The greatest gift you can give your children is the love of learning and reading. However, similar to anything in this world, there are books for children of great quality and content and there are books that are a complete garbage. In hopes that it would save some of your time and money, I compiled a list of the best educational books for children in 2021.
Books are huge in our house – we have books on every shelf and nearly in every room. Mia and Liam have been “reading” books since they learned to hold things. I still remember 6 months old Mia (now she’s 5 years old) laying on the diaper changing station with a tiny bath book about babies and colors in her tiny hands. Liam (now 3 years old) loves to grab a stack of books and go through each one page by page and pretend he is reading them. He occasionally laughs at the content and sometimes reads with the dinosaur voice. Books develop children’s imagination, teach them to listen, be curious, and ask questions.
Bath Books for Children
In baby’s first year, it is highly important to begin introducing the concept of reading. It includes flipping through pages and looking at the pictures. Babies like to examine facial expressions, different shapes, and colors. Babies don’t yet have the skills to handle actual book pages.
Bath books for children are waterproof, very lightweight, and usually have very simple shapes and bright colors. When babies hold these books, they can easily switch between chewing them and looking through pictures. Mia and Liam chewed on quite a few paper books in their first year, so consider this a lesson learned. Therefore, I think that bath books are perfect for the purpose of introducing babies to reading.
Additionally, since these bath books are very durable, they can be reused for many years. Mia still loved to flip through them herself, as well as read them to her little brother while in the bathtub until she was about 4. Below are some of the bath baby book ideas for you to explore.
Sensory Children’s Books
Babies learn not only by looking but also by feeling and touching different objects, shapes, colors, and textures. Sensory (touch and feel) books for children are a perfect tool for them to discover what different textures feel like.
Believe it or not, but good sensory books are very difficult to find. Many of the touch and feel books will have the same texture repeated on every page for every animal. Boring, right? Even a 1 year old child will find it boring. I included some sensory children’s books that we loved as well as those that have different textures and engaging content.
Activity Books for Children
There are definitely tons of different activity books for children out there, but some of them are overly simplified or repetitive at times. Below are some categories of activity books that will keep your little ones busy while helping them learn something new.
First on the list is scratch pads – both of my kids love the concept of scratching and revealing different colors. My 3 year old son Liam does not really follow the lines when he scratches. My 5 year old daughter Mia does try to scratch along the lines (when in the mood).
Paint by Stickers
Another great activity option is paint by stickers. I originally purchased the one that has numbers corresponding to certain stickers. Mia sometimes would confuse two-digit numbers and would put sticker 12 at position 21. Later she’d be searching for a spot for sticker 21 and wouldn’t be able to find it. That’s when I found a similar book where stickers match letters in a book. This one was definitely easier for a 4 year old. I bought the Paw Patrol paint-by-sticker book for Liam because it had fewer pieces on each image. The stickers were very large, so a 2 year old could assemble them much easier.
Additionally, I included a tape book, which includes tape rolls of multiple colors and a notepad with different pictures where a child needs to attach little pieces of tape (removable, by the way) to complete the picture.
Water Coloring Book
Next activity that I included is water coloring set. This particular one includes 3 books with 3 water markers. Your child can reuse these books infinitely – as soon as the picture dries up (within minutes), he can repaint it all over again. These water coloring books are great from the time your child can hold objects till about the age of 4 or 5. Mia doesn’t use these as much now, but if she doesn’t see them for a while, she’d still enjoy painting them.
I included a scissor skills book as another great activity book option. The scissor skills book has pages with shapes, ranging from simple straight lines to more complicated shapes. You can tear out the pages one at a time and have your little one practice cutting skills.
Lastly, the drawing book shows step-by-step how to draw all kinds of objects. Mia found many of them difficult to recreate, but her 7 year old friend really enjoyed using it. I would estimate the age range for this drawing book from 3 or 4 to adulthood (I tried to draw a mermaid from that book and had a blast).
Explorer Children’s Books
Under Explorer Books for Children, I included encyclopedias, books about animals, and visual dictionaries. More than anything, kids love to explore the world through real life objects. That includes books that have pictures of those objects. I found that Mia and Liam enjoyed flipping through encyclopedias and animal books from the very early age (6-7 months, with the help of adults at first, then by themselves).
At first, you can point to objects of different colors and sizes, then you can move to naming the objects, then you can begin asking them to find certain objects or groups of objects, then you can read descriptions and information about those objects. Right now, Mia is inquiring about specific details of every animal species she finds (on the spiders page, she wants to know the name of each spider, what it eats, what size it is, and whether it can bite people). And most importantly, these encyclopedias are good for any age – kids or adults.
I also included Bilingual Visual Dictionaries (one is Russian-English, another one is Spanish-English), since our kids are bilingual (they speak Russian fluently and getting to fluency in English). I found this particular visual dictionary book at our local library and really loved the content and the fact that it could also serve as a dictionary when they are older.
Look and Find Books for Children
Another great book category that will keep your little one entertained is Look and Find Children’s Books. My kids absolutely loved these books in all kinds of formats. When I was little a little girl, I had a Look and Find book about real dinosaurs. It was definitely one of my favorite books.
Liam’s two favorite books from this category are Cars and Toy Story (both linked below). The Paw Patrol book and a set of 4 books from the list below are best for younger kids – under 2 or 3.
Children’s Books for Different Life Events
Under this category, I would like to include books that help little ones understand and cope with different changes in their lives, such as birth of a new baby brother or sister, potty training, and going to preschool or kindergarten.
Reading these books before a big change in children’s lives helps them to begin getting used to the idea of a change, get more familiar with it, and actually look forward to it. Everything new is scary, but the more familiar they become with the new concept, the easier they will transition.
Behavior-Shaping Children’s Books
Books from this category help your little one think through different life situations. I absolutely loved “What Should Danny Do?” and “What should Darla Do?” books (there is a whole series). They describe a real life situation that your child could face on a daily basis and let them chose the next steps.
For instance, Danny was very excited about having his favorite breakfast on his favorite plate. However, when he got to the kitchen table, his brother was already eating from his favorite plate. The book then asks if Danny should scream and shout until he gets his plate or if he should eat from a different plate that his mom offered. Based on the answer your child picks, you jump to a certain page and see how the situation evolves.
I included a few other great kids books to read that could help your little one analyze different life situations and teach them good manners and behaviors.
Bedtime Stories Books
Of course I could not have a list of best kids books without bedtime stories. There are some good Disney or Pixar children’s books that have short stories about most beloved cartoon characters. I also included some classics like “Corduroy”, full collection of “the Borrowers”, “Where the Wild Things Are”, and of course “Winnie-the-Pooh”. Can you guess which one of these books is Liam’s favorite? It’s “Three Cheers for Kid McGeer” – I think we have read it about a million and one times.
I also included “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by bestselling author Shel Silverstein – it consists of short funny poems and illustrations We haven’t read it yet, but the reviews are simply amazing and it is on the way to our house as I type this.
Make sure to check out my humorous post How to Talk Your Toddler to Do Literally Anything if your toddler is in that lovely stage where they say no to anything before you even get to finish your sentence or look through these fun Halloween Costumes for Family to get some ideas for your next Halloween adventure. Lastly, you can browse through my LikeToKnowIt page to find the best deals on fashion, home decor, and children’s items.