12 Best Books for Your 1, 2, & 3 Year Olds

Barbara

The first three years of your child’s life is filled with numerous milestones. It is a crucial time in their lives where their learning so much from their environment.

But, life experiences can only get them to a point. You should also exercise their imagination and show them experiences beyond the real world. Let them see talking animals, read about good monsters, go on far places, and enjoy a childhood open to a million possibilities.

Books and stories can help you with this. Not only can books enrich your child’s imagination, but it can also impart needed skills. Books can help them learn their alphabet and numbers, how to differentiate colors and shapes, and even hone their social skills. So, it’s a good idea to know what kind of books can help achieve that.

Just to get started and help you choose the first books for your precious baby’s first library, here are 12 books you can read:

Top 12 books for 1, 2, and 3 Year Olds

# Name Genre Ages
1 The Very Hungry Caterpillar Early Learning – Counting 1-3
2 Good Night Moon Bedtime, Animal 1-3
3 Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Animal, Early Learning – Basic Concepts 1-3
4 I Love You Forever Bedtime 1-3
5 Guess How Much I Love You Animal 2+
6 Wheels on the Bus Interactive, Rhyme, Science & Nature, Geography 2+
7 Little Pea Developmental, Social Skills, Health, Early Learning – Basic Concepts 2+
8 Where’s Spot? Animal, Activity Book 2+
9 Ohh, The Places You’ll Go Rhyme, Classics 3+
10 All By Myself Early Learning – Beginner Readers, Early Learning – Basic Concepts, Developmental 3+
11 Little Kids First Big Book of Why References, Science & Nature, Educational 3+
12 The Monster at the End of This Book Interactive, Horror, Developmental 3+

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Genre: Early Learning, Counting

Book Summary: The Very Hungry Caterpillar follows the life of a small caterpillar, starting out from when it’s in an egg up to becoming a beautiful butterfly. Its main characteristic is that it loves eating and is always hungry. That’s why he starts eating fruits for the whole week until he becomes a big, fat caterpillar. It slowly spins a cocoon around itself and emerges as a butterfly at the end of the story.

Review: Let’s start of this list with one of the most favorite children’s stories of all-time. The first time I read this book, I was in love! So it’s really not surprising to me that my two little ones are crazy about it as well. Not only is the Very Hungry Caterpillar so entertainingly colorful but it also provides numerous skills that your babies should know. You can practice counting from one to five, memorize the days of the week, and even learn a little about the natural life cycle of an animal (in this case, a butterfly).

Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

Good Night Moon

Genre: Bedtime, Animal

Book Summary: In Goodnight Moon, it’s time for a little rabbit to go to sleep. So, he goes around his little green room to say good night to all that’s in it, including the telephone, the red balloon, the mittens, the old lady, and everything else.

Review: Good Night Moon is such a lovely and relaxing bedtime storybook to read to your toddler. It reinforces a nightly routine for your little one. The story also makes your child feel that he’s not the only one off to bed, but also everyone and everything else.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See

Genre: Animal, Early Learning – Basic Concepts

Book Summary: Brown Bear, Brown Bear starts with asking a brown bear what he sees, and he answers that a red bird is looking at him. The red bird is then asked the question and he answers that another animal is looking at him. And on and on it goes.

Review: Sure, there is no plot in this picture book (like many critics like to point out) BUT it doesn’t mean it’s not educational! Brown Bear, Brown Bear teaches little children different kinds of animals, different colors, and how to ask and answer a question. It’s an absolute must-have for your first library despite its simplicity.

I Love Your Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw

I Love Your Forever

Genre: Bedtime

Book Summary: I Love You Forever tells the story of a mother and her son. It starts of as the mother rocks her newborn son and sings him a beautiful lullaby. Times passes by and the son grows up; first as a two-year-old, then a nine-year-old, a teenager, to a full-grown man. But whatever mishaps he gets himself into, his mother will always sing him his lullaby. The time came when his mother was too old and sick to sing him his song so he finished it for her and sang it for his own newborn daughter.

Review: I Love You Forever is a story that both you and your little one will really appreciate. Your baby will love the wonderful illustrations from the book, and the little made up song you can sing. But the best about this book is that it’s very heartfelt and emotional that even a parent like me finds it enjoyable. It’s a wonderful bedtime story to remind your baby how much you love him.

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram

Guess How Much I Love You

Genre: Animal

Book Summary: Guess How Much I Love You is a reading book that tells the story of Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare. Little Nutbrown Hare shows his father how much he loves him by stretching his arms as far as they can go, hopping as high as he can hop, and so on. Big Nutbrown Hare answers him back.

Review: This best-selling children’s book is an easy and heartwarming read that your baby will enjoy. My two toddlers even like to do the actions when we read them together. I guess, it’s interactive that way. Guess How Much I Love You doesn’t impart much when it comes to practical and logical skills like counting or learning new concepts, but it makes for a really good emotional journey. You and your baby can take turns showing how much you love each other, and that’s a good activity in itself!

Wheels on the Bus by Paul O. Zelinsky

Wheels on the Bus

Genre: Interactive, Rhyme, Science & Nature, Geography

Book Summary: The Wheels on the Bus shows the journey of one bus throughout its city route. It tells of the different parts that move in the bus, like its wheels going round and round, it’s doors opening and closing, its windows going up and down, and many more. It also depicts what some people do while inside the bus.

Review: The Wheels on the Bus is a genius! It’s a cool popup book that your little kid will love (mine do!). They can make the wheels literally go round and round while you read, and there are other bus parts that they can move as well. Each reading time will absolutely be exciting when you open this book!

Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace

Little Pea

Genre: Developmental, Social Skills, Health, Early Learning – Basic Concepts

Book Summary: The story starts with Little Pea going over all the things he likes, and then stops with the one thing he doesn’t: candy. Little Pea hates candy because that’s what he needs to grow big and strong. But if he finishes his candy, he can have his favorite dessert: spinach!

Review: The story of Little Pea and his aversion to his dinner is laugh out loud funny and unique. It shows kids that not everyone is the same. What they might like doesn’t necessarily be what others like. And that’s okay. It also shows that a little sacrifice like eating your yucky dinner can reap great rewards like having your favorite dessert! My little ones always have lots of fun when I read this story to them.

Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill

Where’s Spot

Genre: Animal, Activity Book

Book Summary: It’s time for Little Spot’s dinner and his mother can’t find him. She goes through the house to find him. She tries opening doors, looking inside clocks, searching in pianos and see’s different animals but not her Little Spot.

Review: Where’s Spot? is and adorably exciting book that gives a feeling of suspense to young children because you don’t know who you’ll find under the flap! This best-selling book is also a wonderfully interactive book (much like a touch and feel) since your little one can do the flipping for you. I know my kids love to do it!

Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss

Oh, The Places You’ll Go

Genre: Rhyme, Classics

Book Summary: Oh, The Places You’ll Go is a rhyming-story that shows you the ups and downs of the journey of life. Sometimes you’ll be sure-footed and go the right directions. Other times you’ll get lost and get scared and stay stuck. There’ll be moments when you get to the Waiting Place and remain waiting, but if you go forward and onwards you will succeed!

Review: Dr. Seuss is the classic of classics when it comes to children’s books. All his works are full of colorful and magical illustrations that your little one will love, and the rhyme of his stories is a lullaby that will force you to listen. But what I personally love about Dr. Seuss is that he imparts beautiful life lessons in a way that makes even MY day brighter. If you want a pick-me-upper for days when your sad, all you need to do is read Oh, The Places You’ll Go with your kids.

All By Myself by Mercer Mayer

All By Myself

Genre: Early Learning – Beginner Readers, Early Learning – Basic Concepts, Developmental

Book Summary: All By Myself shows Little Critter doing everyday things on his own. He can go out of bed by himself, dress himself, do chores by himself, and many more. He can even help his little sister, trim with dad, and ice a cake with mom. But what he cannot do is go to sleep without a bedtime story.

Review: What I like about All By Myself is that it’s written so simple. Your child can definitely understand what you’re saying and what the story is about. It’s great for teaching him what he can try to do by himself every day. My two kids make it a point to tell and show me who does what all by themselves. This book is a great inspiration to help them learn to become more independent.

Little Kids First Book of Why by Amy Shields

Little Kids First Book of Why

Genre: References, Science & Nature, Educational

Book Summary: Little Kids First Book is a reference book very much like and Almanac that’s geared towards pre-schoolers. It has many facts laid out in an age-appropriate language and format so that kids can better understand topics like how a car goes, what a doctor sees when you open your mouth, and many more trivia.

Review: Little Kids First Book of Why is part of a book series created by National Geogrphic to help young children learn new facts in easy to digest bits. It’s a great way to show them that books aren’t just for make believe. You can learn real-world stuff by reading. The older of my two kids is starting to ask a lot of questions, some are mundane but all show how curious he’s becoming. This little almanac helps me help him get the answers to some of his questions.

The Monster At The End of This Book by Jon Stone

The Monster At The End of This Book

Genre: Interactive, Horror, Developmental

Book Summary: The Monster at The End of this book is narrated by Sesame Street’s Grover. He start’s by reading the title of the book and slowly comments as he realizes that each time you turn the page, he’s getting nearer to the monster. Grover panics and begs you not to turn the page but you still do.

Review: The Monster At The End of This Book is a well-written story that sounds like Grover’s really talking to your little one. It holds a certain kind of suspense that will grip your children. Why is Grover so scared? At the same time, they want to keep turning the page because of their curiosity. And honestly, who doesn’t want to do the opposite of what they should, right? I like how this book introduces the feeling of being scared and assures my kids that everything will turn out okay in the end!

Conclusion

Of course, these are only my suggestions as the top 12 books you should definitely think of getting for your baby’s first library. There are tons of other books out there that tell wonderful and memorable stories. There are also other types of books you and your child can do together, such as coloring books, alphabet books, quiet books, puzzle books, and so much more!

That’s the great thing about books. You can’t really exhaust them, can you? Thousands of stories are waiting out there. These 12 books are just the beginning. It’s all up to you and your little voracious reader to expand his library!