Build a Baby Library: A List of the Best Books To Buy in the First Year


Why am I writing about books on a blog about play, I hear you ask?  Well, because that’s what babies do with books – they play!  They open flaps, they touch different textures, they are positively itching to turn the pages of the book all by themselves.  Reading is a sensory experience to a baby (just like everything else).  As well as digesting the words and pictures with their developing cognitive skills, they are exploring the pages with all of their senses.

How does playing with books benefit my baby?

Having the time and opportunity to play with books is so important for babies. We all want our babies to develop a love of books – because we want them to want to read – because the more they read, the more they will learn –  and the more they learn, the more they will understand, appreciate and enjoy the crazy world that we have brought them in to.  Introducing them as early as possible to books with varied vocabulary, surprises, noises, flaps and mirrors sparks a life-long love of reading.  Although it may seem as if your little one is just staring into space when you first read with them, they are taking in everything you read to and with them from the very beginning.  This article on the Kids Health website explains exactly all the things your baby is learning when you read aloud to her.  I really recommend reading it, to remind yourself what a positive effect story time is having on your baby.


Where do you start when you are buying books for your baby?

There are literally thousands to choose from. And they are all so attractive and brightly coloured, sitting there on the shelf at Waterstones, inviting you in. In my opinion, you can never have too many baby books, because the more your baby reads, the more they will learn.

BUT, sadly, most of us are not able to just waltz in to a bookshop and buy all the books we fancy.  At least, not all at the same time.  I am not working anymore, which means I am on a strict budget,  and need to target my money carefully on books and toys for T that he will really get something out of.  So I spent hours researching which books would make it into his library, and I wanted to share my list with you.  I have written a brief paragraph on my reasons for choosing each of them. The things I consider when buying any toy or book for T are:

  • how rich it is in learning potential
  • how visually interesting it is
  • what opportunities there are for interaction
  • the variety of vocabulary in the book
  • and, finally, how much fun it is to read! (as I will be reading them a lot)

I have summarised what I think each book has to offer in terms of educational value into little bite-sized reviews.  Let me know what you think of the list, or, if you have written your own, I’d love to see it – I know that I will be adding to T’s library regularly!  Click on the book titles to find them on Amazon.
 1.  That’s Not My…(any in the series) 

This series is EXCELLENT.  The authors have created the perfect books for babies and toddlers – they are visually interesting, inviting to touch, repetitive and there is lots of vocabulary introduced.  There is also a little mouse that appears on each page in different places – T used to enjoy looking for him before he started to touch the feely bits.  Now he does both.  He loves all of them and I am sure he will continue to do so as he gets older.

Best for: sensory development, vocabulary of touch

2. Touch and Feel Play Book

This is such an amazingly interactive book, and there is so much to talk about inside.  The book introduces colours, animals, animal sounds, numbers, counting and shapes.  There are also feely bits, flaps to lift and a mirror near the end.  This was great for T when he was between about four and seven months, and just starting to get interested in books.  He still gets a lot out of it now though, and will do for a while, when he begins to point and name things.

Best for: sensory development, vocabulary of animals and sounds

3.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Beautiful artwork, a simple but interesting story, an introduction to numbers, counting and days of the week, the life-cycle of a butterfly explained, repetition (to aid recall) and interesting vocabulary.  If that isn’t enough for you, there are little holes that are the perfect size for your baby to poke their fingers through.  Is there anything this book doesn’t have to offer?

Best for: interaction (little holes for little fingers!), vocabulary of food, numbers, counting and sequencing (retelling the story in order from memory)

4. Snuggle Bunny

It’s got a puppet.  What else do you need?  This was a gift, and was the first book I ever read to T.  He loved the puppet even at eight weeks old, and has loved it ever since.  It’s a good one for winding down, as it’s all about getting ready for bed.  I get T to give Snuggle Bunny a kiss at the end and he loves this (although he often tries to bite his nose instead…!).

If you are interested in puppets, I’ll be writing about this soon too…stay tuned.

Best for: winding down/bed-time reading, social skills

5. First 100 words

I bought this enormous book to encourage T’s growing interest in photographic pictures.  We had a couple of old dog-eared photographic books from charity shops and he just couldn’t get enough of them.  So I went on the hunt for a good one and this was definitely the best I could find.  Each page has a theme: bath-time, bed-time, outside, etc. and pictures of objects that baby will recognise from that theme.  The pictures are colourful, and each is labelled with the word.  This is definitely his current favourite (as you can see from the photo above) and he studies the pictures happily for a good ten minutes, sometimes putting his hand on his favourites.  I know he cannot talk yet, but I am sure that when he can, we will start to see some of this vocabulary emerging!  I also think it will be a great way of casually keeping track of how many words he knows!  And, when he is talking, it provides opportunities to talk about the objects in the pictures – where he has seen them and how they compare to the ones he owns.  I can also see us playing memory games – covering the page and seeing how many pictures we can remember!

Best for: enriching vocabulary, reading skills, conversational skills, memory skills

6. Peepo!

This is more of a book that you read TO your baby, while he listens and looks. Interactive books are excellent for getting babies interested in reading, because their little fingers naturally want to touch and feel things in an effort to understand the world. Nevertheless, I do think it’s important to have some books that baby can just listen to and look at the pictures. This book is AMAZING. Each page is fascinating to look at, with lots of recognisable objects and situations, and a ball and teddy to find on each double page. It also has potential for other games to play when he’s older, such as “I spy “. As well as all this, what makes it stand out from other books for babies, is the wealth of interesting words to develop your bright little baby’s vocabulary.

Best for: interesting vocabulary, rhyming, reading skills, memory skills, conversational skills, listening skills

7. Animal Hide and Seek

I bought this book when T began to show an interest in lifting flaps. There are lots of brilliant flap books around, but I think this one has to be one of my favourites because it has so much  more to offer than just “flappy-ness”.  The artwork is beautiful, the pictures are really interesting, there are feely bits on every page, there are flaps to lift to find all the animals that are missing, there are lots of opportunities for counting and simple addition throughout the book and there is the classic little Usborne duck for your baby to try and find on each double page.

Half the flaps on our copy are now missing, which I think is testament to how much it has been enjoyed!

Best for: counting, lifting the flaps (fine motor skills), vocabulary of farm animals and their noises

8. Bizzy Bear Off We Go!

A really fun book that stands out from others because it has  moving pictures.  A little bear travels on four different forms of transport – you move each one in a different way with your fingers.  This book is all about the moving parts – these are great for developing fine motor skills.  T hasn’t worked them out yet but he is fascinated by the mechanics of them.  All the pictures are interesting too and there is lots to look at and name, so opportunities for extending his vocabulary.  And the good news is, there are lots of books in this series – each book explores a different them eg work, outside, etc.

Best for: fine motor skills, vocabulary of transport

9. Goodnight Moon

This is a lovely bedtime story book.  It was first written and illustrated in the 1950s, so it has a sort of kitsch, retro feel to it.  I like it because it has a different look and feel to it than  T’s other books.  The repetition is also quite relaxing, so it is perfect for bedtime.  It is the story of a little rabbit saying goodnight to everything in his room.  It’s very good for encouraging reading skills (scanning the picture to find things) because it shows you the whole room, then individual pictures of all the things in the room.  There is potential for memory games here – another love of mine! (can you remember where that object was in the room?  What was next to it? etc.)

Best for: winding down/bedtime, vocabulary, rhyming, reading skills, memory skills

10. Noisy Peekaboo

You’ve got to have at least one noisy book in your Baby Library, I reckon.  This one (or any in the series) is a real winner.  It has brightly coloured pages with real photographs of a baby sitting in a bedroom surrounded by toys.  On each double page you have to help a different baby find their lost toy by lifting the flaps.  T loves looking at the babies, scanning the main picture to find the toys on the opposite page, and lifting the flaps to look for the toy.  When your baby finds the toy, the book makes the noise of the toy as you lift the flap, so she is rewarded for her efforts!

Best for: lifting flaps (fine motor skills), animal noises, reading skills, memory skills

Well, there it is – my best books for babies list.  It is by no means definitive, and I will keep adding to it.  But it’s a really good start for T’s library.  I hope you get some use out of it too!





3 thoughts on “Build a Baby Library: A List of the Best Books To Buy in the First Year

  1. Thanks for including my post in your related articles! This sounds like a great list of books. For anyone with a tight budget, make sure you check out the book section at your local thrift store, as well as looking at yard sales, etc. We have found so many wonderful classic picture books and board books this way. They cost hardly anything at all and most of them are in surprisingly good condition. And of course, don’t forget to visit the library! We love going to baby story time at the library and checking out the collection of toys and board books in the kids room.

  2. Ah you’re very welcome, tree mama – nice to find someone who is passionate about reading with babies! Totally agree with everything you say about thrift/charity shops and the library. The library is like a treasure chest for T – he loves rummaging around in there. I’ve also found some great board books second hand.

  3. Pingback: How To Stop Your Baby Chewing Books! | Play It Again Mummy

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