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Choosing Books for Newborns, Infants and Toddlers

Books for Newborn through Toddler Stage
There is so much to keep in mind when choosing a book for a baby from the newborn stage, to infant stage, to toddler: What stage is Baby at in terms of his visual perception? What is he doing motor skills wise? How long is his attention span? As a children’s book editor and writer, I felt pretty well-prepared when it came to finding books for my own baby. But, despite my unique background, I still struggled with finding just the right books. Here are some of my top picks for Baby from newborn to toddler, based on my previous experience in the professional side of children’s book publishing coupled with my “real-world” experience:

Newborn to 6 months:
When my son was just a week old, he was very far from being ready for a chapter from Ulysses, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t appreciate being read to. I knew that newborns love hearing the sound of their mothers’ voices but still, it felt pretty awkward in practice. Over the weeks, I tried to pick books that had the high contrast patterns, bright, primary colors, or black and white images that I knew babies at this stage would prefer. Fun fact: Newborns also like looking at human faces. Here are some of my favorites for the very, very earliest readers:

Books for Newborns to Toddlers

  • Mrs. Mustard’s Baby Faces by Jane Watternburg
  • Baby: Faces! (Baby Chunky Board Books) by DK
  • Black on White by Tana Hoban
  • Guess How Much I Love You? by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram

Infant: 6 months to a year:
At this time, my son was reaching out to touch things that looked interesting to him, which is why touch-and-feel books were fun to read. He also enjoyed the element of surprise that lift-the-flap books deliver. Still, his attention span was pretty low, so I made sure to choose shorter books with simple text and a good rhythm or rhyme to it. I also liked reading him books that had cute, lovable characters; books that addressed topics that are familiar (such as bed time), or that were fun to read out loud and that sound silly.
Books for Newborns Through Toddlers

  • Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? A Lift-the-Flap Book by Karen Katz
  • Pat the Bunny Touch and Feel by Dorathy Kunhardt
  • Goodnight Moon Board Book by Margaret Wise Brown
  • The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
  • Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton
  • Click Clack Moo by Doreen Cronin, Betsy Lewin and Randy Travis

One Year Old
By his first birthday, my “little man” was starting to put pictures together with the words that describe them and vice versa, so I read him books that contained images of objects that he encountered every day. Here is where simple, brightly colored books with photographic images came in. He gravitated towards books about farm animals, pets, images of toys (ball, bike, doll), and cars. Sturdy books with tactile elements like sliders or pull tabs were also good for this age as his motor skills became more developed. I learned the hard way to avoid pop up books or thin lift-the-flap books as children at this age (like my boy) tend to wreck them at the first reading. Books that talk about emotions were good for this age as well. And, as my son got a little older, books where he got to come up with the answers himself.

Books for Newborns to Toddlers

  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Slide and Find by Eric Carle
  • Baby Touch and Feel Puppy Love (Priddy Books)
  • Yawn by Sally Simes
  • Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney
  • Peek a Who? by Nina Laden
  • My Big Animal Book (My Big Board Books) by Roger Priddy

After a Year…
As my son nears his second birthday, his book choices really run the gamut. He still reaches for some of his favorite baby books and really enjoys books with tactile elements (especially ones that he can rip out!). But I try to follow his lead. Since he loves talking about cars and trucks I have bought him books featuring cars and trucks. He also is really into our dog and dogs on the street, so I buy him books about dogs as well. It’s fun to take him to bookstores and to see what catches his eye. Here are our current favorites:

Books for Newborns to Toddlers

  • Who Are We?: An Animal Guessing Game by Alexis Barad-Cutler (me!)
  • Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill
  • I am a Dump Truck by Josephina Hill
  • Lift the Flap Things That Go (Baby Genius)

Good luck building your own library for Baby!
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Alexis Barad-Cutler is the co-founder of Brunchwithmybaby.com: a site that features kid-friendly places to eat, play and explore in New York City. Alexis is a children’s book editor who has ghostwritten over 30 books for children of all ages. Who Are We?: An Animal Guessing Game (Scholastic), is her latest children’s book. She also writes about motherhood on her blog: iampregrs.tumblr.com.