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Finding the best picture books for toddlers can be overwhelming—there are so many beautiful picture books for toddlers and adults to enjoy, but finding the right books for your child’s age and interests can sometimes be a shot in the dark.
These are my top 10 favorite picture books for toddlers ages 2 and up, including picture books for kindergarten and a few board books for toddlers on the younger side.
From real picture books for toddlers to enjoy facial expressions and real-life content to whimsical, beautiful picture books you could read over and over again, these are the books my three-year-old absolutely adores.
Best Books for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Best for Real Life Content
Hands Can by Cheryl Willis Hudson and John-Francis Bourke
You can’t go wrong with this simple and sweet rhyming board book! Toddlers are discovering so much at this age, and Hands Can is the perfect encouragement to them to explore everything with their hands.
I’m not sure what it is about the real photography, but babies and toddlers are obsessed with these kinds of books. The rhyming is fun, but I love how empowering this book is, too.
Best for Learning Colors
The House of Four Seasons by Roger Duvoisin
There are so many concept books out there for colors, but The House of Four Seasons is a classic and a sweet family picture book about more than just colors. It’s about how we all lend a helping hand in our families, and it’s about imagination, compromise, and artistic expression.
That said, it’s a great book for learning colors, especially with the color wheel and the father’s lesson that “colors can do many tricks when they get together.”
Best Counting Books
One Leaf, Two Leaves, Count with Me by John Micklos, Jr., illustrated by Clive McFarland
One Leaf, Two Leaves, Count with Me is a sweet, playful counting book with bright illustrations, and it doubles as a changing seasons book!
This adorable story takes young readers through falling leaves and changing perspectives and cute little critters one bouncy rhyming verse at a time.
Best Books on Thankfulness
Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora
Thank You, Omu! is a favorite of mine for so many reasons. The colorful cut-paper designs are stunning, and the message of sharing and the importance of community alongside the topic of thankfulness is so beautiful.
This lyrical picture book is founded in Nigerian culture and teaches empathy and the power of selflessness. My daughter loves to help with cooking and baking, and she loves anything that has to do with people sitting around a table, so this is a beloved book in our home.
Most Interactive Books
Bunny Overboard by Claudia Rueda
Thanks, Chronicle Books, for gifting Bunny Overboard for review! This hands-on, creative, and interactive book is such a fun read for kids ages three to five who love rabbit books!
Toddlers and preschoolers have to blow the wind in Bunny’s sails, rock the book to make big waves, and so on. This is a fun springtime gift or Easter book for young children, but it’s perfect for any time of year.
Biscuit and Friends Visit the Community Garden by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, illustrated by Pat Schories
We are big fans of the Biscuit early reader books, and Biscuit and Friends Visit the Community Garden is one of our favorites.
This is a Level One I Can Read, which means you can read aloud to your toddler and there’s room to grow for your little one learning to sound out words and sentences. It’s simple and straightforward with short sentences, and it’s the perfect encouragement if you’re looking for a transitional book on your way to early chapter books.
- Little Blue Truck books (Little Blue Truck Leads the Way) by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry
- Lola books (Lola at the Library) by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
Most Beautiful Books
If You Find a Leaf by Aimee Sicuro
If You Find a Leaf is an absolutely gorgeous picture book—perfect for autumn. The illustrations are so beautiful that my daughter kept trying to grab the leaves as if they were really there, flattened on the page.
This book is whimsical and charming, and it encourages children to be imaginative and creative. My head was swirling with fun craft ideas after I read it for the first time.
- Maybe by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Gabriella Barouch
- This is Sadie by Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Julie Morstad
Best for Transitions
The Invisible String by Patrice Karst, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Oh, this book. The Invisible String is arguably the most important book we’ve read to our daughter. Whenever we leave her room at bedtime or drop her off with family, a babysitter, a teacher, et cetera, we remind her that there’s an invisible string made of love that connects us, and it brings so much comfort to her.
This is also a great tool for parents, teachers, and therapists for coping with separation anxiety, loss, and grief. The Invisible String is a sweet reminder of the unbreakable power of love.
- Llama Llama Gram and Grandpa by Anna Dewdney
- The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, illustrated by Ruth Harper
Best for Nature Lovers
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
This beautiful book takes readers through the many lives of a garden throughout a whole year—down to the details of earthworms digging and all the other critters and bugs that live below and above the ground.
We love the sense of wonder on every page in Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, and it paints a lovely picture of a child’s relationship with her grandmother. Tilly was so ready to start gardening after reading this book!
The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Dan Hanna
This heartwarming, lyrical, and silly book (and series!) is a beloved book in our home. The bright ocean colors, playful rhyme, and adorable premise is sure to make even the most serious of toddlers smile.
We started reading The Pout-Pout Fish when our daughter was a baby, but she loves it even now at three years old—especially if you add funny voices!
Now, I will say, this is a fun read, but you may want to have a conversation with your child afterward about consent, letting yourself be sad if you’re sad, and more. Check out the reviews before purchasing. It’s still one of our favorite books even though parts of the story could be problematic if overlooked.
- I Am Invited to a Party (Elephant and Piggie) by Mo Willems
- Giggle, Giggle, Quack by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin
What to Look for in Board and Picture Books for Toddlers
Gravitate toward the books your child loves! If your child loves a particular book and wants you to read it over and over again, get other books by that author, other books on the same topic, or ask your local librarian for comparative titles. We’ve discovered so many forever favorites this way.
In general, you want to look for the following in a board and picture book:
- Rhyming language
- Bright, bold illustrations
- Repetitive phrases
- Age-appropriate themes
- Pop-up books or flap books
- Beautiful pictures that help tell the story
Wordless picture books are always fun, too. Infants enjoy wordless picture books, and toddlers often like to tell their own stories through the illustrations before they learn to read.
Frequently Asked Questions about Books for Children
Why are picture books good for toddlers?
Picture books for toddlers help lay the foundation for literacy skills, a rich vocabulary and imagination, understanding concepts and emotions, and much more.
What types of books are good for two-year-olds?
Any book that captures a two-year-old’s attention is a win! When reading aloud to a toddler, it’s a great idea to read widely.
The best types of books for two-year-olds are ones with fun, rhyming words, repeated text, and illustrations that help tell the story. Avoid complex language or overly wordy books—focusing on simple board books or picture books will help hold a two-year-old’s attention.
What is the target age for picture books?
Anyone can enjoy picture books—kids and adults alike! But picture books are typically published for children ages four to eight years old.
What are three types of picture books?
- Board books
- Concept books
- Early readers
How do I write a book for children?
It can be overwhelming to start, but there are seven steps to writing a book for children, including a storyboard process, finding an illustrator and children’s book editor, et cetera. Writing a children’s book requires an ability to target appropriate reading levels and vocabulary, fit the text with illustration in a captivating way, and more.
What are your favorite picture books for toddlers? Let me know—we are always trying to discover new favorite authors!