If you’ve ever watched an infant’s eyes light up when a book is placed in front of them, you know that reading can stimulate the mind even at an early age. Even though words mean little to them, verbal cues are picked up on and help develop language skills. Bedtime reading is also a great time to bond with your baby and introduce them to the world beyond their home. Studies even show that kids who were read to before pre-school age tend to get better grades in school later on.
There are so many colorful and creative books to choose from, and it can sometimes be overwhelming. For starters, select books that can take some abuse, like washable cloth ones or board books. Skim through the content to find rhymes or repetitions that will be easy for them to pick up on. Opt for books with eye-catching illustrations and easy-to-recognize characters like farm animals. As your baby inches closer to their first birthday, focus on topics you already know they love and go for something interactive with pop-up flaps or sounds to hold their attention.
To help you set up your baby’s first library or know which ones to add to your registry, here’s a guide with our top 20 books to read to them as infants up until their first birthday. A growing library is a wonderful thing, so use this as a starting point and add your favorites to the shelves whenever you’d like.
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1. Goodnight Moon
Your infant will love this comforting bedtime story. There’s a reason it has been on countless “best of” lists for decades! The rhythmic text about a bunny saying goodnight to just about everything inside his room will bring a smile to your baby’s face. It’s sure to be a cherished mainstay in their first library.
2. Where Is Baby’s Belly Button?
This adorable book helps your baby learn about their ears, eyes, belly button, and other body parts. Its movable flaps reveal a fun game of peek-a-boo, like finding the baby’s hands hiding underneath bubbles. Your child will love this book that makes exploring their anatomy entertaining and educational.
3. Where the Wild Things Are
This popular story takes kids on an animal adventure they won’t forget! When young Max is sent to his room for punishment, he uses his imagination to transport himself to a made-up land of Wild Things. This classic tale of mischief and magic shows there are no limits to make-believe.
Photo Credit: Quinn Dobrowski, CC BY-SA 2.0
4. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
This popular baby book has sparked children’s imaginations for over fifty years, with the story of a little caterpillar eating its way through the pages. The vivid illustrations will forever be ingrained in your baby’s mind as the adorable hungry caterpillar leaves quite the impression too. Let your baby follow along and count all the foods that are eaten.
5. Pout-Pout Fish
Repetition is one of the best ways to teach language to a child, and this board book is filled with plenty of it. This colorful aquatic story follows a pouty fish as he discovers being sad all the time is not good for anyone. It taps into your child’s emotional exploration and is a ton of fun to read aloud.
For so many infants, peek-a-boo is one of their favorite games. If that sounds like your baby, then this is the book you’ve been looking for. Full of color, rhymes, and interactive windows, Peek-A-Who? helps your little one get immersed in reading. Watch as their face lights up when they find the hidden animals on every other page.
Photo Credit: Brina Blum, Unsplash
7. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes
From putting their hands in their mouth as infants to playing "This Little Piggy" with their toes as one-year-olds, kids can’t get enough of their digits. This book explores those little fingers and toes in a creative nursery rhyme. Its watercolor images celebrate diversity by featuring the toes and fingers of babies all around the globe.
8. Beautiful Oops!
Teaching children that making mistakes is a natural part of life is an important lesson. This book turns mistakes like spills, smears, and holes into a fun, creative experience. From the colorful illustrations to the interactive flaps and collages, your child will learn that every mistake is an opportunity to grow.
9. Pat the Bunny
Since the ‘40s, babies have loved interacting with this classic book. Its multi-sensory approach helps your infant engage with reading on a whole other level. Your baby will get a kick out of feeling the texture of dad’s beard, sniffing flowers, or touching the bunny’s soft fur. It’s an excellent way for them to connect with their surroundings and engage all of their senses.
Photo Credit: Mika Baumeister, Unsplash
10. Pantone: Colors
There’s no better book to teach your child about colors than this one from Pantone. It’s beautifully designed to introduce kids to nine basic colors, along with 20 varying shades of each. Not only will it look pretty on the bookshelf, but your baby will also have a wonderful time skimming the pages filled with all the colors of the rainbow.
11. Llama Llama Red Pajama
There’s a special bond between Mamas and their babies, and this next book focuses on the magic of that relationship. Follow Baby Llama as he gets ready for bedtime but causes a bit of a fuss when his Mama goes downstairs. This heartwarming and amusing tale will reassure your child about their own bedtime feelings.
12. Little Feminist Book Set
This colorful set of four little books is an inspiring collection to read to your little girl or boy. It teaches children about female artists, activists, pioneers, and leaders who changed the world. The beautiful illustrations of influential women like Cleopatra, Maya Angelou, and Marie Curie will keep your child’s attention as they learn a bit of history.
Photo Credit: i410hlr, Pixabay
13. First 100 Words
Reading time will be an interactive learning experience with this colorful board book, featuring 100 foundational words to help build your baby’s language skills. The bright photographs aid your little one in associating objects with the correct words; plus, the padded cover makes it easy for them to hold.
14. Indestructibles: Baby Faces
If your child tends to play rough with their beloved books, the Indestructibles book series is the perfect solution. Moms will love them for their nontoxic, tearproof, and washable quality, while babies won’t be able to put them down. Baby Faces is particularly great for early readers, allowing them to associate words and sounds with facial expressions. The animated illustrations are sure to bring out giggles, and if some drool comes for the ride, too, it’s not a problem.
15. No No Yes Yes
Some of the first words your kid will utter are usually yes and no. Let them get a sense of what these words mean with this entertaining board book. It’s a mom-approved way to teach children right from wrong by using real-life examples. Should you flip that bowl of food? No. How about eating with a spoon? That’ll get a resounding yes!
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16. Where’s Spot?
This iconic bedtime story introduces your baby to the world of Spot. Going strong for over three decades, this book never gets old. Let your baby enjoy lifting flaps to find the dog, Spot. The delightful, bright cartoons are sure to bring a smile to their face as they discover where that adorable pup was hiding.
17. Black & White
There is a reason this accordion-style book has sold over a million copies. Scientists say the high contrast of black and white helps stimulate an infant’s optic nerve and mental development. Featuring fourteen high-contrast images from award-winning photographer Tara Hoban, it’s a fantastic book to tag along during some encouraging tummy time.
18. The Wonderful Things You Will Be
Ever look at your baby and wonder what they’ll be when they grow up? This New York Times bestseller allows parents and babies to explore those amazing possibilities together. Will they be musicians, doctors, or simply grow to be kind adults? Emily Martin’s rhymes and retro-style oil paintings fill the pages with an inspiring, heartfelt future for your little one.
Photo Credit: Cottonbro, Pexels
19. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
Teaching your child the alphabet is a significant step in advancing their language skills. This classic board book brings each letter to life with a catchy, rhythmic chant you and your baby will love. Read along as A, B, C, and friends race to make it to the top of the coconut tree. It’s no wonder this book has been a favorite for over 30 years.
20. Your Baby’s First Word Will Be DADA
We all know Mama will be your baby’s favorite word, but leave it to Jimmy Fallon to try and change that. In his first-ever children’s book, he reveals a hysterical strategy to get his daughter’s first word to be Dada instead. Hint: Dada is repeated more times than we can count. If you’re looking for an excellent gift for Dad-to-Be, this is it. Just try not to break his heart if Dada is not their first word.