Best Rhyming Board Books for Babies & Toddlers
As a book-lover, early childhood educator and a mom, I am passionate about early literacy. I firmly believe reading aloud to our children is one of the greatest things we can do for them. Not only do you get the cozy time to snuggle and bond with your child, but you are enriching your child’s brain for years to come.
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As parent and reading advocate Jim Trelease said, “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” If you have never read The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, please do! I believe it should be required reading for all parents. It contains a wealth of information about reading aloud to your children.
If you haven’t started reading aloud to your children, it’s never too late to start! Please take this as encouragement that there are wonderful benefits to reading aloud at ALL ages. Don’t fret over what you have or haven’t done. Just start reading and start reading today. Let me tell you a bit more about how reading aloud in our house is currently unfolding.
Nathan and I love to read together. In fact, I believe that the more we read together, the more Nathan loves it. I love to see his eyes follow the words on the page as he takes in the story and pictures. Yes, we read books over and over in our house. That’s part of early literacy. That’s how little ones process language. They like repetition and patterns in words.
We started reading aloud early. When he was a baby, we were already reading casually to him. By the time he was 3 months old, we were reading on a daily basis. The types of books have changed – as has the length of time we read – but we continue to read. Many days, we currently spend close to 2 hours reading throughout the day. That is, obviously, broken up in smaller 10-15 minute increments. Nathan now picks out books and brings them to me when he wants to read. As a stay-at-home mom with one (currently), this is what works for us right now. Remember that reading will look different in everyone’s house with different personalities and different children and different ages and stages.
Some of the earliest books we began reading were rhyming board books for babies. Babies are fascinating with language and the sounds we (their parents) make to them. Rhyming has a rise and fall pattern that is intriguing to them. You can almost see their little brains working to figure out the patterns.
As babies grow into toddlers, rhyming is just as important. Playing with words and hearing how words relate is a key component of emergent literacy. When choosing baby’s first books, choose them wisely. Long before your child is actually reading, they need to be immersed in words to build a strong foundation of literacy.
For that reason, I want to share with you a list of some of our very favorite rhyming board books for babies and toddlers. These were books that my son loved from the time he was a baby – and still loves today (at 17 months and counting). I have listed the books in the order that I introduced them, as some are simpler than others but all are appropriate books for babies under 1.
We eventually acquired most of these as board books so that Nathan can read them whenever he wants. (Side note: I love, love, love board books for their durability! I used board books in my preschool classroom so children could freely read without wear and tear on books.) I love when I peek in and see him sitting on the floor flipping through a book. It makes his book-loving mama very happy!
Here’s my list of 15 rhyming books that are (I believe) some of the best board books for babies and toddlers.
Peek-a Who? by Nina Laden is a brilliantly simple rhyming book that babies love. It’s so simple you’ll wonder why you didn’t write it. The clever rhyming of the classic “Peek-a-Boo” game is adorable. The hidden mirror at the end will captivate your baby.
Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy E. Shaw is another simple story of sheep (in a jeep) who get into all sorts of mischief. The beauty of this book is that the rhymes flow effortlessly to tell a simple but cute story of a sheep in a jeep on a hill that’s steep. If you like this story, there are many others in the sheep series by Nancy Shaw.
Cuckoo Can’t Find You by Lorianne Siomades is a rhyming story with hidden pictures. I bought this book years ago in the Scholastic book orders and (sadly) never used it in my classroom. It tells the story of animals who can’t find things. The missing object is cleverly hidden within the picture for your child to find. Nathan hasn’t found the pictures yet, but he loves hearing how “Goat can’t find his boat” and “Bear can’t find his pear.”
Silly Sally by Audrey Wood is a delightful book by the author of Napping House fame. Personally, I think Silly Sally is much more engaging to read. It’s the story of Sally who attempts to go to town “walking backwards upside down.” On the way, she encounters different animals who do different rhyming things. This book has a classic rhyming flow to it that will delight your little one.
Drummer Hoff by Barbara Emberley is truly a classic. It received the Caldecott Medal in 1968. I enjoyed this book as a child and was eager to read it with my son. The pictures have a stained-glass look to them and are full of bright colors. Not only is this a rhyming book, but a rhyming book with great repetition. By the end, you’ll all be able to tell how “Drummer Hoff fired it off.”
Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney. All the other Llama Llama books are equally as enjoyable – and they all rhyme. We started with this set of four simple board books that rhyme before moving to the full length books. Adults will appreciate these books just as much as the little ones for the real-life situations they portray – all told in well-written rhyme.
Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle was a new discovery and now is our baby gift to other little boys. It is the adorable story of a little blue truck who stops to help his friends. The addition of animal sounds (still told in rhyme!) is brilliant for little ones. Trucks and animals together? A perfect farm story! If your child enjoys this one, be sure to follow-up with Little Blue Truck Leads the Way.
Jamberry by Bruce Degen is the story of berry picking told in rhyme. This book does include some nonsense words, “Hatberry, shoeberry, in my canoeberry,” which is also a part of emergent literacy. Your child will learn to make up nonsense words trying to rhyme. Encourage them to play with language and rhyme! This book encourages that.
Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow puts lively pictures with the classic rhyming poem. When our son was 4 months old, we discovered that this rhyme could stop him from crying. It was the funniest thing – but it worked! Even if you don’t need this story for that reason, this rhyme of silly monkeys will make your child laugh. If your child enjoys this one, be sure to read Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree!
Chicka, Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. is an early childhood classic. Not only is this a delightful rhyming book, but it introduces your child to all the letters of the alphabet. The bright pictures and colorful patterns make the pictures entrancing to little ones. This is one book that I do recommend sticking with the paperback version because not all board books tell the complete story of the letters climbing up and falling down again.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is another classic by Bill Martin Jr.. This predictable book makes it simple for young children to read along with you. The colorful animals help your child to learn their colors as they enjoy this clever story that asks what the animals see.
Dr. Seuss’s ABC by Dr. Seuss is a good introduction to rhyming for toddlers because it is shorter than many of Dr. Seuss’s other books. While Dr. Seuss is not always my favorite author, he does rhyme nicely…and my son loves his books! Green Eggs and Ham is another classic by Dr. Seuss.
Teeny, Tiny Mouse by Laura Leuck was another book order find. It tells the rhyming story of a Mommy mouse and her baby, going through the house and naming all the colors. “Can you find some red things, in our teeny tiny house, said the teeny tiny Mommy to the teeny tiny Mouse?” Again, this rhyming story provides a good introduction to colors as well.
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae is a beautiful rhyming story that reminds us it’s okay to be different! When Gerald the Giraffe can’t dance, he learns that sometimes “you just need a different song.” Because it is a more involved story, we introduced this book a little later (around 1 year). Remember, there is no right or wrong time to introduce a book! If your child doesn’t enjoy it now, try again later…just like fruits and vegetables!
You are My Work of Art by Sue DiCicco has become our new favorite rhyming book. We were given this book by a friend and art teacher. It is truly a hidden treasure! It introduces your little one to 9 classic works of art (such as the Mona Lisa and American Gothic) while drawing a modern day parallel. The pictures are stunning in their representations and the rhymes that go with each picture are beautiful, telling of a mother’s love for her child. There are also flaps that hide the classic paintings to involve your child in the story even more. This is also becoming one of my go-to baby gifts!
There you have it. Those are 15 of our favorite rhyming children’s books for babies and little ones. I hope it introduced you to some new books. If you are looking for gift books for a baby shower, these would all make wonderful gifts! Do you have any favorite rhyming books to add to this list?
I haven’t read any of these books. I guess because I taught 5th grade. I’m going to go to the library and see if I can find some of these. Thanks for sharing your expertise! Caleb loves to flip through his books too. It is so much fun to watch him!
I hear you, Emily! I taught everything from Preschool to Grade 4, so my book shelves are quite varied! I hope you and Caleb discover some new favorites at the library!
This is so well-written and helpful that I think you should submit it to a parenting magazine.
Thank you so much, Gretchen! I’m glad you enjoyed it!
For parents with few books at home, may I suggest the two major (and free) online libraries of books for little ones? The International Children’s Digital Library at http://en.childrenslibrary.org/ with books for all ages in many languages, and the Unite for Literacy library http://UniteforLiteracy.com with books designed for “new readers and those new to English.” Those books include narrations in English and in up to 30 additional languages. The former has many story books, the latter is mostly non-fiction. Perfect for baby and if parents have a smartphone, they have hundreds of books in their pockets at all times to read with their kids.
Thanks for sharing those links, Mark! And of course, my favorite place to get books is the public library! So many wonderful books for everyone!