To raise a reader, you first have to surround them with books. Growing up with lots of books in your home boosts children’s literacy. A child who sees the people around them reading is far more likely to pick up a book themself, especially if they have packed shelves of eye-catching picture books. But there’s just one problem: books are hard with pointy corners; babies are soft. Enter: cloth books for babies.
These cloth books are perfect for newborns and young babies, because they get kids used to the idea of books before they’re ready to actually hold one. As they get a little older, babies can stare at high-contrast pages that are designed for their developing eyes. And, of course, they can be grabbed, chewed, and used as a pillow.
The interesting thing about looking for cloth books for babies is that they’re not produced like regular books. Because they’re made of fabric and other materials, they are often grouped in with toys, not books. That can make them difficult to find, especially because they’re not made by publishers, for the most part.
Because cloth baby books have a lot of overlap with toys, many of them also aren’t books in another sense: they may not have words on the page or even an author. There are only a very, very few kids’ book titles that get adapted into a cloth book. It may even be more likely for a picture book to make it to the big screen than it is to have it made into a cloth book. This means that only the classics of kids’ literature have this option, like Goodnight Moon. Publishers don’t seem willing to take a chance on newer titles.
This unfortunately means that of the cloth books for babies I’ve found that have authors, they are almost all white authors. I hope that publishers decide in the future to make cloth book adaptations of books like Lovely by Jess Wong — its scarcity of words and vibrant illustrations make it well-suited to a cloth format — or one of Richard Van Camp’s beautiful board books, like Little You.
In the meantime, though, here are some cloth books for toddlers and babies that you and your kid will love! I’ve separated these into cloth story books, which are mostly adaptations of picture books and have pages that look similar to board books, and toy-like interactive cloth books that have crinkly pages, teething bindings, mirrors, and other fun activities for babies and toddlers.
Cloth Story Books
Sleepy Bunny (Pat the Bunny Cloth Book) by Golden Books
Pat the Bunny is a classic touch-and-feel book, but its plastic ring binding and thin cardboard pages make it not a great choice for babies to play with alone (and quick for toddlers to shred). This cloth version is softer for babies and longer lasting for toddlers.
Goodnight Moon Cloth Book by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd
If any book was going to get a cloth book adaptation, it’s Goodnight Moon. Opt for the cloth book version instead of the board book for your next baby shower gift, and it will be picked up before baby is reading for holding board books.
Baby’s Day: Cloth Book by Karen Katz
This one can also go in the interactive cloth books for toddlers section, but it has a story to go with it. Karen Katz is a well-known name in board books, authoring lots of lift the flap interactive board books. Baby’s Day is for young babies, and it takes them through a day of playing before being tucked in at night.
Another interactive cloth book with a recognizable author, this is a simplified version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar featuring colorful images of the food the caterpillar eats, as well as a teether spine to chew on, a mirror, and other interactive elements.
Llama Llama On the Go Busy Day by Anna Dewdney
Dewdney’s Llama Llama series is beloved, and now you can get it in a cloth book version. This is another story that takes you through Llama’s Llama’s day, ending with a story at bedtime. The corner is a teething toy.
It’s never too early to introduce your kids to the Hundred Acre Woods. Start with this soft book with crinkle paper, a teether handle, and touch-and-feel elements. It may not have all the story elements of an A. A. Milne novel, but it will get baby familiar with the eternally lovable Pooh bear.
One of the first things babies focus on are faces, and they find them fascinating even in book form. This high contrast cloth book is designed for new babies’ developing eyesight. There is a page for Daddy, Mummy, and Baby faces, as well as a mirror for baby to check out their own face.
Playtime Baby illustrated by Kay Vincent
This wordless cloth book for babies shows colorful illustrations of different toys, including a rattle, a rubber duck, and blocks. It also has touch-and-feel elements.
Welcome Little One: My First Soft Cloth Book by Sandra Magsamen
A cloth book adaptation of the board book of the same name, this book has more text per page than most of the books on this list, making it a great read-aloud for sleepy babies that can also be snuggled with at naptime.
Etsy is also worth hunting through for cloth books and quiet books (AKA busy books). You can even find patterns for making your own! This one is a take on a Little Golden Books classic title, adapted to a soft storybook format.
Pitter Patter Penguin by Surya Sajnani
This cloth book is folded accordion-style for the pages, so it can be unfolded into one long strip. It shows some antarctic animals, and on the other side, it shows penguin playing — and his feet are crinkly! Also check out the other Wee Gallery cloth books, like Swing Slow, Sloth and Roly Poly Panda.
My Colourful Friends: A Wee World Full of Creatures (Wee Gallery Cloth Books)
Another Wee Gallery cloth book, this one shows a different animal on each page, each representing a color: blue bird, orange cat, brown snail. I suspect the illustrations will appeal to the parents even more than the baby, but that can be a plus.
Interactive Cloth Books for Toddlers
Allow me to be a paranoid aunt and recommend that these books be used with supervision, not necessarily left in the crib. While they’re all made for babies, they have more little parts attached to them, and I’d be worried about one getting yanked off and swallowed. I’m probably being overprotective, but I’d rather be extra safe!
As noted earlier, cloth books have more in common with toys than books in a lot of ways, so it’s not a surprise that Melissa & Doug have an array of cloth books for babies and toddlers. This one has flaps for toddlers to lift to see the animals hiding.
Here’s another Melissa & Doug cloth book! This one has sets of feet dangling down that match with different animals, and also has some read-aloud text.
I am delighted that this is the second sloth book I’ve mentioned on this list. Along with the ribbon tags for toddlers to flip through, this soft book has touch-and-feel elements, a squeaker, and crinkle paper. There’s also a story to read out loud.
Okay, this one is a cheat, because it’s currently out of stock, but it’s the most aesthetic cloth book I’ve ever seen. The little mushroom! The intricate illustrations! If you can find it, it also has a mirror, a teether corner, pockets, and textured elements.
This high contrast cloth book mixes black and white elements with bright colors. It has a teether ring, a mirror, crinkle pages, and glittering wings. It can also be clipped to a stroller.
Dinosaurs are a guaranteed hit with kids, and this cloth book comes bundled with an Ocean Fun bonus, too. Both have crinkle paper and textured touch-and-feel elements, with tails and fins spilling off the page and sticking out.
This quiet book is perfect for babies’ and toddlers’ developing eyesight and motor skills. It’s high contrast and interactive, with flaps to lift, textured elements to touch, a dial to turn, and a squeaker to press.
I am so delighted by this book. The smiling avocado! The dangling feet! It also has a rhyming story about how avocados grow and has flaps to lift. As of writing, this is currently out of stock, but I’m sure it’s just because everyone has snapped it up. You can still buy I am a Carrot, which is almost as good.
This koala cloth book comes with a teether and can be clipped to a stroller. And the koala’s ears are fuzzy and beg to be pet! It also has crinkle paper, textured elements throughout, flaps, and a pocket to put the teether in.
This cloth book is separated into three horizontal strips, allowing the animals faces to be mix and matched (pig ears, tiger eyes, koala mouth).
Similarly, this cloth book is separated into two horizontal strips to mix animal bodies and heads. It also has a (hard plastic) rattle spine, a teether, flaps to lift, a squeaker, and a mirror.
Still looking for more books for babies? Try these!