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10 Classic Books For Toddlers

It’s never too soon to encourage a love of books and reading in your little ones. Sharing a book with your toddler is a great way to spend quality time together, settle them at bedtime and develop early literacy.  Your toddler’s favourite storybooks will hold a special place in their memory for life.

The best books for toddlers combine inviting illustrations with a clear message and some great rhyming or creative language to fire the imagination. Here are 10 of the best-loved picture books for young children. Look out for them in your local library, or start building your toddler’s book collection today!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

First published in 1969, this colourful classic has been a toddler favourite for generations. With simple, repetitive wording and unique cut-out illustrations, your child can learn about the caterpillar life cycle and develop language skills as they go. A sturdy board book version is best to withstand exploring fingers.

Possum Magic by Mem Fox

Possum Magic by Mem Fox

A mystical possum, Grandma Poss, makes her darling grandchild invisible to keep her safe from the dangers of the bush. The only way to break the spell is to travel Australia enjoying tasty treats in each new city. An Australian classic, this book is also available in board book versions and a variety of spin-offs including a beautiful book of family-friendly Aussie recipes.

Green Eggs And Ham by Dr Seuss

Green Eggs And Ham by Dr Seuss

No bedroom library is complete without a book by Dr Seuss. There are plenty to choose from, but the humour and repetition in this story makes it especially popular with younger children.  With typically quirky illustrations, the persistent Sam I Am tries to convince the narrator to try a food he does not like. The words of this book are so famous you’re bound to hear them pop up in other places: Would you eat them in a box? Would you eat them with a fox?  And the message about trying new things is ideal for fussy eaters.

We’re Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

We’re Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

This popular contemporary classic invites children to participate in the action as a family goes out looking for bears. Packed with onomatopoeia, the sing-song nature of the wording is great for literacy development: note the splishy splashy river and the squelchy squerchy mud!  Many kids will know this as a song enjoyed at kindys and playgroups, making the book version an instant favourite.

Hairy Maclary by Lynley Dodd

Hairy Maclary by Lynley Dodd

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy is the mischievous star of over twenty animal adventure tales. Unlike many children’s books about dogs and cats, Dodd’s characters don’t talk or wear twee little jackets; they chase bugs, snatch sausages and roll around in bushes, just like the pets you might have at home.  Written entirely in rhyming verse and peppered with sophisticated words, these books are excellent for extending your child’s vocabulary and speech skills.

The Wrong Book by Nick Bland

The Wrong Book by Nick Bland

Here we meet Nicholas Ickle whose book is being invaded by typical kids’ book characters. First it’s the pirates, then it’s a queen – but all of them are in the wrong book! Nicholas’ mood grows darker with each interloper, providing opportunities to talk about managing emotions like impatience and frustration. Nicholas learns that his book can’t just be all about him – an important lesson for every toddler.

Mr McGee And The Perfect Nest by Pamela Allen

Mr McGee And The Perfect Nest by Pamela Allen

Mr McGee is a hapless ‘everyman’ sort of character who turns up in several titles by this celebrated New Zealand author.  Once again, rhyming and repetition is featured, but several pages use only the sounds of rushing wind or squawking birds, and some illustrations are left to speak for themselves. Toddlers can be encouraged to make up their own words and sounds and explain what they think is happening in the humorous illustrations. This is great for cognitive development.

Home by Narelle Oliver

Home by Narelle Oliver

The story of Home may be a little advanced for toddlers, but the stunning images of Brisbane make this well worth exploring with your little one, especially if you’re taking a trip into the CBD. Based on a true story, this is the tale of two peregrine falcons who escape their fire-ravaged bush home and build a nest on the ledge of an inner-city high-rise.  As they adapt to the challenges of city life, we get a birds-eye view of Brisbane’s landmarks.

Tiddalik The Frog – Traditional Story

Tiddalik The Frog – Traditional Story

The story of the greedy frog who drank the land dry is one of Australia’s best known traditional Indigenous stories. It appears in many variations, retold by people from different communities, and is a great introduction to Indigenous Dreamtime tales. Look out for editions that include words in Indigenous languages or illustrations by community artists.

Good Night, Me by Andrew Daddo and Emma Quay

Good Night, Me by Andrew Daddo and Emma Quay

Finally, always ensure your toddler’s personal library includes a few good books about going to sleep! The cute orangutan in this sleepy story says goodnight to each different part of his body as he settles into bed.  You can enjoy the illustrations with your tired toddler, or ask them to close their eyes and imagine saying goodnight to their own arms, legs and tummies as they drift off to dreamland.

Lara Cain Gray is a freelance writer and mum-of-three. She reviews books for all ages at her blog This Charming Mum

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