Here is an overview of our top book categories for one year olds, with links to our top picks within each section:
- General board books
- Interactive/activity books
- Early learning books (first words, colors, numbers, shapes, and opposites)
- Good night books
The second year is a critical year for both receptive and expressive speech development. Reading to your child provides critical opportunities not only to introduce new words and boost his listening comprehension, but also to encourage him to start verbalizing what he sees. Alternate with just reading to your child encouraging him to finish your sentences and tell you what he sees. Before you know it he’ll be reciting books from memory and telling you stories about the characters.
To start, look for simple picture books featuring basic storylines and people, animals, and/or everyday objects. First words books (which are gallery-type books that simply feature pictures and simple one- or two-word captions) are great for focusing on single objects and building vocabulary. Concept books are focused on one specific topic (such as colors, numbers, opposites, etc.) and are great for zeroing in on a particular new idea. And of course, one-year-olds will continue to be captivated by interactive/activity books (e.g. containing flaps, pop-ups, etc.).
Here are a few of our favorite board books for one-year-olds:
Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino
This must-have addition to every toddler’s collection follows a young llama as he learns to identify a number of different animals — including his own kind. It features clever rhyming riddles that adults as well as kids will adore.
Llama Llama’s Little Library by Anna Dewdney
Following up on the immense success of her wonderful Llama Llama series for toddlers, Dewdney has since introduced a range of simpler board books geared toward babies. The Llama Llama’s Little Library set includes four titles, also featuring (simpler versions of) her signature rhyming text: Llama Llama Nighty-Night, Llama Llama Zippity-Zoom, Llama Llama Hoppity-Hop, and Llama Llama Wakey-Wake. Once your little one is ready to graduate to the main series, start with Llama Llama Red Pajama.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
This board book version of the classic book, which has been a favorite for more than 40 years, features the same wonderful text and stunning illustrations, but is smaller and more durable. Baby will delight in exploring the multiple page sizes and holes throughout (reflecting the caterpillar’s eating rampage). It’s a feast for the senses!
I Am a Bunny by Ole Risom, illustrated by Richard Scarry
Featuring breathtaking illustrations by Richard Scarry, this gorgeous book follows Nicholas the rabbit through the seasons, as he picks flowers, chases butterflies, lies in the sun, prepares for winter, and finally settles down to hibernate until the following spring. It’s a calming, serene read that is perfect for quiet time or bedtime.
The Little Red Box of Bright and Early Board Books by P.D. Eastman and Michael Frith
This box set includes abridged board book versions of four classic Beginner Books from P.D. Eastman and Michael Frist. Big Dog… Little Dog provides a great introduction to adjectives, opposites, … and best friends! Go, Dog. Go! introduces more opposites (e.g. up and down, small and big). The Alphabet Book features a single phrase and picture to illustrate each letter (e.g. “American ants” for “A”). I’ll Teach My Dog a Lot of Words teaches opposites, colors, and actions.
Boynton’s Greatest Hits: Volume II by Sandra Boynton
We love Sandra Boynton — she’s one of the few authors we can think of that adults enjoy as much as babies. Several books in this Boynton set are particularly well suited to one year olds: Opposites introduces a number of word opposites, while Horns to Toes introduces body parts. Also includes But Not the Hippopotamus as well as top good night book pick The Going to Bed Book. If you like these, Boynton’s Greatest Hits: Volume 1 is also recommended.
Choo Choo by Petr Horacek
Budding engineers will love this book, which follows a train on its voyage from the city to the seaside. Die-cut pages, wonderful graphical illustrations, and sound effect prompts (you provide the vocal power) provide endless entertainment for little ones.
Baby Beluga by Raffi
This board book is a wonderful companion to the beloved Raffi song. Its stunning illustrations allow it to stand alone as a wonderful board book all on its own — but when you start singing the matching lyrics along with the text, well, your child will be in heaven. If you have yet to discover Raffi, well then, you’re in for a treat; here’s the accompanying album.
One-year-olds will continue to be mesmerized by flap books, and may also be old enough to start enjoying pop-up books without destroying them (with some supervision). Here are a few of our favorites:
The Wheels on the Bus by Paul Zelinsky
This fantastic pop-up book illustrates the ever-popular “Wheels on the Bus” song — with ingenious moving parts that will mesmerize your baby. Push and pull tabs cause bus doors to open and close, windshield wipers to swish back and forth, etc. It’s a bit too fragile for a one-year-old to read solo, but you’ll love reading it along with him. This book is fantastic — really, just get it!
Little People: Let’s Go to the Farm by Fisher-Price
Fisher Price’s Little People book series accompanies its namesake toy line. This edition, great for one year olds, features Little People discovering all the fun to be had on a farm. With tons of flaps for little hands to open and explore, it covers a number of themes including colors, shapes, counting, and opposites. Other books in the series explore zoo animals, school, vehicles, people’s occupations, holidays, and more; see the whole series here.
Lift-the-Flap Tab: Trucks by Roger Priddy
This lift-the-flap book will delight young truck lovers. Each of eight different tabs explore a different type of truck (e.g. dump truck, tractor, big rig, mail truck, etc.). If your truck aficionado hungers for more, also check out Priddy’s oversize My Big Truck Book.
Tails by Matthew Van Fleet
Matthew Van Fleet has created a wonderful series of sturdy interactive flap books, each revolving around a different concept. This favorite features not only wonderful animal illustrations, but also tons of interactive elements, from feathers and textures to flaps and moving parts. Also check out Heads and Alphabet.
“Gallery” type books (which feature straightforward images of everyday objects, people, and animals) are a great way to broaden baby’s vocabulary. Focused concept books are a great way to introduce abstract concepts such as colors, numbers, shapes, opposites, etc. Here are a few of our favorite choices:
My First Words: Let’s Get Talking! by DK Publishing
This is a top choice in this category, and will grow with your child from first words through more advanced vocabulary. It contains an excellent cross-section of words across 13 themed two-page spreads: “All about me!” (body parts and positions), “Clothes and shoes,” “Around the house,” “Food and drink,” “Pets,” “Playtime,” “Things that go,” “At the park,” “At the beach,” “On the farm,” “In the wild” (animals), “Colors and shapes,” and “Numbers.” This is a larger book, best suited for home use. Once your baby graduates from the basics, the other books in the series are also highly recommended.
Numbers Colors Shapes by Roger Priddy
Yes Yes! A Bundle of Board Books by Leslie Patricelli
This box set includes three of Leslie Patricelli’s popular opposite books: Yummy Yucky, No No Yes Yes, and Big Little. They all feature her beloved and expressive baby character; a simple, bright graphical style; and a simple repetitive format that is great for stimulating speech and cognitive development. See all of her books here.
First 100 Animals by Roger Priddy
This compact little book provides the perfect introduction to the animal world. It’s the perfect size for little hands and to take on-the-go. Parents with real animal aficionados can also check out Priddy’s oversize My Big Animal Book.
In addition to the following picks, also check out our recommended good night books for six to 12 months, which continue to be great reads for one (and even two) year olds: The Going-To-Bed Book by Sandra Boynton, Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman, and A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na.
Time for Bed by Mem Fox
I’ll See You in the Morning by Mike Jolley and Mique Moriuchi
This sweet bedtime story features a relaxed tone and reassuring words that encourage your child to go to sleep without any fear of the darkness: “the night is just a blanket that helps the earth to sleep”; “I’ll be here if you need me — I’m only steps away.”
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
And of course we can’t neglect to mention this eternal classic. It’s perfect for soothing your baby and slowing down the mind as bedtime approaches, and is a steadfast component of many families’ bedtime routines!
Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments!
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