21 books your toddler will LOVE

And hopefully you will too. The whole bedtime story ritual is so much more fun if you’re enjoying the book (and have got the hang of the rhyme!).

This lot, nominated by parents, is totally subjective but it includes many of the classics and is a good place to start.

Dear Zoo, by Rod Campbell

dearzoo

£12.99 (noisy book version); Macmillan

How I wish I could just write to the zoo and receive immediate delivery of a (free) lion/snake/frog/giraffe/monkey/elephant (how?)/camel or puppy – it would be a damn sight easier than going to Battersea Dogs Home. Plus I’d love to take an elephant for a walk down Putney High Street. We’ve got the noisy book version of this one which is even more fun – the lion is properly scary.

Enthusiastic flap-turning leads to wear and tear, though, so have some sellotape handy.

Chocolate Mousse for Greedy Goose, by Julia Donaldson and Nick Sharratt

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 10.33.36

£5.99; Macmillan

I love reading this book to my kids, especially doing “Macaroni, said Shetland Pony” in a kind of faux American cowboy voice. The only bit I don’t like is where the duck says he doesn’t like carrots and the kangaroo points out they’re good for you – a classic, cliche parent line which is not going to make my child like carrots any more. But its well-thumbed pages (and the fact I can recite it by heart) are testament to this one being a good one.

There’s a Wocket in My Pocket

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 10.34.54

£5.99; HarperCollins Children’s

Dr Zeuss’s rhymes are mega-strange, there’s no denying it. But they’re also fun to read out loud. I read this one endlessly to my toddler on the tube when he first started nursery and the whole carriage would listen in and smile. A winner.

Peekaboo Farm

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 10.35.59

£4.99; Campbell Books

Super-simple board book for very little babies, which ends with a surprise mirror where they can see themselves. Endless hours of fun as they spot the baby in the mirror and break into giggles. Great for some laughs before bedtime.

The very hungry caterpillar

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 10.37.52

£5.99; Puffin

Let’s face it, the very hungry caterpillar is the most enormous trougher and has definitely never heard of the 5:2, but it doesn’t matter as he actually needs to eat all that food to turn into a beautiful butterfly. Eric Carle’s lovely illustrations make it enjoyable for grownups, while smalls will enjoy sticking their fingers into the holes (caution: should not be attempted by fat-fingered offspring).

Peepo

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 10.39.05

£6.99; Puffin

Ah, Janet and Allan Ahlberg. Creators of nostalgic faves that we all enjoyed as children and are now reading to our own offspring – Each Peach Pear Plum, the Jolly Postman, The Baby’s Catalogue – the list goes on. We chose Peepo, about a baby and his contented little life, for its whimsical illustrations and old-fashioned charm – as well as those lovely soporific words that should send you (if not your babe) into a state of dreamy contentment. But all the other Ahlberg gang are good too.

We’re going on a bear hunt

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 10.40.57£5.99; Walker

We’re going to catch a big one… You’ll find yourself reciting this tale of a family that goes hunting for a bear whenever you’re walking on a beach or through a field – and before long, your child will be joining in too. Top tip: read the last bit when they’re running away from the bear super-fast for extra suspense/ excitement.

Goodnight Moon

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 10.43.13

£5.99; Macmillan

Yes it’s a bit weird (goodnight chairs? Goodnight mush?) but my child likes to say prayers for the curtains and the cushions, so Goodnight Moon (basically a long list of goodnights) is just up his street, plus it’s got sweet illustrations and is another peaceful, soporific read that (hopefully) gets them in the mood for bed.

Guess how much I love you

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 10.44.14

£5.99; Walker

Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare have a competition to see who loves whom the most. It’s a bit cheesy, but we love it – right to the moon and back. And Little Nutbrown Hare is adorable. Can even bring a tear to the eye if you’re sufficiently hormonal.

Hairy McClary’s Caterwaul Caper, by Lynley Dodd

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.13.00

£5.99; Puffin

The whole Hairy McClary series is brilliant, but this one is a particular fave in our house because of the opportunities it affords for practicing cat and dog noises. Dodd’s rhyme is particularly fun to read, and they don’t take long, which leaves everyone happy. Massive hit.

The Tiger who Came to Tea

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.11.45

£6.99; HarperCollins Children’s

A friend told me the other day that this book is apparently all about the Nazis but in our house, it’s just about a tiger who came to tea, wolfed all the food and drank all the water in the taps – not to mention all of Daddy’s beer, quelle dommage. But all is well in the end because mum doesn’t have to cook and everyone gets to eat sausages and chips and ice creams, after a visit from a large feline. Pretty much the perfect day for every toddler.

The Snail and the Whale

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.14.39

£4.99; Macmillan

Tongue twisters and onomatopoeia galore from the Gruffalo team. This one’s not as famous as its hairier cousin but deserves to be better known as it’s actually more fun to read. Think of it as jaw practice to keep those wrinkles at bay.

Where is the Green Sheep?

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.10.45

£6.99; Wadsworth

In this chunky board book, sheep can sing, dance, surf, swim, fly kites and drive trains – but the pesky green sheep is nowhere to be found. Fun for its quirky depictions of sheep doing mad things, and as your child gets older you can start doing a you/them read the phrase response thing, which makes reading it for the 100000th time a bit more entertaining.

Lemons are not Red

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.09.58

£6.99; Frances Lincoln

Within the second time of reading, my toddler was starting to recite this one back to me – always a good sign. Lemons aren’t red, they’re yellow – and flamingos aren’t grey and carrots aren’t purple. Super-simple format, lovely cutout illustrations and weirdly enjoyable to read multiple times.

Is Your Mama a Llama?

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.09.05

£4.61; Scholastic

When my big boy was little he always used to ask for the “Mama” book, and as I result I can pretty much recite this one off by heart. A little llama is trying to work out who his mummy is – but she’s not a bat, swan, a cow or a seal. For some reason it’s whimsically charming rather than irritating, despite the slightly odd rhyming at times – perhaps it was the challenge of nailing the rhythm that kept me interested.

Oh No George

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.07.58

£5.99; Walker

This books is, frankly, hilarious, and more like reading a newspaper cartoon strip out loud – which makes it fun for parents. For children, it’s just a story about a naughty dog, with nice bright illustrations. A win-win situation all round.

One Mole Digging a Hole, by Julia Donaldson and Nick Sharratt

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.06.42

Macmillan; £5.99

My three year old now “reads” this to himself, making up hilarious alternatives where he’s not sure what the picture is (“two snakes with garden rakes” becomes “two worms doing fings in the mud”), but for younger children, this brightly illustrated fave is the perfect introduction to numbers thanks to bears that pick pears, parrots that pull up carrots and bees that prune trees. You’ll never be able to just count to ten again.

Orange Pear Apple Bear, by Emily Gavett

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.03.07

£6.99; Macmillan

Charmingly random, this simple board book is based around four very simple things: an orange, a pear, an apple and a bear, and all the combinations thereof. Feels like an upmarket read thanks to the gorgeous illustrations.

Peck Peck Peck, by Lucy Cousins

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 10.57.43

£6.99; Walker

Baby Woodpecker learns to peck from his Daddy, and suddenly everything has holes in it, from a picture of Aunt Geraldine to a copy of Jane Eyre to a pair of knickers (always good for a laugh, holey knickers). It’s actually really fun to read out loud, and small ones adore the brightly colured pages and all the little holes to stick their little digits into (you may soon find that the woodpecker holes turn into woodpecker rips on a page).

Giraffes Can’t Dance, by Giles Andrae and Guy Parker-Rees

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 10.56.41

£6.99; Orchard

Call me a hormonal mess (accurate), but this story often makes me weep a little weep when I read it. Poor Gerald the giraffe is not a great dancer (I can totally relate) and all the other animals laugh at him when it comes to the annual Jungle Dance (thank goodness I never had to compete) which makes him very sad. Luckily he meets a kindly cricket who teaches him that all you need to do is to find the right music to be a complete bomb on the dancefloor. So true (the moment I discovered MC Hammer and what I like to call “piss-take dancing” was a transformative one for me). Your kids will love it too. Which is the important thing, obviously.

Hide-and-Seek Pig, by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (lift the flap version)

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 10.45.19

£5.99; Macmillan

A nice simple “spot the” book for smaller babies who will love getting their little fingers behind the flaps to see who’s there. Scheffler’s slightly stoned-looking creatures all look as if they’ve been hitting the Es, which, when you think about it, makes it quite funny to read as a parent.

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