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Top 15 Best Books for 1 Year Olds: The Ultimate List

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When I was younger, I spent a lot of time babysitting for some of my older friends with young children. In that time, I found the books were one of the best ways to keep a one-year-old’s attention.

And while I’m not a parent myself, I know a lot of people who are, and I like to research the heck out of these articles before producing them.

So with that in mind, I’ve developed a list of the best books for one-year-olds, drawing on the general consensus, my own experience, and a few surprises baked it.

I’m sure you will find something that your child will love and that will stimulate their growing little brains.

Here is a complete list of everything in an easy-to-follow list, but you can keep reading to see my rationale behind each pick, and at the bottom of this post I will also go into a few pointers on why you should read to 1-year-olds, and what to look for in the books you buy for them.

So let’s dive in.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

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Chances are, you’ve heard of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. It’s the story of a young caterpillar who eats his way through a variety of things, then turns into a lovely butterfly.

It’s great for teaching life lessons about growing and developing, but it’s also cute and the artwork is great. Definitely one to keep on your shelf.

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox

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This is another classic baby book that helps the baby understand more about their own body. It celebrates the wonder of their fingers and toes, and does so with a healthy rhyme scheme that makes it easy to come back and enjoy multiple times.

I also personally love the watercolor illustrations on this one.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr

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Believe it or not, this is a book that I grew up with. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is a fantastic book to help teach your toddler about the ABCs, in a way that rhymes and tells a story.

This is one of those classics that has been around for a long time, and likely will continue to remain a mainstay of children’s books everywhere.

First 100 Words by Roger Priddy

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When your child is one-year-old, they’re just starting to learn their first words. That’s why a book like this one is essential for parents who want to teach their baby new, foundational words.

This book is a classic, and it’s designed in such a way that it becomes easy for your baby to learn these new words and start early to develop a stunning vocabulary.

Playtown: A Lift-the-Flap Book by Roger Priddy

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Lift the flap books are fun because they allow your child to explore their curiosity, and participate in the storytime process.

This interactive book offers a look at different city buildings, and has 35 flaps that your toddler can lift up and explore. It’s got everything from airports to a grocery store to a hospital.

Definitely one to check out.

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do You Hear? by Bill Martin Jr.

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In my experience, children love animals. They love to read about animals, and they love to see animals.

That’s why this is another classic on this list, as it’s one of the premier children’s books that focuses on animals and learning more about them. The language is simple and rhyming which helps develop your child’s brain.

Plus the artwork is simply iconic. In this particular version has sounds associated with it to make the fun even bigger.

Hear Bear Roar by Eric Carle

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A great companion book to the above polar bear book is this picture and sound book from Eric Carle.

It’s got several buttons for your child press, and 30 animals to learn about. Your little one will love it.

Bright and Early Dr. Seuss Books

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No children’s book list would be complete without something from Dr. Seuss.

And yet, most Dr. Seuss books are actually for slightly older children. Think in the 2 to 5 year range.

But this collection provides a number of early board books that are scaled-down to be more accessible to one-year-olds.

It’s by far my favorite version of the Dr. Seuss books for the very young, and I think your child will love it.

Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill

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Ah, Spot. Another classic character from my childhood. And thankfully, my experience growing up is one that toddlers today can still enjoy.

Spot is a classic character with a lot of different books about him, and this is one of those books meant specifically for toddlers aged 1 to 2. It’s also one of those lift the flap books, which can be a lot of fun for young babies.

Peek-a-Who? by Nina Laden

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Speaking of lift the flap books, Peek-a-Who? by Nina Laden is an absolute must for children who love this type of book. Especially if they also enjoy animal books.

This book has become a classic, and is commonly found at baby showers and in libraries around the world. It’s colorful pictures and simple rhyming scheme make it great for a developing child.

The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen

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When I first saw this book in my research, I knew it had to be on my list simply because of the incredible illustration on the cover.

But believe it or not this book is actually kind of deep. It tells a story of being sad and glum and does so in a way that is sensitive to people with depression, but also playful and fun for your one-year-old.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

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This is another classic of children’s literature. It talks of a little bunny who consistently says good night to the moon and good night to their room.

It’s a great way to teach appreciation and gratitude for the things that we have around us. You can even help your child practice saying good night to the moon and all the other things in their room.

The Going-to-Bed Book by Sandra Boynton

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Another classic, this book by Sandra Boynton is a great book for introducing your child to bedtime habits.

It helps them understand that there is a time and place for everything, and the importance of their bedtime routine each night.

The Wonderful Things You’ll Be by Emily Martin

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Imagine a self-help book that teaches you to love yourself and to aspire for greatness. Then imagine if that book was condensed down into our heartfelt, simple children’s book.

That is what this perfect book encapsulates all in one, and it is simply amazing. If I had to recommend one book on this list it would probably be this one. It’s my favorite book on this list.

I Love You to the Moon and Back by Amelia Hepworth

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I’m sure you often have moments when you just wish you could gather your baby up in your arms and tell them how much you love them. And of course they don’t understand, but one way to try and get there is to use this picture book by Amelia Hepworth.

It’s a truly touching story with amazing illustrations and a gentle rhyming scheme. It teaches them to live in the moment and show love for everyone.

Truly a heartwarming read for your one-year-old.

Why Read to 1 Year Olds?

There are a lot of great reasons why you should read to your young child. Not only is it fun for them, but it affects their development as well. Here are a few quick reasons why reading should be a daily habit for you and your one-year-old.

  • It acts as bonding time between you and your toddler.
  • It increases the size of your child’s vocabulary from an early stage.
  • It helps them develop phonemic awareness, understanding the differences between smaller sounds, and developing language early.
  • It helps the child learn that there is a correlation between the marks on the page and the sounds that you make.
  • It helps your one-year-old learn the alphabet.

Right now scientific evidence is showing us that toddlers who are read to as children do better in school. So it is crucial that you develop a habit to do this. And I think you’ll find that both of you will enjoy the bonding time as well.

The Reading Level of a 1 Year Old

One-year-old does not have a very high reading level. Obviously, they cannot read by themselves at all. But there is an increased awareness about the correlation between words on a page and the pictures on the page, as well as the sounds that you make. They will also become familiar with different pictures, and be able to point out objects that they know.

They may even pretend to read books sometimes, which is a great sign.

Another great sign is that they may request that you read certain toddler books that are their favorite. This shows that they are getting something out of the book, and are truly learning. And while it might be a while before you’re reading Harry Potter, it will still make a huge difference.

What to Look For in Books for 1 Year Olds

All of the books above are great options to start with when you’re looking for books for one-year-olds. But if you want more books, or the list here doesn’t tickle your fancy, here are a few things to look out for when choosing your book.

At this stage in their development, children love interactive books, books that engage multiple senses. Here are a few examples:

  • Flip open pages
  • Lift the flap books
  • Textured books that let your baby touch and feel
  • Sound books, the kind that have buttons that make different sounds

Rhyming is also a crucial factor in a lot of these early books, because it helps babies understand that there are similarities in sounds.

It’s also important to understand what your child likes. If you find that they really love animals, check out a few animal books. You could even bring your toddler to the store or library with you, and see what they gravitate to when presented with multiple options.

Final Thoughts

I love reading time as an adult, and I loved reading time as a child. I credit much of that to the fact that my mother would read books with me. And while I don’t remember as far back as my first year of life, I can say that my love of reading probably goes at least that far back.

So I encourage you to take a look at this list, find the books that you think your one-year-old will love, and spend some time bonding with them and sharing that experience together.

I think you will find it to be one of the best parenting habits you can make.

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