15 Best Books to Read to Baby and Gift to Parents

Featured image of mother and father with baby boy reading book on floor

It’s time for some stories! One of the favorite memories your child will have as they grow older is going to be your reading time before bed. This is such a quality time for your relationship with your child where you can both be lost in the fantasy world of the book you are reading. 

Don’t be afraid to start reading to your kid as soon as they come home from the hospital, while they are still an infant. They may not understand anything you’re saying, but the sound of your voice and the words you produce are going to be valuable stepping stones in their development, even this early on.

Read through our list of the best books to read to your baby or gift to your friends who became parents.

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See, Touch, Feel: A First Sensory Book

There’s a wide variety of sensory books out there. Most of them are not exceptionally brilliant, mostly relying on the touchy-feely gimmick to make sales. Some of these books, however, are great, and we’re happy to say that this is one of them. The colorful and bright features work wonders against the white background, making it easy to engage and focus on what’s essential, even for the youngest babies.

The board book is also quite sturdy, meaning it can last as a hand-me-down between a few siblings and cousins, so there’s a lot of value. This is not one of those purchases that only last a few months and are put in a box never to be seen again.

Benefits:

  • Colorful
  • Stimulates curiosity
  • Raised textures

Lamaze Peek-A-Boo Forest

It’s not often that we see a book which can help your baby develop their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, so the Peek-a-Boo Forest from Lamaze really is something special. Since the pages are made of cloth, it creates an entirely different experience compared to reading a regular book, which makes it unique and quite enjoyable.

The book itself challenges your kid to focus on the bright colors and bold patterns while working to spur their imagination and help them get into the groove of forming words. It is also practically indestructible, at least for a baby, so you can rest assured it will last a long time. Small hands can turn the pages and learn more about different animals from the forest.

Benefits:

  • Ten different colors
  • Fun rhymes
  • Builds coordination

Bright Baby Touch & Feel Baby Animals

If you’re looking for a cute and straightforward board book that will not break the bank, this is it. It’s an excellent little book made of dense cardboard with rounded edges. It has texture spots on the animals on each page, so it should be fun for babies and tots to feel the fluffy textures of the plush animals

An excellent solution if you’re going out on the road, for a quick trip to the supermarket or a short walk, as it will probably hold your kid’s attention for about twenty to thirty minutes at a time. The book seems to have a high production quality, and the textures don’t seem to shade like with some other similar books, and the pages themselves are quite durable and thick.

Benefits:

  • Well-made
  • Fluffy textures
  • Teaches about animals

On the Night You Were Born

Every parent believes that their child is the most unique and special child in the world, and this book by the former advertising executive and successful greeting card designer, Nancy Tillman, looks to convey just that message to your kid. The book focuses on the night your child was born and imagines that everything in the universe, like the stars, the moon, and the wind, all stopped to admire the magic moment, realizing that ‘life will never be the same.’ 

You can read to your child that the sound of their name sailed through the trees, over the ocean, and through the sky until everyone could hear it. It’s a description of how you feel about your child entering the world, written by someone with an incredible way with words.

Benefits:

  • Gorgeous illustrations
  • Beautifully written

Peek-A Who?

This delightful little book grounds its concept on the classic children’s game of peek-a-boo and adds a guessing game component to create something your kid will likely enjoy very much. On the face of it, the idea is simple – there’s a ‘Peek a’ beginning on one page, along with a cut-out in the shape of a keyhole which allows for a small glimpse of what’s hiding underneath. 

Your child can then try to solve the mystery before revealing the complete picture by turning the page where they can see the illustration as well as the rest of the rhyme. For example, on one page, there’s a colorful illustration of an assortment of animals, the solution being ‘Peek-a-Zoo.’ There are also plenty of clues provided for the youngest readers.

Benefits:

  • Interesting and unique
  • Lots of colors

Pat the Bunny Deluxe Edition

Another sensory book on our list is the somewhat legendary Pat the Bunny, written by Dorothy Kunhardt and illustrated by Golden Books, except this is a Deluxe Edition, meaning it is twice as big and has a couple of textures added that were removed from the original book more than forty years ago. It’s guaranteed to be one of your baby’s favorite books, just like it was for many of us who are now parents. 

There’s something for your kid to do on each page and learn through colors and textures about what a fascinating place this world is. Playing peek-a-boo with a 1-year-old boy, touching Daddy’s scratchy beard, waving to Judy and Pat, trying on a ring, smelling the flowers, and most importantly patting the soft bunny are all activities offered by this classic.

Benefits:

  • Sturdy hardcover
  • A classic
  • Twice the size of the original

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

Nonfiction books for children about the lives of powerful and independent women have become a trend lately, one that we here at Funtastic Toy think has been long overdue. This particular storybook is an excellent addition to that trend with its astutely ‘anti-princess’ approach. The authors’ initial idea came from the desire to respond to what they felt was a trend of gender stereotyping in the world of children’s media and books.

Lives of one hundred incredible women are covered in the format of mini-biographies, accompanied by full-page striking portraits created by female artists. There are women from countries the world over, around a third of them coming from the United States. We believe this book to be essential reading and a great gift for girls.

Benefits:

  • Empowering
  • Strong message
  • Incredible art-work

Bee-Bim Bop

The title of this book is a reference to a Korean dish of meat, vegetables, egg strips, and rice, which kids, in particular, find to be a lot of fun because you get to mix the ingredients at the table yourself. A loose translation of it would be something along the lines of ‘rice mix-mix.’ The book presents some bouncy and fun rhymes from the author and beautiful illustrations of what it means to be mom’s little helper in the kitchen. 

The visual artist – Lee does an incredible job of presenting the kitchen as a theme park in which fun and activity lurk from every cabinet and counter-top. The tone of the book matches the happy mood of the illustrations, so don’t be surprised if you catch yourself smiling and enjoying yourself as you read to your child.

Benefits:

  • Catchy rhymes
  • Wonderful visual art

Harold and the Purple Crayon

This classic children’s book was first published a long time ago, back in 1955, and it features a silent, yet upbeat, calm little boy who uses his favorite purple crayon to create his surroundings. He uses his imagination to create his fun but does sometimes get scared by his work. He’ll draw a dragon that ends up chasing him or fall off a mountain he drew. 

When he accidentally draws a sea, the only way to save himself from drowning is to draw a rescue boat. Generations have enjoyed Harold’s imaginative adventures and now it’s time for your little one to enjoy them as well. It is a wonderfully creative celebration of independent play.

Benefits:

  • Timeless story
  • Whimsical celebration of creativity

Sweetest Kulu

All life in the Arctic celebrates the birth of baby Kulu. The Wind creates music, the Sun stays up all night, and many creatures bless the child with gifts and advice. The polar bear gives him respect and gentleness; the Hare shows him love, and the Char shows tenderness.

This is a lovely book for a bedtime story. A warm narrative voice is employed by Celina Kalluk to talk directly to the child, allowing your little reader to dream along with the titular character. The illustrations by Alexandria Neonakis are breathtaking, depicting Kulu interacting with various creatures but sometimes sleeping as well. The sense of safety and peace reverberates through the book, reinforced by images of large animals like the Caribou protecting and cradling the baby. This book will be a perfect sleeping aid for restless kids.

Benefits:

  • Captivating world
  • The sweet face of nature

Dinoblock (An Abrams Block Book)

Dinosaurs have been causing fascination among kids for generations, and kids have always been remarkably capable of remembering tongue-twisty names and all kinds of facts about the former masters of the Earth. But this book takes a slightly different approach, aimed at the youngest readers. 

The idea is to bring dinosaurs closer to the very young kids through a more visual representation, meaning mostly illustrations and a few short pieces of info that make the whole experience more streamlined for the reader. The author Francheschelli and artist Peskimo work together once again to craft this beautiful and engaging little board book littered with striking design and color as well as illustrations aimed squarely at kids.

Benefits:

  • Clever
  • Durable board book

Goodnight Songs: Illustrated by Twelve Award-Winning Picture Book Artists

Twelve lullabies by Margaret Wise Brown that were previously unpublished are each illustrated by a separate award-winning illustrator. The illustrators involved are Dan Yaccarino, Melissa Sweet, Isabel Roxas, Sean Qualls, Eric Puybaret, Zachariah Ohora, Christopher Silas Neal, Renata Liwska, Linda Bleck, Sophie Blackall, Carin Berger, and Jonathan Bean. There’s a CD with all twelve songs sung by Emily Gary and Tom Proutt included.

Some of the songs included on the CD and in the book are When I Close My Eyes at Night, Sounds in the Night, Little Donkey Close Your Eyes, and Sleep Like a Rabbit. The songs are showcased on gorgeous spreads over two pages, and they vary in length from one to six short paragraphs.

Benefits:

  • CD included
  • Great for a bedtime routine

Baby Loves Quarks! (Baby Loves Science)

If you thought your two-year-old was too young to learn about nuclear physics, think again because that’s exactly what this cute board book attempts to teach children between the ages of two and four. And you might get a kick out of the book as well because chances are you don’t remember most of the concepts presented in this book. Even though the books in this series are designed for toddlers, they can be an excellent refresher for grown-ups but may be used as a quick course for school children as well. 

They are a unique introduction to molecules, thermodynamics, aerospace engineering, and other things. Even though one could argue that these ideas are too complicated for babies, the author Ruth Spiro believes little ones have what it takes to tackle them.

Benefits:

  • Ambitious
  • Complex ideas explained simply

Baby Touch and Feel: Animals

Perfectly sized for your baby’s little hands, this chunky soft-covered book is going to open up the world of cute, cuddly animals to your little one. They will meet a dozen adorable animals as they flip through the pages, including a scaly fish, bumpy lizard, a cuddly kitten, and others. The animals each have a texture touch patch, so your kid can give them all a scratch and a pat. 

The board pages can withstand abuse in the form of biting, throwing or tearing, as this book was made to last. If your kid loves animals and enjoys touchy-feely books, this is just the ticket.

Benefits:

  • Long-lasting
  • A simple concept well executed

Lamaze Captain Calamari's Treasure Hunt

Take your baby on an underwater adventure with another cute cloth book from Lamaze. Your kid will have the time of his life, exploring the depths of the ocean with this interactive book. It features large, easy to handle pages, bright colors, and a fun wavy cover. A self-discovery mirror is also there as an added surprise to bring more fun. It’s easy to take wherever you need to go due to the neat carry handle.

Like other Lamaze soft books, this one will help your kid develop word recognition and character identification abilities while keeping things fun with a unique theme supported by colorful illustrations. It can encourage your baby to develop and grow through exploration and independent learning.

Benefits:

  • Helps develop fine motor skills
  • Durable cloth pages
  • Washable

How to Choose Good Books for Babies

It is not easy to pick out the baby books that we end up including on our list. Even though we have a general idea of how we want to approach the search, it always evolves as it goes on, so it’s difficult to say for sure that you have picked the absolute best. We do know that the books found on this list are high-quality, but that doesn’t mean they are the only high-quality children’s books out there. 

If you have the time, it’s never a bad idea to check out the reviews for other similar books and see if there’s anything you think would be better suited for your situation. If possible, consult your child psychologist to get their two cents on the matter, as they might have some fascinating and helpful suggestions. We can tell you that if your kid is under eighteen months old, chances are they don’t have many pre-reading skills as of yet, so you will be building those with whatever story you choose to read. 

Another vital thing to consider is involving multiple senses in the reading experience. That way, your kid can develop their senses more quickly by using them in your storytelling sessions.

Criteria We Used

Entertainment Value

Silliness and fun are the primary goals of most books on this list. They are meant to create a memorable and fun atmosphere, thereby providing a sound basis for educational development. This early in a child’s life, few things are more important than creating positive reading experiences, and these books should help you do exactly that.

Cognitive Development

However, that doesn’t mean the books themselves are not educational; they are. It just means they need to be aesthetically pleasing and involve as many senses as possible. Some are going to be excellent stocking stuffers, with a smaller size and a price tag of under ten dollars, while others are books that cost more but have a lot more value as well.

Stimulating Imagination

Just because babies can’t talk, doesn’t mean there’s no value in presenting them with exciting stories. Their young brains are working around the clock, and by reading to them, we lay the foundation for the development of their imagination. Later in life, this is going to be crucial for their problem-solving capability as well as creativity.

FAQ

What is the age range for these books?

It depends on several factors, such as how much you participate as a parent, how fast your kid develops their reading and listening skills, as well as the manufacturer’s recommended age. The books range from those that can be read in the first few days your baby comes home from the hospital to those that can be revisited until the age of four or five.

My baby is teething. Is it ok for him/her to use these books?

These books are generally made out of durable and safe materials since the manufacturers and publishers realize that if they make a book for small children, there’s a good chance it’s going to end up in their mouths. That being said, the books are not meant to be used as teething toys, so be on the lookout and try to teach your kid that books are not made for chewing.

Conclusion

As parents, we are always interested in keeping our children’s minds stimulated, and we all know that one of the best ways to do that is by reading to them. When it comes to building vocabulary and creating a good foundation for understanding the world, reading has some significant benefits. That’s why it’s crucial to find a few good books for your kid as soon as you can and start setting up the stepping stones to effective communication by widening their vocabulary and teaching them to listen. We’ve laid out some of the best books we found out there, and it’s up to you to take your pick.

Author: Mary Lynn Holden
Author: Mary Lynn Holden

Proud mom and stepmom to an adorable bunch of kids aged 7 and up. Deeply appreciates three things in life: the help of older siblings in the house, texts on parenting, and strong coffee. Shares her stories and experiences in order to help others navigate the unpredictable waters of parenting.

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