The 11 Best Board Books to Buy in 2018

Start the reading habit early with these baby and toddler friendly reads

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There are some things that never get old, and that’s the case with classic childhood books. However, it can still be overwhelming to buy a baby his or her first board book. Is it age appropriate? Will it teach them important skills for life? Will it inspire them with a lifelong love of books?

The truth is, board books are important to a child’s growth and development. Even before they understand their first words, babies are learning from the rhythms, tones, and inflections of your voice as you read them a book. Studies show that children who were read to have ​a higher verbal acumen, and better math skills, than children who weren’t.

Board books are slightly different than regular paper books because they are harder to destroy, making them the perfect accompaniment for your child as they age into toddlerhood. Below are the best board books for every age so you can all sit back and relax for a minute. 

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? has a little bit of everything—colors, animals, clever verse, and drawings of other children. Written by Bill Martin Jr., and illustrated by the legendary Eric Carle, whose other books include the classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar, this board book will enrapture your child from infancy through toddlerhood, and beyond. Carle’s collages are a great way to teach your child about colors and animal sounds—featured creatures include a purple cat, a blue horse, and a yellow duck. According to one five star review on Amazon, “Almost every kid that reads this book becomes obsessed!!”

Best For Newborns: Baby Faces

Studies have shown that babies as young as an hour-old stare at face-like images for longer than they stare at any other type of pattern. In fact, by the time they are 4-months-old, babies can process faces even though they still can’t figure out most of the rest of the world. The reason? Likely evolutionary. We need to read and understand the faces of our caretakers in order to survive.

The first face a newborn falls in love with is that of his mother. A close second? His own face, which he sees mirrored in all of the other babies he encounters.

For that reason, Baby Faces, a DK board book, is perfect for your newborn. Along with showing babies processing all sorts of emotions, from happiness to sadness, to befuddlement, and more, the board book features bright, primary colors that will be sure to capture your newborn’s blossoming color vision.

Best For 1-Year-Olds: Where Is Baby’s Belly Button?

By the age of one, your child is exploding with new tricks, from learning how to say “mama” and “dada,” to taking their first steps. With encouragement, many babies are able to identify their body parts, from their nose to their ears to their belly buttons.

Where Is Baby’s Belly Button is the perfect way to teach your child about his or her body. Illustrated and written by Karen Katz, this board book features bubbly drawings that are irresistible to children. Each body part is hidden behind a wide, easy to maneuver flap that is difficult to rip. “I really think it will help her learn where her body parts are and what they are called!” one reviewer on Amazon wrote. “The flaps are nice and big so she can do them all by herself.”

Best For Toddlers: First 100-Words

Babies start saying words anywhere from six months onwards, but typically at 18 months, many children undergo a vocabulary explosion. First 100-Words is a great tool for teaching your child words. Divided into categories including “things that go,” “bath time,” “myself” and “clothes,” each word in the board book is accompanied by a photo set on a brightly colored background.

If your child is really into this book they're a bunch more books in the series including First 100 Animals, Numbers, Shapes, and Colors, and more.

Best Classic: Goodnight Moon

The best thing about Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown is that everyone in the family—from grandparents to parents to older children—will be familiar with it. First published in 1947, the board book continues to entrance babies because of the rhythmic, soothing way it is written. Along with being a surefire way to calm your child before bedtime, the book is also great for teaching about various objects in a room.

Best Sensory Book: Pat the Bunny

Another classic is Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt. Originally published in 1940, this board book has features that entice all of the senses, from a cut-out bunny that is soft to touch to a bouquet of flowers that smells if you scratch it. The novelty of interacting tactilely with a board book never gets old.

This book also has many different versions, including a stuffed book option, and you can also buy a stuffed bunny that mimics the one in the book.

Best For Bedtime: My Dreams

Featuring simple black-and-white drawings that lead readers on a magical adventure through fields of flowers and castles, My Dreams by Xavier Deneux is the perfect story for bedtime. But it’s true value doesn’t reveal itself until you turn off the lights, and realize that the illustrations glow in the dark! The board book is great to leave with your toddler as he or she falls asleep—when the lights are out, the illustrations slowly fade, leaving behind a gentle darkness.

Best For Learning Sign Language: My First Baby Signs

Sign language has become an essential tool for toddlers. There are many board books that teach both children—and their parents—how to sign, but none is as fun as My First Baby Signs by artists Phil Conigliaro and Tae Won Yu. Featuring moveable flaps that show animated children making the signs for “more,” “all done,” “thirsty,” “tired,” and more, the book is a great tool for teaching. “I adore this book!,” raved one 5-star review on Amazon. “So cute to have ​movable hands, I've never seen such an innovative pop-up book!” A word to the wise—the flaps are easy to rip off, so this might be best reserved for when your child is in a high chair, or otherwise unable to move.

Best for Potty Time: Potty

Everyone has to go through it, but that doesn’t make it any easier for a toddler to learn how to use the potty. Fortunately, there’s Potty by Leslie Patricelli, which outlines the various thoughts toddlers have while considering whether or not to use a toilet. “I have to go potty,” says the baby in the book. “I could go in my diaper. Should I go in my diaper?”

Unlike other board books about potty training, which can be longer and wordier, Potty appeals to a toddler’s short attention span. “He thought the babies expressions were hilarious,” one reviewer on Amazon wrote of her son’s reaction to the book. Another mentioned: “It helped to get my son interested in potty training. He enjoys it and wants it read to him while going potty... small steps in the potty training realm.”

Best For Parents: Bus Stops

Let’s be honest—in order to get excited about reading to your kid, you have to enjoy the board book too. For this, almost any board book by Sandra Boynton works—they’re funny no matter your maturity level. But if you want a board book that you can read again and again without ever getting bored, try Taro Gomi’s Bus Stops. Featuring gorgeous watercolor drawings that are rich with details, the book takes the reader on a journey through various landscapes, from a marketplace to a movie set to a junkyard. Relatable for kids, the book reads something like a travelogue for adults—a travelogue written in haikus.

Best Learning: I Hear a Pickle: and Smell, See, Touch, & Taste It, Too!

i-hear-a-pickle
Courtesy of Amazon

With this adorably illustrated book, your child will learn about all of their senses through how the children in the book interact with the world. "I hear the bee. Uh-oh," or "I don't like to smell cow poop" are some of the clever things they'll come across. Your little one and you will have a fun time flipping through I Hear a Pickle pages and learning about what they hear, smell, touch, taste, and see. This book will help encourage them throughout the day in thinking of what are some of the things they encounter and how they react to them through their sense.

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