the-flap book, toddlers delight in discovering the various unsuitable animals sent by a zoo to a child requesting a pet. All the animals are returned except the last one, which is perfect. With repetitive phrases and charming illustrations, the book helps toddlers develop early language skills while learning about different animals and their characteristics. The book's interactive nature encourages tactile exploration and engagement, making it a favorite among young readers.

iii) Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle

Introduce your child to colors and animals through the rhythmic storytelling of this beloved classic. Eric Carle's vibrant collage illustrations bring the animals to life, engaging young readers in a delightful game of recognition and repetition. The book's simple yet captivating structure and repetitive text make it an ideal choice for toddlers who are just beginning to grasp the concept of language.

2. First Words and Concepts

i) My First 100 Words by Roger Priddy

Ideal for building vocabulary and language skills, this board book features vivid photographs of everyday objects that toddlers can easily relate to. With clear labels and sturdy pages, it’s a fantastic tool for expanding their growing knowledge of the world around them. Toddlers will enjoy pointing to and naming objects, fostering their language development and cognitive abilities.

ii) The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Follow the journey of a ravenous caterpillar as it munches through various foods before transforming into a beautiful butterfly. This captivating tale introduces counting, days of the week, and healthy eating habits, while Carle’s distinctive artwork adds to the charm. The book’s interactive nature, with die-cut pages and the opportunity to follow the caterpillar’s path, encourages tactile exploration and engagement.

iii) Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

End the day on a peaceful note with this soothing bedtime story. As your toddler says goodnight to familiar objects and characters in the room, they will develop a sense of routine and comfort, making bedtime a tranquil and enjoyable experience. The rhythmic text and gentle illustrations create a calm atmosphere, preparing your child for a restful night's sleep.

3. Colors and Shapes

i) Press Here by Hervé Tullet

This interactive book invites toddlers to actively participate by pressing dots, shaking pages, and exploring the magic of cause and effect. Through simple instructions and engaging illustrations, children learn about colors, patterns, and spatial concepts. "Press Here" sparks their imagination and encourages them to be active participants in the reading experience.

ii) Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh

Join three curious mice on a colorful adventure as they explore mixing primary colors to create new colors. This delightful book is a fun introduction to basic color theory and encourages hands-on exploration, inspiring creativity and a love for art. Toddlers will enjoy the simple storytelling and the opportunity to experiment with colors on their own.

iii) The Shape of Things by Dayle Ann Dodds

Discover the world of shapes through captivating rhymes and illustrations. This book not only teaches toddlers about shapes but also encourages them to observe and identify shapes in their surroundings, showing them that there are shapes all around them. The playful text and engaging visuals make learning about shapes a fun and interactive experience.

4. Emotions and Social Skills

i) The Feelings Book by Todd Parr

Help your toddler navigate the complex world of emotions with this delightful book. Through colorful illustrations and simple, relatable text, children learn about a range of feelings, fostering empathy, emotional intelligence, and effective communication. The book provides a vocabulary for emotions and encourages open discussions, allowing toddlers to express and understand their own feelings better.

ii) The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen

Dive into the underwater world of Mr. Fish as he discovers the power of a positive attitude and spreads happiness to his friends. This charming tale encourages toddlers to embrace optimism, resilience, and kindness, promoting social and emotional well-being. The repetitive refrain and catchy rhymes make it an engaging read-aloud book that toddlers love.

iii) Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney

Join Little Llama as he experiences bedtime separation anxiety and learns the importance of reassurance and love. This heartwarming story addresses common toddler fears, promotes a sense of security, and encourages healthy emotional connections. Through relatable situations and expressive illustrations, toddlers will find comfort and reassurance in Little Llama's journey.

5. Bedtime Stories

i) Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker

Enter the world of hardworking construction vehicles as they wind down for the night. Through lyrical text and captivating illustrations, this book creates a soothing atmosphere, helping toddlers transition from playtime to a peaceful sleep. The book's theme of bedtime routines and the comforting illustrations of big machines settling in for the night make it a perfect choice for bedtime reading.

ii) Time for Bed by Mem Fox

As different baby animals bid goodnight to their loved ones, this gentle rhyming tale reassures toddlers that they are safe and loved. The calming rhythm and tender illustrations create a tranquil bedtime routine, promoting relaxation and comfort. "Time for Bed" provides a sense of security and a peaceful ambiance that can help your child unwind before sleep.

iii) Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney

Join Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare as they express their boundless love for each other. This heartwarming story teaches toddlers about the immeasurable nature of love, creating a warm and loving bedtime environment. The book's endearing illustrations and the theme of unconditional love make it a long-time favorite for bedtime cuddles and bonding moments.

6. Nature and Animal

i) The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle

Follow the adventures of a busy spider as it weaves its intricate web. With tactile elements and captivating illustrations, this book introduces toddlers to different animals and their characteristics while teaching perseverance and the importance of hard work. The book's textured pages allow children to feel the spider's web, enhancing their sensory experience.

ii) National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Animals by Catherine D. Hughes

Take an exciting journey through the animal kingdom with this informative and visually stunning book. Filled with vibrant photographs and fascinating facts, it sparks curiosity as it introduces toddlers to over 30 different creatures large and small, fluffy and scaly. The book's engaging visuals and age-appropriate information make it an excellent resource for inspiring an interest in nature.

iii) Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown

Step into the world of a bustling farm and discover the daily activities of its animal inhabitants. This gentle rhyming book introduces toddlers to farm animals, their sounds, and the rhythm of farm life, fostering early language development and an understanding of the natural world. The book's rhythmic text and detailed illustrations create a vivid farmyard experience for young readers.

7. ABC and Counting

i) Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault

Embark on a whimsical journey through the alphabet as the letters race to the top of the coconut tree. With its catchy rhythm and colorful illustrations, this book introduces toddlers to letter recognition and encourages early phonics skills. The book's lively rhymes and vibrant illustrations make learning the alphabet an enjoyable and interactive experience.

ii) Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox

Celebrate the joy of diversity and the bond of love shared by children all around the world. Through rhythmic text and adorable illustrations, this book introduces toddlers to the concept of counting and highlights the uniqueness of each child. The book's inclusive message and sweet depiction of babies from various cultures make it a heartwarming read-aloud choice.

iii) Counting Kisses: A Kiss & Read Book by Karen Katz

Share reading time love with your toddler through this charming, lift-the-flap, interactive counting book that combines numbers and affectionate kisses. Each page invites readers to count and kiss a different part of the baby's face, promoting early numeracy skills and nurturing a sense of love and connection. The book's engaging illustrations and interactive format make it a delightful read for bonding moments.

8. Science and Exploration

i) Oh Say Can You Say Di-no-saur? by Bonnie Worth

Featuring much-loved characters from Dr. Seuss's “The Cat in the Hat”, this lovely book will take you on a prehistoric adventure with your toddler. It’s filled with great illustrations and simple dinosaur facts. This is a wonderful introduction to dinosaurs and perfect for young readers who are crazy about these ancient creatures or just have a fascination with the natural world.

ii) The Water Princess by Susan Verde

Inspired by the childhood experiences of supermodel Georgie Badiel, this beautiful book tells the story of a young girl's quest for clean water in her African village. Through poetic text and enchanting illustrations, it raises awareness about the importance of water, highlights the struggles of many children around the world to get access to clean water, and looks with hope to a future when all children will have clean water to drink every day.

iii) Baby University Four-Book Set: A Science For Toddlers by Chris Ferrie

This delightful collection introduces toddlers to the wonders of science. Covering key areas like Quantum Physics, Astrophysics, Rocket Science, and General Relativity, these board books simplify complex ideas for young readers. With colorful illustrations and simple, concise explanations, the author strikes a perfect balance between entertainment and education, sparking curiosity in toddlers and laying the groundwork for a lifelong interest in science. This set is a fantastic addition to any toddler's bookshelf.

These picture books have been carefully selected to engage and educate toddlers, fostering their love for reading while promoting their cognitive, emotional, and social development. Enjoy the journey of exploration, imagination, and learning as you embark on these reading adventures with your little one!

Discover more of the Top 50 Best Picture Books For Toddlers

Asian toddler girl with a picture bookPicture books captivate and inspire

Final Words

By choosing the very best picture books for toddlers, you give your little one a priceless gift of many parts. Picture books:

  • fire up their imagination
  • nurture their love for learning
  • ignite their interest in reading
  • engage and stimulate their senses
  • give them hours of fun and joy

By actively participating in reading sessions and incorporating books into your daily routines, you will create precious moments of connection and discovery for both you and your toddler.

So, stock up the bookshelves and watch your little one thrive and grow through the magic of picture books.


1. At what age can I start reading picture books to my toddler?

It's never too early to introduce picture books to your toddler! Even infants can benefit from the colorful illustrations and rhythmic storytelling. As your child grows, you can gradually transition to books with simple text and interactive elements that engage their senses.

2. How can picture books benefit my toddler's language development?

Picture books play a vital role in developing your toddler's language skills. Through exposure to diverse vocabulary, sentence structures, and storytelling patterns, they expand their understanding of language. Additionally, reading aloud promotes listening skills, phonemic awareness, and early literacy abilities.

3. Are interactive picture books more effective in engaging toddlers?

Yes, interactive picture books are highly engaging for toddlers. They often feature elements like flaps to lift, textures to touch, or buttons to press. These interactive features stimulate curiosity, encourage active participation, and enhance the overall learning experience.

You’ll find lots of interactive books in my list of the top 28 best picture books for toddlers and even more in the extended list of the 50 best picture books for toddlers.

4. Can picture books help my toddler with emotional intelligence?

Absolutely! Picture books provide a safe and gentle way to explore emotions and social situations. Stories featuring relatable characters and their emotional journeys help toddlers recognize and understand their own feelings, as well as develop empathy and social skills.

5. How can I encourage my toddler to actively participate during reading sessions?

To promote active participation, you can encourage your toddler to turn the pages, point to pictures, and describe what they see. Ask open-ended questions, allow them to make predictions, and let their imagination soar. Incorporate gestures, funny voices, and sound effects to make the reading experience interactive and exciting.

SAVE to PIN to your Pinterest board!

And join me on Pinterest

Best toddler picutre books


About Jacky Spear

Jacky Spear passionately promotes learning toys for child development. With 30+ years of teaching experience, she understands the power of play in engaging and nurturing children, including those with special needs. Drawing from personal experience in both the school and home environment, Jacky helps parents to select the best learning toys to unlock their children's potential and create a lifelong love for learning. Learn more about Jacky >>

Related Pages