When I got pregnant with my first child, I immediately thought of all the beloved children’s books I wanted to share with my future kids. I knew that the classic board books on this list I’m sharing with you today were must-haves. They are books that my parents read to me, and that my grandparents would recognize.
The oldest classic board book on this list is 86 years old (originally published in 1930 and one of my favorite books ever!) and still a great read for today’s little ones. The newer classics on this list are as old as me, but I’ll let you do that math! 😉
These are the tried-and-true, toddler and baby approved classic board books that have been big hits with the little readers in my house. When I ask “what do you want mommy to read?” these are the books that get picked time and again.
Why Board Books?
Even the sweetest of babies can wreak havoc on books. Pages get ripped out, covers get chewed on, and your entire library is bound to be stepped on, thrown, and crawled over at some point. Board books are the best choice for the youngest of readers, so if you are just starting to build your children’s library I highly recommend starting here. And board books aren’t just for infants! My almost three year old is still pretty rough on books, so the sturdier are better.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr., Illustrated by Eric Carle
Originally Published in 1967
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is a repetitive, easy to follow poem that features a variety of animals in all different colors. The simple text and bold pictures are engaging and easy to love. My toddler especially loves the purple cat.
I also love the story behind this book. He might be most well known for The Very Hungry Caterpillar but did you know that this book started Eric Carle’s career as a children’s book illustrator? Bill Martin Jr. wrote the Brown Bear poem while riding on a train. Then he saw a picture of a red lobster in a magazine, created by Eric Carle who was working in advertising at the time. Bill reached out to Eric and the rest is history!
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr., Illustrated by Lois Ehlert
Originally Published in 1989
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is a book that has it’s own rhythm and is super-fun to read! This is a great first book for introducing the alphabet, as all 26 letters race to the top of a coconut tree. Spoiler alert: they then fall out of the tree (that’s the BOOM BOOM part!). If you can’t tell by the cover, it’s a very vibrant, colorful book.
Dear Zoo: A Lift-the-Flap Book
Dear Zoo: A Lift-the-Flap Book by Rod Campbell
Originally Published in 1982
Dear Zoo: A Lift-the-Flap Book was my oldest son’s first favorite book. He would bring it to me over and over and over again. It’s a very simple, sweet story. A boy writes to a zoo asking for a pet. Each animal they send is hidden behind different flaps – and they all have a flaw that requires them to be sent back.
The story is cute and a great way to reinforce learning animals. And lifting the flaps help with fine motor skills. I’m really impressed with the sturdiness of the flaps in this book – nearly three years later they are all intact. Other lift the flap books have not been so lucky!
The Going to Bed Book
The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
Originally Published in 1982.
The Going to Bed Book holds a special place in my heart because it was a big part of my first son’s bedtime routine. For many months we read it every night, after bath and before he nursed to sleep. I still have it memorized. The animals in the book, who live on a ship, go through their bedtime routine (which includes baths, teeth brushing, and exercise!). It’s a perfect short bedtime book, and a great introduction to the idea of a routine.
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Illustrated by Clement Hurd
Originally Published in 1947.
I think everyone will agree that Goodnight Moon is a classic. I received this book as a baby gift multiple times. The simple story of saving goodnight to everything in a room (goodnight house, goodnight mouse…) is very appealing to little ears. Scroll a little further down this list and you’ll see another popular book by this same author and illustrator.
Hand Hand Fingers Thumb
Hand Hand Fingers Thumb by Al Perkins, Illustrated by Eric Gurney
Originally Published in 1969
Similiar to Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Hand Hand Fingers Thumb has it’s own beat! My music-loving baby actually dances while I read this one! More poem than story, my little ones love the refrain of “dum ditty dum ditty dum dum dum!” that repeats in this short book. I actually get this book stuck in my head, as if it were a song! “Hand picks an apple, hand picks a plum …”
Harry the Dirty Dog
Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham
Originally Published in 1956.
I have strong memories of reading Harry the Dirty Dog as a child. I loved the story of Harry, a dog who hates baths so much he runs away from home at bath time! During his adventures away from home he gets dirtier and dirtier, changing from a white dog with black spot to a black dog with white spots. He gets so dirty that his own family doesn’t even recognize him – until he takes a bath! 🙂 I love the illustrations, my kids love the story as much as I did, and I’m not surprised it’s still being published 50 years later!
The Little Engine That Could
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper, Illustrated by George and Doris Hauman
Originally Published in 1930
Quick personal story. When I was a little girl, I had an aunt who lived on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. We visited her in the summers and she had a small basket of kids books in her living room. The Little Engine That Could was the first book I always picked up and I read it as many times as I could during our visits. Many years later I had a baby shower for my first child and my sister encouraged guests to bring books instead of cards. My aunt, not knowing how much I would cherish it, gave me her 30 year old copy of this book, the exact one I had read so many times as a child. Yes, there were tears. 🙂
The Little Engine That Could is an awesome story of positive thinking! A group of toys need help after their train breaks down and a small, but happy, engine is the one who ends up rescuing them thanks to the “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” mantra.
Moo Baa La La La!
Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton
Originally Published in 1982
Sandra Boynton is the Queen of Silly Books (I gave her that title) and Moo Baa La La La! is one of her best. This easy to read board book is a great way to introduce your kids to animal sounds (you’ll moo, baa, oink, meow, and more!). Boynton just has a knack for turning something like animals and what sounds like make into something goofy and laugh out loud funny.
Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?: Dr. Seuss’s Book of Wonderful Noises
Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?: Dr. Seuss’s Book of Wonderful Noises by Dr. Seuss
Originally Published in 1970
Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?: Dr. Seuss’s Book of Wonderful Noises is a quick and silly read! Mr. Brown demonstrates all of the various sounds (animal and otherwise) that he can make. Get really into the sound-making and your kids will love it I promise! Popular in our house for the same reasons as Moo Baa La La La! above.
The Runaway Bunny
The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown, Illustrated by Clement Hurd
Originally Published in 1942
I was surprised at first by my son’s love for this book. The Runaway Bunny is a very sweet mother and son story that I sometimes get choked up reading. A little bunny wants to run away from mom, but the mother is persistent at telling him she will follow. He imagines turning into everything from a flower in a garden to a trapeze artist in a circus before deciding it’s best to just stay home with his mama. The artwork in this book is really beautiful. For every two pages with text, you get two pages that are just illustrations, and those pauses are lovely.
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