Reading together with your toddler is a real joy! One-year-olds love board books with images familiar from their own lives. They proudly use newly-acquired words to point out dogs and babies, cars and trucks, shoes and apples. Toddlers want to hear you make the noises of each farm animal or vehicle, and keenly lift flaps with their little fingers.
If you haven’t read with your child before, now is a great time to begin. At this age, don’t feel that you must always ‘read’ a story to them. Especially if you’re just starting out, your child may not have the attention span to listen to a story. Look through the pages, pointing and naming things together, maybe making up a little story or improvising a song. There’s no ‘wrong’ way to read together. Enjoy it!
Here are five of my favourite board books for toddlers:
Oh Dear! – Rod Campbell
Young Buster is visiting his grandma’s farm. Sent to collect some eggs for his breakfast, it takes him a while to remember which animal lays them! Oh Dear! is a simple, repetitive book that provides lots of opportunities for animal noises, and a flap to lift on each page. It’s a book your toddler will want to read over and over again. My children love the opportunity to loudly exclaim ‘Oh dear!’ at each page as Buster continues his egg hunt. Rod Campbell is the author of Dear Zoo, an enjoyable book in a similar style – our copy is well-worn.
The Baby’s Catalogue – Janet and Allan Ahlberg
This was one of my favourite books as a child. I often buy a copy as a baby shower gift for friends. It’s a great read with toddlers, however my older children also really enjoy looking at the pictures – there are many small details to discover. The Baby’s Catalogue doesn’t have a ‘story’ as such. It follows a day in the life of six babies and their families. Each page has a heading, such as ‘Mornings’, ‘Games’, or ‘Dinners’ and by illustrating each baby’s unique experience of these activities, depicts family life as both familiar and novel. The illustrations are quite humorous and really capture the essence of parenting – adults will have a good chuckle over the ‘Accidents’ page and the weary end-of-the-day ‘Mums and Dads’ page. Toddlers enjoy pointing at and naming familiar items, and older children enjoy working out which high chair, pet or pram belongs to which baby.
Bibs and Boots – Alison Lestor
This title is from a set of four board books exploring the everyday life of babies and toddlers. (The other titles are Crashing and Splashing, Bumping and Bouncing, and Happy and Sad.) They are all fantastic, but I chose Bibs and Boots as one my one-year-old daughter particularly enjoys. It follows the day of a little girl as she chooses appropriate clothing for different situations. I just adore Alison Lestor’s illustrations. Like the Ahlbergs, she really captures the normal everyday life of families. Her toddlers get into messes, collect worms in buckets, and have toys spread across their bedroom floors. This is a simple, short rhyming book and an enjoyable read.
Spring – Gerda Muller
Another book from a set of four (each covers a season.) These board books contain no words, but beautifully illustrate the life of a young child as they experience the richness of each season. My children all love this series and have spent hours poring over the illustrations. I usually make up a simple, descriptive story about each book as we look through the pages. In Spring, a young girl plants seeds and picks flowers, visits baby animals, and paints Easter eggs. In the background, we see the bright new growth of spring, her father thatches the roof of their home, and birds build a nest and raise their young. A simple, sweet book that highlights the beauty of the natural world, and might just give you some ideas for activities in your own home!
(This set of books shows the seasons from a Northern Hemisphere perspective. The Spring book depicts Easter, and the Winter book shows heavy snow and Christmas activities. Despite living in Australia we have really enjoyed them and found plenty that is familiar to our experience of the seasons.)
My Dad – Anthony Browne
Another board book we have read over and over again with our children – it’s a well-loved book in my home! Anthony Browne’s illustrations are clever and amusing, and full of interesting, unexpected detail. My Dad is another book that adults enjoy as much as children. The book describes how amazing ‘My Dad’ is: he isn’t afraid of the Big Bad Wolf, he can wrestle giants, and he’s fantastic at football. It’s a book perfect for a little child who idolises their daddy. If you enjoy this story, there is also a My Mum version.
Have fun exploring books with your toddler! Keep your board books in a place easily assessable by little ones. Ours are in a drawer in our coffee table, but we have also kept them in a basket on the floor. Don’t worry about them being chewed or smudged with dirty fingers. Let them be well-loved! Make a time each day to sit down with your child and look at a few books. Reading aloud is a special experience for toddlers, a time when your child can enjoy being snuggled up at your side and getting lost in a story together.
I hope you find a book among these titles that you and your toddler love to read together. Do you have a favourite board book for toddlers?
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