Here’s the deal: I’m 33 and single with no kids. Until recently, I didn’t find myself reading a lot of kids books, ya know? Then two things happened. 1) I began working in a bookstore, one located in a neighborhood with tons of parents wanting books for their tiny humans. 2) My brother and his wife announced that they’re expecting their first child. BAM! Suddenly I’m reading all the board books for babies and hoarding them as gifts.
Why Board Books For Babies?
Board books are where it’s at when it comes to reading to the littles. Their thick paperboard construction makes them durable, a crucial quality as kiddos are apt to treat their books as chew toys. Their simple concepts and colorful illustrations are beneficial for early learning and development. Board books are also super affordable; prices range from $6–$10 on average, and that’s at full price.
Where to Buy Board Books For Babies
You probably know where to find new books—your favorite local indie, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon. But what if you’re searching for used board books at a bargain? Resources like Alibris and Thrift Books offer some deep discounts, with pricing as low as $0.99! Your local thrift store, sales at your local library and used bookstores are also excellent resources for discounts. Less money spent equals more books purchased, amirite?
Another great option to explore is customization. Companies like Pint Size Productions and Pinhole Press allow you to create a totally personalized board book. Use your own photos, add a story, or include no words at all; the options are endless for creating a one-of-a-kind gift.
Choosing Board Books for Babies
Not all board books are created equal: some are better for toddlers than for baby brains who have yet to learn and form words.
The overwhelming majority of parents I’ve spoken to agree that certain qualities are key: rhyme and repetition to keep baby’s attention engaged; color and/or contrast to stimulate their senses; textural variety for babies to explore through touch; finally, simplicity is best.
The best board books for babies
So whether you too have a little bundle of joy to read to, need a gift for someone who does, or, like me, are on a mission to bring a niece or nephew to love of reading, here are 50 board books for babies to get ’em started while they’re young.
Hug Machine by Scott Campbell
Admit it, you’re singing “I’m just a huuuug machine.” Don’t worry, I ain’t mad at it. This popular picture book condensed down to board book form is a feel-good read about hugging and is so. darn. cute. It’s also kind of hilarious: the little boy in the book goes around hugging everything. The image of him hugging a mailbox took me down.
Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton
If the adorable babbling in the kids corner at the bookstore has taught me anything, it’s that kids love funny sounds. This little board book is a fantastic read-aloud to teach babies the sounds that animals make. And again…that title is just fun to say.
Besos for Baby by Jen Arena and Blanca Gomez
I can’t handle the cuteness of these illustrations, which, ahem, were done by a Latina. The bilingual storyline—which is simple enough for a baby to follow—is paired with gorgeous, graphic visuals and encourage sweet kisses from baby. Si, please.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr, Illustrated by John Archambault
This is possibly the most popular title among the littles at my store. Babies seem to alight when they see it on the shelf, while toddlers giddily clap and shriek the title over and over again. It is pretty fun to say: go on, you know you want to.
The Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen, Illustrated by Dan Hanna
I like to joke that this book is about a fish with a case of RBF. It’s an adorable tale of a gloomy gus whose fishy friends help to turn his frown upside down. It’s another one of those books that kids recognize and get really excited over.
Some Bugs by Angela DiTerlizzi, Illustrated by Brendan Wenzel
I work at an indie bookstore and my owner’s three-year-old daughter has her own section on our website’s Staff Picks section. This one is at the top of the list and I see why—the illustrations are so gorgeous that I almost—almost!—forgot that most bugs terrify me.
Dream Big, Little Leader by Vashti Harrison
I’m cheating here because this one hasn’t come out yet—but hear me out! Author Vashti Harrison is the creator of adorable and empowering Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History. This forthcoming board book is an adaptation of that first release and will feature 18 trailblazing black women in American history. It might be a little bit advanced for babies, but I’m still recommending it. Representation matters! Worth the wait till October.
Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy E. Shaw and Margot Apple
It’s called Sheep in a Jeep. What more do you need to know?
Baby Koala: Finger Puppet Book (Little Finger Puppet Board Books) by Chronicle Books, illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Huang
Kids looooove them a finger puppet. Heck, so do I! These tiny little books are an understandable favorite due to the cute little finger puppet at the book’s center, which comes in every variety from koala to tiger to crab.
Lil Libros Board Books by Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein, illustrated by Citlali Reyes
I can’t express how much I love this series: beautifully illustrated, first concept stories in bilingual text with a focus on Latin American cultural and historical icons. Check this list: Frida, Cantinflas, Celia, Zapata and…wait for it…Selena. What are you waiting for? You do anything for Salinas!
Feminist Baby by Loryn Brantz
My only issue with this book is that I wish the imagery was more diverse. Still, the feminist baby has some pretty great knowledge to share and those pearls of wisdom make it a great gift.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
No list of board books would be complete without this classic. The timeless story, beautiful artwork and die-cut pages make this a favorite of parents and babies alike. Bonus: if you’re looking to add an extra touch to your gifting, pair this book and other classics with a matching pair of socks or a onesie. This combo is one of my gifting go-tos.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr, Illustrated by Eric Carle
Though A Very Hungry Caterpillar is probably Eric Carle’s most well-known children’s book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? actually came first. Educator and author Bill Martin Jr approached Carle to illustrate a story he’d written in 1967. Brown Bear is the result of that collaboration and the first of several others: if you like bears, there are panda and polar bear versions available for your reading pleasure.
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
The Snowy Day first broke the color barrier in mainstream children’s publishing in 1962 when it introduced us to Peter, an absolutely precious little brown boy in a red snowsuit playing in the snow. Keats has made a concerted effort to make all of his characters diverse and for that he gets all of the points.
Mini Look At Me books by Giovanni Caviezel, Illustrated by L. Rigo
These books are die-cut and feature adorable creatures. Picking out which ones to carry in store is always such a challenge for me—they’re all so precious. Have fun choosing!
Corduroy by Don Freeman
This one’s a little wordier than I’d usually say a baby book should be, but I just couldn’t leave my buddy Corduroy out in the cold. It’s another one of those classic stories for kids to grow into and grow with.
All the World by Liz Garcia Scanlon, Marla Frazee
This Caldecott winner is a classic, a story of the ways—big and small—in which we are all connected. Simple but poignant, I’ve gifted it numerous times.
Vegetables in Underwear by Jared Chapman
Vegetables. Underwear. This is a no-look purchase. But seriously, it’s cute and it’s funny and VEGETABLES ARE IMPORTANT. Underwear is too.
GoodNight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
You’ve heard of this one, right? Thought so. This timeless bedtime story is a staple of any tiny reader’s collection, a poetic lullaby to put little ones to sleep.
A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na
Korean author and illustrator Il Sung Na creates such whimsical visuals, a particular style unlike what you usually see in board books. The text is sparse but lovely and pairs with the unique illustrations for a story that’s simple, soothing and a treat for the eyes.
A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara
I know what you’re thinking: a baby barely knows where their nose is, ain’t it a little early to start with activism? To that I say, not at all! Though just a little text-heavy for babies, it goes through the alphabet and does check the boxes for rhyming and some seriously stunning color. And what a great gift for babies of parents who resist—or maybe ones who need to…Bonus: It’s available in Spanish too as A de Activista.
Black Bird, Yellow Sun by Steve Light
Colors & animals, straight up & simple. The entire book is exactly 20 words long but that is just dandy for babies newly exposed to these concepts.
Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin
I was already pretty sold on a Caldecott honor book on typing cows, but the story itself speaks to my soul. A group of cows are sick of their barn’s frigid conditions and draft up a letter to their farmer demanding electric blankets. They go on strike when their demands aren’t met and get the chickens involved, and there are meetings and counteroffers. This is board book gold. These cows stand for what they believe in and I think that makes this a pretty stellar baby gift. Don’t you let anyone get in the way of your blankets, kids!
Count with Little Fish by Lucy Cousins
This looks like just another counting book at first glance, but there’s a little surprise inside. The numbers and fish on the pages are made of a shiny, reflective material, giving the art a pretty sheen that’s a treat for baby’s developing eyesight.
Counting on Community by Innosanto Nagara
Counting on Community is also by Innosanto Nagara, the writer and illustrator of the aforementioned A is For Activist. This second book follows in the same progressive vein, this time focusing on counting. Just like his first work, Nagara brings it with the vibrant artwork. The page on “nine tasty dishes” made my mouth water *just* a little bit.
Cozy Classics Series by Jack & Holman Wang
You know, I thought I was going to have to work a lot harder to sneak Jane Eyre into a list of baby books. But here come the folks at Cozy Classics making it way too easy AND baby appropriate! Each of the books in this adorable series feature simple concepts, words and stories using images of needle-threaded felt people from the classics. COME ON. Jane Eyre is my favorite but I must admit: I’ll probs buy War & Peace so I can say my nephew is up on Russian lit.
Dinosaur Dance by Sandra Boynton
These dancing dinos go tippity tap and flap, flap, flap and bompity bomp and stop stop stomp. The fun and silly words make for a wonderful read aloud—and maybe a baby dance party of one’s own.
Dr. Seuss’s ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book! By Dr. Seuss
Not all of Dr. Seuss’s works are baby-level reads, but this one works pretty well even for the littlest of the little. It’s just what it sounds like: the ABC’s Seussified. A good gateway into the rest of the Dr. Seuss world.
First 100 Words by Roger Priddy
There really are 100 words packed into this tiny book, each paired with a colorful image to help babies learn the basics. Think stuff like apple, car, flower, chair. High on color, low on complexity.
Global Babies by The Global Fund for Children
A friend recommended this one and it’s easy to see why: this collection of full-color photographs features babies from around the world in all of their diverse and chubby-cheeked glory. The book’s curators, Global Fund for Children, donate time and funds to community-based organizations working to improve the lives of the world’s most vulnerable youth. Great book, great message, great cause—and beautiful babies. Bonus: available in a bilingual version AND it’s the first in a series.
Playshapes Series by Twirl Books, Illustrated by Nadia Shireen
These sturdy and brightly-colored plastic board books are cut in the shape of animals and contain quick mini-lessons inside about the animal too. My fave is Emperor Penguin, but you perhaps will prefer the T-Rex, Triceratops or Seal.
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site: Let’s Go! by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld
You’re never too old to learn construction work, right? The graduated pages are shaped like the vehicles they describe in simple, easy language. It may be a while before baby can properly identify a canopy or outrigger, but the playful shape of the book itself is great from the get-go.
Time for a Hug by Phillis Gershator and Mim Green, illustrated by David Walker
I sense you’re looking for more books about hugs, yes? Here you go. I must say that while bunnies are cute in general, the ones in this book are just delightful. Lot’s of rhyming, lots of hugging. My friend’s little one loved reading (and chewing…and playing with…) this book so much that mama had to toss it in the trash one sad, sad day. So maybe buy two? Yeah. Good idea.
Simply Small books by Paola Opa
These books in this series are just so charming! The illustrations are minimalist but so, so sweet and feature cute baby animals finding clever ways to solve their not-so-small problems. My favorites are Saffy and Ollie, about a tale of a baby giraffe and elephant, and Emma, who’s the cutest little hedgehog ever.
Usborne Touchy Feely books by Fiona Watt
I discovered That’s Not My Dragon recently and really dug the tactile aspect: there are lots of fun textures for baby to touch and feel while they process the repetitive text and bold colors. There is a whole collection of these Touchy Feely books to choose from if dragons aren’t your bag: kittens, elephants, pandas, puppies and much, much more. My new personal favorite? Goats.
Girl of Mine /Boy of Mine by Jabari Asim, Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
With text inspired by “Rock-A-Bye Baby,” this sweet tale follows the adventures of a little girl who’s whisked off to whimsical places when she climbs into her daddy’s arms at bedtime. A companion book titled “Boy of Mine” follows the similar journey of a little boy and his mommy.
Hello Baby books by Roger Priddy
Roger Priddy’s High Contrast Board Book series is designed just for babies: bold colors, high contrast, simple concepts. The books themselves are chunky and easy for little hands to grasp. Perfecto.
On the Farm by Kate Riggs, illustrated by Fiammetta Dogi
I love a good, cute, fluffy rendering of a barnyard animal as much as the next girl, but this book has my vote for its realism. The illustrations in this bad boy are detailed and so friggin’ lifelike! In a close-up of a cow, the folds of its skin around the neck, flared nostrils, and wide eyes gave me major flashbacks to the first time I saw a cow in person and felt woefully deceived. I’ve recovered, but this book might have been cool to have back in the day, you know?
Hello Bugs! by Smriti Prasadam Halls
Hello Bugs is another book that uses high contrast in black and white patterns to teach young readers about 10 types of bugs. As an extra visual treat, each page contains a burst of colorful foil.
I’ll See You In The Morning by Mike Jolley, illustrated by Mique Moriuchi
This is just a straight-up beautiful bedtime story, one with counting sheep and everything. There’s tons of color on every page and an overall soothing and peaceful tone. Ah, serenity.
Jellycat Board Books ring all the appropriate bells: fun shapes, great color, texture variety, sturdy construction. Some feature beloved Jellycat characters like Una the Unicorn and Leo the Lion. Most are about a general animal, have a cute fluffy tail attachment and follow an “If I Were A <fill in favorite animal here>” format. I love If I Were A Hippo and If I Were A Monkey but there are lots of great options to choose from.
Love You books by Emma Dodd
I was first drawn to these books because of their covers—just slightly squishy with gorgeous hues of blue, green and purple. The stories are tender and heartfelt, the animals cute as buttons. I’m particularly smitten with Together and Happy—otters and owls!!!
My Awesome Book Series by Make Believe Ideas
The die-cut pages in these books are the shape of their subject: letters of the alphabet, farm animals—the usual suspects. I come back to die-cut details often because they allow wee ones to explore with their hands.
Please Mr. Panda by Steve Antony
Chubby panda rolling his eyes on the cover? I’m intrigued. Said panda is carrying a box of donuts? Tell me more. Panda provides lesson on manners by only giving donuts to animals who say please? Sold.
Pouch by David Ezra Stein
A baby kangaroo takes his first steps (well, hops) outside of his mama’s pouch—so sweet! Toddlers love this book but I think it makes a great gift for babies, and for the mamas and papas who wish they wouldn’t grow up so fast.
Touch Think Learn series by Xavier Deneux
As the name implies, these books are great for learning through touch. They each focus on one subject (vehicles, numbers, farms) and have raised shaped objects on the pages that fit into scooped cutouts on their opposite page.
Maisy Lift-the-Flap Books by Lucy Cousins
There are lots and lots of Maisy books available but I love the touch aspect of the Lift-the-flap versions. Flaps in board books are basically a bookish form of peek-a-boo, and babies love them some of that! If you and your little one enjoy the Maisy books, there is also a British-American animated TV series based on them with the most adorable accents.
Where’s the Owl by Nosy Crow, Illustrated by Ingela P. Arrhenius
One of my best friends has two boys; the older one loves to read like his Tia Vanessa and the younger’s goal since birth has been to achieve maximum destruction. I bought the little one this book, and he liked it! Babies love the felt flaps and pretty woodland creatures.
Baby’s First Words by Stella Blackstone and Sunny Scribens, illustrated by Christiane Engel
Slow clap for this one, guys. The family in the book is multiracial AND the little girl in it has two dads. The book is about first words, perfect for babies. And how fantastic to find diverse and inclusive books for kids. Heart-eyed emoji, all day.
Indestructibles series by Amy Pixton and Stephan Lomp
These *technically* aren’t board books but go with me here: they are chew and rip proof and washable. If you’ve ever had a baby or seen a baby or heard of one from a friend, you know that babies put everything in their mouths and that their tiny little hands are capable of serious damage. Well HA, little humans! You’ve met your match! Oh and the books are, like, really cute too.
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