Here is an overview of our top book categories for two year olds, with links to our top picks within each section:
- Classic books
- Modern classics
- Early learning books (e.g. opposites, alphabet, numbers, vocabulary, etc.)
- Potty training books
- New sibling books
- Good night books
Your two-year-old’s vocabulary and ability to express his thoughts verbally are exploding this year; many kids will go from simple one or two word phrases at the beginning of the year to complex sentences by the end of the year. You can encourage this development by reading to your child regularly.
It really doesn’t matter what you read, as long as both of you enjoy the material — still, there are a number of books both classic and modern that are time-tested and are sure to please both of you. You can also choose early learning books targeting specific skills such as opposite awareness, alphabet and number recognition, vocabulary building, etc. There are also a number of books well suited to specific situations, such as potty training and getting a new sibling. And of course, good night books will continue to be important for settling yoru child down before bed and enforcing the bedtime routine.
You simply can’t go wrong with any of these classics, which have been loved by generations of children and parents:
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk! This heartwarming story, first published in 1948, tells the parallel stories of two youngsters — a child and a baby bear — on trips with their respective mothers to pick berries to store up for winter. The two pairs get mixed up on Blueberry Hill — but all gets sorted out at the end of the day. The simple 1940s-style illustrations, rendered in blueberry-colored ink, are absolutely charming.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Let the wild rumpus start! This 1964 winner of the Caldecott Medal follows mischievous Max, who is sent to bed without his supper and passes the evening following his imagination to the land of the Wild Things. This wonderful book celebrates both the magic of the imagination as well as the importance of home and acceptance. It has inspired generations of role playing and Halloween costumes, and simply a must-have for any child’s library.
The Little Blue Box of Bright and Early Board Books by Dr. Seuss
Most Dr. Seuss books are geared toward older kids, but a few of his simpler books have been adapted (abridged and put in board book format) into “Bright & Early Books for Beginning Beginners” books. The handy Little Blue Box contains a great starter set, including Hop on Pop; Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!; Ten Apples Up On Top!; and The Shape of Me and Other Stuff.
Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman
The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
Brown is best known for her eternal classic Goodnight Moon, but we love this sweet book even more. Published in 1942, it tells the story of a young bunny who wants to run away: he describes all the theoretical ways in which he could try to get away, while his mother responds to each scenario with steadfast love and an unwavering commitment to getting him back. It’s just the perfect Mommy & Me book.
Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown
It’s another fantastic title from Margaret Wise Brown — this time exploring the life of animals on a farm (no humans are present) over the course of a a day. From sunrise to sunset, we follow them as they play, explore, and finally sleep. The parting image is hauntingly beautiful. We recommend the hardcover edition, which is worth the extra cost.
Corduroy by Don Freeman
This classic story about a lovable bear living in a department store longing for someone to come adopt him has been delighting children and parents alike for over 40 years. The love between the little girl who eventually comes along and falls in love with him will have you wiping a tear away every time.
Nor can you go wrong with any of these modern classics, all perfect for two year olds:
Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney
Dewdney’s fantastic Llama Llama series is highly recommended: its lovable main character and clever rhymes are consistent hits with kids and parents alike. This particular title explores the separation anxiety that Llama Llama experiences when he starts preschool — and is perfect for 2-year-olds starting at daycare or preschool. If your child enjoys this title, Llama Llama Red Pajama (described below) and Llama Llama Mad at Mama are also highly recommended.
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
We’re in love with Cronin’s wonderful farm series — including this introductory title, which follows the hijinks of Farmer Brown’s farm animals, who discover and old typewriter and begin negotiating for better living conditions. This is one of the few series with the unique ability to appeal equally to adults and kids. If you and your child enjoy this title, snap up our other favorites in the series: Giggle, Giggle, Quack and Dooby Dooby Moo.
Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle
Beep! Beep! Beep! This fun farm book follows Blue, a little blue pickup truck, as he and his farm friends learn about the rewards of helping others — even those that haven’t always been nice to us. The simple, rhyming text makes for a quick, satisfying read.
Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo by Kevin Lewis
The Wheels on the Bus by Jane Cabrera
This is one of our top two picks for Wheels on the Bus lovers (the other being the pop-up book from Paul Zelinsky). It features an animal-inspired twist on the classic song — following a bus as it winds through the African jungle, picking up a number of different animals along the way (e.g. “The lion on the bus goes ‘roar, roar, roar'”). The adaptation is excellent, and the illustrations are just gorgeous.
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae
This original tale tells the story of Gerald the giraffe, an awkward dancer who learns that anyone can dance — once he discovers his own unique source of inspiration. We are not huge fans of his fickle friends or the heavy-handed message, but the fantastic illustrations and rhyming text more than make up for it.
Tickle Monster Laughter Kit by Josie Bissett
This “kit” includes a book (a rhyming story about a friendly monster who has just flown in from Planet Tickle) and an accompanying pair of tickle monster mitts — perfect for acting out the story live on your kids. The designers have thoughtfully put finger holes in the gloves so your tickling will be as efficacious as possible. Great fun!
Books targeting a specific concept (e.g. opposites, alphabet, numbers, vocabulary building, etc.) are great for building specific skills. Here are a few of our favorites for two year olds:
Animal Opposites by Petr Horacek
This wonderful pop-up/flap book uses illustrations of opposing animals to teach opposites, from the simple (heavy/light, short/tall, fat/thin, quiet/loud) to the more unusual (still/bouncy, smooth/spiky). The illustrations and execution are excellent.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.
This favorite introduction to the alphabet features all 26 lowercase letters — and their elder family members (the uppercase letters, of course). We recommend the hardcover version (the board book version is abridged, omitting the entire last part of the story).
Alphablock by Christopher Franceschelli
Bright graphical illustrations and die-cut pages make the 26 letters of the alphabet (and a single word selected to illustrate each letter) come alive in this fantastic alphabet book. Also check out the companion title Countablock for a parallel introduction to numbers up through 100.
Animal Alphabet by Alex Lluch
Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever by Richard Scarry
Well, we can’t argue with the title. This fantastic book provides an introduction to a dizzying array of scenes, images, and words; each two-page spread features a different scene: for example, the different rooms in a house, toys, the airport, food, etc. It’s the perfect tool for building your child’s vocabulary — and the illustrations are (per Scarry’s usual standard) fantastic as well.
When it comes time to mount that porcelain throne, there’s nothing like a little literary backup to help you out.
Potty by Leslie Patricelli
This is great basic introduction to the potty: it follows a baby’s inner dialogue as he contemplates going pee in the potty … and ultimately exclaims a delighted “I did it!” The basic text and graphical images are best suited for younger potty trainees (one and two years old).
Where’s the Poop by Julie Markes
This flap book introduces kids to potty training by showing that baby animals all go poop; then the last spread features a human child going poop in the bathroom. Your child hunts for the poop in each page, eliminating the mystery and making using the toilet a fun game.
Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi
Expecting a new baby? These books are great for helping your older one know what to expect and to adjust.
My New Baby by Rachel Fuller
This is a great new baby book that covers lots of the basic situations and questions that toddler siblings are sure to encounter. It’s does not have a developed storyline, rather just features scenes in the life of a family (e.g. getting dressed, eating/nursing, going for a walk together, bedtime), so is perfect for sparking conversation on each topic with your toddler. Also check out Waiting for Baby (geared toward the earlier pregnancy stage) from the same author.
I’m a Big Brother and I’m a Big Sister by Joanna Cole
These gender-specific books (with one edition geared toward big brothers, one toward big sisters) are through the eyes of the elder sibling. They cover all the things that babies do and don’t do, so your child will know what to expect, and also help to plant the seed that being a big brother or sister is a special role.
These are our top picks for good night books for two year olds:
Little Owl’s Night by Divya Srinivasan
We can’t recommend this gorgeous book highly enough — the illustrations are stunning, and the story is serene and full of wonder. It follows Little Owl as he explores the night forest before it’s finally time for bedtime at dawn. We recommend the hardcover edition, which is worth the extra cost.
Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
This is the initial title that kicked off the Llama Llama craze. Via wonderful illustrations and rhyming text, it explores the solitude and separation anxiety that the main character feels when he is left alone in his room after being put to bed, and Mama doesn’t immediately respond to his cries for comfort. Mama ultimately reassures him that she’s “always near, / even if she’s / not right here.” It’s perfect for the toddler who still has trouble going to sleep or sleeping through the night. If your child enjoys this title, there’s a whole series of Llama books to discover!
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker
Little construction fans will be clutching this one long after bedtime; and you’ll love the message too — that even big, tough trucks need to wind down and get some rest at the end of the day. Great illustrations and atypically well developed rhyming text.
Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue
This magical, Caldecott-winning book follows a little girl getting ready for bed. In classic tradition, for the longest time she insists that she is not tired … but ultimately she succumbs to her imagination and dreamland. The illustrations are absolutely stunning.
Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments!
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