My 3-year-old son and I love listening to toddler audiobooks together. We first began listening to them when we discovered Disney Read-Along Storybook and CD’s at the library, like the Lilo & Stitch Read-Along Storybook and CD. I’m one of those people who still has a CD player circa 2005 which comes in handy for audiobooks (and my mixed CDs from my middle school days). With a print and audiobook combo, my son can follow along with the pictures as the story is read aloud. We’ll take these in the car with us, too. It’s so cute to see my little guy flipping the pages of his book while we listen to the story together.
I grew up in a family who loved books on tape; they were our constant companions on long car rides. I’m convinced listening to my favorite stories on audio helped me fall in love with reading. There’s something to be said for a narrator that gets the characters’ voices and accents just right. Toddler audiobooks also provide us as caregivers with the rare opportunity to sit and listen to a story with our toddlers rather than always being the one reading them. Plus, there are countless benefits to listening to audiobooks, including for kids. This Rioter gives a thoughtful analysis on the benefits of audiobooks for the heart and mind if you’d like to explore that more.
Along with books on CD, there are Playaway picture books, as well as digital audiobooks for toddlers. Below, I’ve gathered together a list of great toddler audiobooks, including many favorites my son and I like reading together. Does your toddler have a favorite audiobook?
A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin, Narrated by Emma Lysy
I thought I’d kick off my list with one by my favorite children’s author, Grace Lin, who also just won the ALA’s 2022 Children’s Literature Legacy Award. Little Star had so much fun baking the Mooncake with her mama, but she’s supposed to wait before eating it! Maybe it’ll be okay if she has just one little bite… In this heartfelt book, Grace Lin shares the story behind the phases of the moon. This audiobook is narrated by Emma Lysy and includes sweet background music.
The Day You Begin Written and Narrated by Jaqueline Woodson, Illustrated by Rafael López
This poignant story is narrated by the author, Jaqueline Woodson. I love when authors narrate their own books; it allows them to include the inflections and tones of voice they originally envisioned when writing the story, which adds a special layer to the storytelling. Being the new kid is a relatable feeling for toddlers. Many of them, my son included, may be starting at new daycares or preschools. Woodson’s book shares a powerful message about how even if you’re feeling scared or lonely around new people, sharing your stories can help you make meaningful connections.
Don’t Hug Doug (He Doesn’t Like It) by Carrie Finison, Illustrated by Daniel Wiseman, Narrated by Jesus E. Martinez
This new book by Carrie Finison teaches important lessons to little ones about bodily autonomy and consent, and Jesus E. Martinez reads it aloud so well. His narration encourages kids to laugh at the silly parts while still emphasizing the important message. Toddlers so often get told to give hugs, and I think this book provides a valuable alternative narrative where they can learn it’s okay if they don’t feel comfortable hugging. For more helpful resources on teaching about consent, I’ve found Rosalia Rivera’s Consent Parenting Instagram account helpful.
Hot Cocoa Calm: Mindfulness Moments for Kids Written and Narrated by Kira Willey, Illustrated by Anni Betts
Our toddlers have big feelings, and mindfulness is a great skill to help little ones find calm. This soothing audiobook is read by the author, Kira Willey, and leads toddlers through deep breathing exercises and cozy hot cocoa scenarios. I can confirm my toddler loves it!
Fatima’s Great Outdoors Written and Narrated by Ambreen Tariq, Illustrated by Stevie Lewis
One of my toddler’s favorite imaginary games is playing “going camping,” so he loved this heartwarming story about Fatima and her family taking their first camping trip. This audiobook is also read by the author, Ambreen Tariq, who is an outdoors activist and founder of @BrownPeopleCamping.
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, Illustrated by Vashti Harrison, Narrated by Blue Ivy Carter
I love that this audiobook is read by a young narrator, Blue Ivy Carter. It really adds to the feel of a child’s perspective telling her own story which makes for a beautiful listening experience. Written by former NFL player Matthew A. Cherry, this charming story stars Zuri and her dad. Zuri loves her beautiful hair, and her mom always makes her feel like a star when she styles it. When Zuri’s mom is away and her dad takes over hair care duties, he’ll do whatever it takes to make her and her hair happy.
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, Narrated by Dion Graham
Oh, how our toddlers do love construction vehicles. I am thankful for the times looking at construction vehicles provides my child entertainment when we’re stuck in traffic. Rhyming toddler books make for great audiobooks, and Dion Graham does such a wonderful job narrating this sweet rhyming bedtime book by Sherri Duskey Rinker. The audiobook edition also offers the added bonus of fun construction site sound effects in the background.
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story Written and Narrated by Kevin Noble Maillard, Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
Here we’ve got another toddler audiobook read by the author, Kevin Noble Maillard, which creates a special listening experience. Maillard is a member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, and through this moving story, he shares the impact of fry bread on bringing family together and celebrating their Native American culture and heritage.
Max the Brave by Ed Vere, Narrated by L.J. Ganser
Ed Vere’s story about a brave little cat named Max is just too cute. I mean, just look at those cat eyes! This book has lots of silly dialogue and different animals speaking, and L.J. Ganser does a great job narrating those. The scene where the monster sneezes out Max has my toddler cackling every time. Shoutout to my son’s aunt and uncle for gifting him this one. Along with the silliness, I love that this book’s message in the end is that it’s okay if you don’t feel brave all the time.
All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, Illustrated by Marla Frazee, Narrated by Joanne Woodward
To wrap up my list, I chose another rhyming toddler book written by Liz Garton Scanlon that makes for a wonderful audiobook listening experience. My son and I find the rhymes of this story soothing and calming, so it makes for a perfect bedtime listen.
Before You Go…
I hope these toddler audiobooks create special moments for you and the little ones in your life as you listen to stories together. If you’d like to explore more terrific reads for tots, check out these audiobooks for preschoolers and these best toddler books. Happy reading and listening!