The Best Board Books for Your Littlest Reader

"Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" is a classic, engaging story for kids

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It’s no secret that reading is great for children beginning at a young age, and board books are a wise choice for reading with babies and toddlers. These books are made paperboard, which is like thick cardboard, with a slick coating that makes the pages even more durable. Little kids love being able to turn the pages themselves, allowing them to participate in the reading process. 

Reviewed & Approved

"Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" features little bit of everything—colors, animals, clever verse, and drawings of other children. For newborns, we recommend "Baby Faces."

When your baby is very little, they may be more interested in the book itself than its contents. Consider board books that are engaging and durable, so they can be read into toddlerhood. We carefully considered material, any age recommendations, durability, and engagement when reviewing products.

Here are the best board books for your little one.

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

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Amazon

What do buyers say? 93% of 46,400+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 5 stars.

"Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" ranks high on our list because this book 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.

Best for Newborns: Baby Faces

Baby Faces

Amazon

Studies have shown that babies as young as one 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 evolution. We need to read and understand the faces of our caretakers in order to survive.

The first faces a newborn falls in love with is their parents'. A close second? Baby's own face, which they see mirrored in all of the other babies they encounter.

That's why 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? A Lift-the-Flap Book

Where Is Baby's Belly Button - A Lift-the-Flap Book

Amazon

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 button.

Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? is the perfect way to teach your child about their 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 customer wrote. “The flaps are nice and big so she can do them all by herself.”

Best for Toddlers: First 100 Words: A Padded Board Book

First 100 Words: A Padded Board Book

Courtesy of Amazon

Babies start saying words anywhere from six months onwards, but 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, there are a bunch more books in the series including First 100 Animals, Numbers, Shapes, and Colors, and more.

Best Classic: Goodnight Moon

Good Night Moon
Photo © Amazon

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: Pat the Bunny

Pat the Bunny (Touch and Feel Book)
Courtesy of Amazon

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: Baby Basics

My Dreams: Baby Basics

Amazon

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 its 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 they fall asleep—when the lights are out, the illustrations slowly fade, leaving behind a gentle darkness.

Best for Learning Sign Language: My First Baby Signs: Baby Sign Language Book, Pull Tabs, Early Vocabulary, First Words

My First Baby Signs - Baby Sign Language Book, Pull Tabs, Early Vocabulary, First Words

Amazon

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 buyer. “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.

Best for Potty Time: Potty

Potty Board Book

Amazon

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 customer 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

Bus Stops Board Book

Amazon

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.

Final Verdict

A classic board book story is Goodnight Moon (view at Amazon) as it was first published in 1947. 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. There’s also Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (view at Amazon). It earned our Best Overall pick thanks to a little bit of everything—colors, animals, clever verse, and drawings of other children.

What to Look for in Board Books

Age Level


In general, board books are made for babies and small children, but some are made for younger babies, and some are best as your baby gets older, and moves into the toddler months. Younger babies will be drawn to books with bright colors, and they especially like to look at human faces. Older babies may enjoy books that help them learn words, and that require their parents to make sing or make funny noises.


Durable


When your baby is very little, they may be more interested in the book itself than its contents. You may find your baby sucking and chomping down on their favorite book. That’s okay, as long as it's made of material that can withstand these antics. Lift-the-flap books are popular with babies, but keep in mind that many little ones will tear off the paper flaps of these books, so if you want to preserve them, consider waiting until they are a little older to introduce these books.


Engaging


Babies usually aren’t too picky about what books they enjoy as long as they have bright colors and interesting pictures. But as your baby gets older, you may find that they have more refined interests. Your baby may be a truck or car fanatic, or they may be particularly interested in everything about going potty (one would hope!). So look for books that match your baby’s interests.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When should I start reading to my baby?

    You might think of reading as an activity reserved for older children, but babies as young as 4 months old enjoy being read to, and the earlier you start reading to your baby, the better. Younger babies prefer shorter books with bright colors; they enjoy books that rhyme and that repeat different words or phrases. Older babies like books that name all the different objects and people in their lives. Some older babies may even be able to enjoy books with storylines.

  • How long should I read to my baby?

    Younger babies will tend to have pretty short attention spans when it comes to books, which is why baby books tend to be short. As they get older, their attention span will lengthen. Singing the words to the book, making your reading funny and animated, and cuddling with your baby while you read to them can help them stay interested.

  • What are the benefits of reading to my baby?

    Reading to your baby is a wonderful way to get cozy and bond. But it’s also a fantastic way to teach early literacy skills. Babies who are read to tend to develop strong reading and language skills down the road. Reading also teaches your baby important concepts like numbers and colors, and can help build their vocabulary.

Why Trust Verywell Family

Katrina Cossey has been a digital content producer and news and feature writer for more than six years. She has covered local and national news as well as writing and researching parenting topics. Katrina is a parent herself, and bought the First 100 Words book (view at Amazon) for her child once they turned one. She enjoys reading the book to her child and having them pick out words or colors, too.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Tips to help your child enjoy reading aloud.

  2. Nemours KidsHealth. Reading books to babies.

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Reading with children starting in infancy gives lasting literacy boost.