Before I had Ella, I don’t think I realized how many weird children’s books there are out there. I had images of us happily reading for hours, tickled pink by the wide array of stimulating prose and lovely illustrations we would encounter (ok, that’s a little much). I was mostly thinking about the classics, like “Goodnight Moon,” or “The Runaway Bunny.” While we have had a lot of fun reading together, I’ve realized that a lot of kid’s books are just plain boring or annoying! And of course, those are often the ones they decide to become obsessed with, right? Ella had this book about cupcakes (my fault….I bought it for $.50 at a library sale) which was her favorite for months, and I’m pretty sure it was just because there was glitter on the cover. If I never read the words “You Are My Cupcake” again, I’d be happy.
So….how do you sort through the mindless puppies behind flaps and TV show adaptations and find the stories for your little one that are truly witty, educational, and sweet–books that you, as a parent, can happily stomach night after night and aren’t tempted to hide or “accidentally” drop into the trash? Well, this is by no means a comprehensive list, but these are a few board books that we really love (as you can tell by the wear and tear on the spines in the pic above!) and I feel like have really helped her learn a thing or two. I’ve just stuck to board books, as currently, if you try to read a normal picture book to Ella she will very calmly take it from you and toss it across the room. So board books it is.
1. My Big Animal Book: So, think isn’t so much a story (though it does have little questions on the bottom of each page which are a little over Ella’s head) but Ella LOVES seeing the huge pages of animal pictures, and I fully attribute the fact that she knows “owl” and “guinea pig” to this book. Because I certainly didn’t think to teach them to her. Cat and Dog is about as complicated as I get.
2. Olivia: This one is a bit of a cheat because the original isn’t in board book form (though the story is simple enough thar it works well), and chances are you’ve already read it because these books are adorable and have won all kinds of awards, but it deserves a mention because Ella and I both love it. Who isn’t charmed by a spunky little pig who loves ballet? And Ella is always very interested in the part where Olivia gets time out. Probably because she can relate.
3. Pride & Prejudice: If you haven’t seen these BabyLit books already, you need to! They are the cutest little “babyfied” versions of classic literature. This one is a counting book (5 sisters, 2 handsome gentleman, 3 country estates, etc.) but as a parent who loves the original story I find it witty and the brightly colored illustrations are perfect for toddlers. I kind of thought this one would be more for me but Ella really loves it!
4. Barnyard Dance! : Sandra Boynton is no newbie on the board book scene but this one is our favorite! The rhyme and the rhythm are really pleasant and the image of barnyard animals having a hootenanny is cute. I probably read this to Ella like 400 times between July and December of last year. Hence, my ability to impress everyone at Christmas with my recitation by memory, complete with actions (they were…not actually that impressed).
5. First 100 Words: I love this book because long before Ella was really into characters and storylines (ok….at 22 months I don’t think she’s really there yet, even now) she really loved books that had actual photos instead of illustrations. While this book might not seem that exciting, I actually think it did great things for her language and recognition skills. It’s still one of her favorites and we go through it and point out things or ask her to point to the ball, the airplane, the boots, etc. Maybe not the most creative book ever, but really worthwhile.
6.Good Dog, Carl: I remember reading this as a kid, and I’m so glad Ella loves it too. It’s mostly word-free, which makes it fun because we can kind of just talk about what’s happening on each page, or now, we’ve started having Ella tell us what’s happening (because she basically knows it by heart). It has pretty illustrations and the idea of a baby and dog getting into mischief while mommy is away is charming (though, one has to wonder what kind of mother thought leaving a black lab in charge was a good idea).
7. Mommy Loves: I think I found this on a book list somewhere (I can’t remember where!) and ordered it on a whim. It’s a really sweet little book about how all mommies love their babies, with a counting element thrown in. And it highlights the names for different kinds of baby animals (mice are “pinkies,” etc.) which is always kind of fun.
8. Baby Faces: Again, like First 100 Words, this isn’t going to win any awards for innovation, but Ella loves books with photos (especially other babies), and this one shows babies feeling different emotions: nervous, happy, scared, etc. You know, I thought talking about feelings might be a good thing. Empathy is nice. Although at this stage, every baby is just “sad”–even the laughing one. We’re working on it.
9. The Mitten: I thought the story might be a little complicated for a not-quite-two-year-old, but Ella loves it–and the idea of these different woodland creatures squeezing into a mitten is sweet. Plus, the illustrations are killer, as they are in all of Jan Brett’s books, so I can be entertained by the gorgeous Scandanvian vignettes as we read 🙂
So there you have some of our current favorite board books! I’d love to hear some of your family’s favorites in the comments! I’m particularly looking for ones that teach letters and colors, as I’m realizing we don’t really have many of those. So suggest away!
I’ve linked to the books I mention on Amazon. These are affiliate links, so if you make a purchase through them I make a small commission, so feel free to shop around for the best price!