Classic Board Books Every Baby Should Own


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.

The Classics

 classic board books

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

board books for babies

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

board books for babies

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

board books for babies

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

board books for babies

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

board books for babies

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

board books for babies

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

board books for babies

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

board books for babies

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!

board books for babies

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

board books for babies

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

board books for babies

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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classic board books

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  1. Oh these are awesome. I think we only have 3 of these, maybe 4. Goodnight Moon is a definite favorite. Baby H is always dragging that one around. Must be the bright colors.
    Julie S recently posted…Nanny Series – Our decision to hire a live-in NannyMy Profile

  2. We have definitely read many of these books (and own most of them, too!). So I totally agree that they are must haves.

    Dr. Seuss was a genius! I can recite The Cat in the Hat and his ABC book from memory because of the rhythms he uses.

    I’ve never seen the Dear Zoo book, so that will definitely have to be checked out soon! Thanks for the info.
    Jamie @ Medium Sized Family recently posted…Work the Plan: Goals for the Week 2/22My Profile

  3. These are all great! My kids are 8, 6, and 4 and the Sandar Boynten books are still favorites for us to read. My two oldest can read them alone now, but they have known them by memorization for years!
    Emily, Our house now a home recently posted…Hallway transformation, DIY wainscotingMy Profile

  4. You have made a great list! We have almost all of these! In my former (pre-momma) life I ran the children’s department for a bookstore, and all of these were always some of the most requested books. ?
    Samantha recently posted…Coconut Lime ChickenMy Profile

  5. Such great memories of these books! Moo Ba La La La, Dear Zoo, Going To Bed Book and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom were all FAVORITES and are always on my list for baby showers or birthday parties for little ones. Great pics and thanks for the walk down memory lane!

  6. I had almost all of these!
    Lana recently posted…Weekly Doodle ChallengeMy Profile

  7. I love board books, and my grandchildren have some of those exact ones. He loves books and we totally enjoy reading to him. We have a huge selection of books are our house too.
    Gloria @ Homemade & Yummy recently posted…Broccoli Overload SoupMy Profile

  8. I still have almost all these books from when son was little. I look forward to passing them on to him to share with his kids one day.

  9. This is a great list. These would make great baby shower gifts to start off the new baby’s library of classics.

  10. I’m happy to see that we have all of these! My two sisters are pregnant so I’ll have to build up their board book collection.

  11. My kids would have been lost without me reading Good Night Moon every night. They developed such a love of reading that, now as adults, they still have books on their wish lists.
    Alicia recently posted…Goal Setting – Healthy Weight Loss Part 2My Profile

  12. Chicka Chicka Boom was read so often here that we had 2 copies. Both are worn out! I think we’ve had almost all of these books!

  13. Robin Rue (@massholemommy)

    The only one on this list that my kids had was Goodnight Moon, but that;s ok – we read it every single night, so there was no need for anything else.

  14. We have many of these books ourselves. I just read Chicka Chicka Boom to my preschooler a few days ago.

  15. What a great collection to start off a child’s mini library. Harry the Dirty Dog is a true classic.

  16. You shared a good selection of books here. I remember reading many of them with my children when my children were young.

  17. what a great list of books to have for a child’s library! I loved any book by Sandra Boynton & a couple of hers quickly became faves of my daughter – they are the best!

  18. There’s some great titles here – some I’ve read and some I’ve never heard of. With a first grandbaby on the way, I’ll have to look into a few new ones! Thanks for sharing at our #OTM link up ~ Leanne 🙂
    Leanne@crestingthehill recently posted…getting a fly-on-the-wall blog reviewMy Profile

  19. I love all of those. Classics are the best!
    Marina @ Parental Journey recently posted…Things Every Soon-to-be Father Needs to KnowMy Profile

  20. Love this! I read Goodnight Moon to my son every single night before bed, and can recite it back to front without even looking at it these days!

  21. Dear Zoo was a favourite of mine when I was a kid, now that I have nieces and a nephew I can’t wait for them to be old enough for me to read these to them.

  22. Adorable! I worked in daycare for 6 years so I have most of these pretty much memorized, but there were a few I hadn’t heard of as well. This’ll be a good resource for gifts as my friends are starting to have babies of their own.
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  23. What a great list! I totally have Moo, Baa, La La La memorized. 🙂
    Beth @ Pages and Margins recently posted…My foray into Sci-fiMy Profile

  24. Great list! We have a lot of these but will definitely be looking into the ones we currently don’t have. Our kids love Dear Zoo, even my busy one year old who normally doesnt sit still for books 🙂
    Tori recently posted…Must-Have Baby Items I Wished I Had With My First ChildMy Profile

  25. I love board books! I like how my kids can’t mess them up easily. I think all of these are great suggestions and have so many benefits for their young minds.
    Healing Mama recently posted…Ask Away Thursday : Boys Will Be BoysMy Profile

  26. What a fun list…love children’s books!!!

  27. Great list! Definitely purchased a few of these for my nephew when he was born

  28. Read most of these to my kids & now reading to my grandkids! I love Moo Baa La La La!

  29. We have so many of these. I loved Runaway Bunny when I was little. Jacob really seems to like Brown Bear, Brown Bear. If I start reading it, he will stop what he’s doing and crawl over to me to look at the book. His favorite page is the goldfish – he always pokes it in the eye. And if I start saying it (because I know it by heart now) he’ll just sit and stare and smile at me. 🙂

  30. I’ve not heard of any of these, but they look adorable. Perfect for the little ones.

    Sally @ Life Loving
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  31. We loved book time when the kids were little. Especially after a bath when they smelled all sweet and clean nestled on my lap. All warm and snuggly. There are some great books on your list, and some that I’ve never heard of. This is one of the things I really miss about having older kids, it’s the best time ever!
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