22 best baby books for their first year

22 best baby books for their first year

by Emily Gilbert |
Updated on

Finding the best baby books for their first year can be difficult, as they're too little to read and it's hard knowing what the best children's books will be and how they'll benefit their development.

If you're not sure when to start reading to your baby, you should know that reading is one of the best things you can do to bond with them, it can help to establish a bedtime routine and it helps with their language development, so there's really no reason to delay reading to them!

The best baby books at a glance

Best for a classic baby book: The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Buy now on Amazon UK

Best for a sensory baby book: Where Is Baby Activity Book - Buy now on Kidly

Best for a rhyming baby book: Moo Baa La La La - Buy now on Amazon UK

Best for a baby book keepsake: Guess How Much I Love You - Buy now on Amazon UK

According to KidsHealth, reading aloud to your baby can also help to teach communication, introduces new concepts and information in a fun way, and builds skills. So, the more you read to your child, the more they'll be able to build up an awareness of the world around them.

From black and white baby books to the best books for first-time parents, we've found out the books you should be reading to your newborn throughout their first year.

The Best Baby Books 2024

Best for a classic baby book

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Macy's$21.99View offer

Who doesn't remember this book from their own childhoods? This enchanting classic will keep your baby fascinated with the colourful artwork and the caterpillar-munched holes. The Very Hungry Caterpillar will also help teach counting, days of the week, names of fruits, and even the life cycle of a butterfly - so much more than just a story book. The illustrations are iconic and it's no wonder it's a well-known book throughout generations.

A great book which will be a firm favourite will all children and parents alike; one review said: "Excellent book and plenty of fond childhood memories from being read this. Full of wonderful and brightly coloured illustrations throughout that really help to capture little people. The counting aspect is cleverly added along with the particular foods that he eats. Encourages little ones to try to copy the words which is always a plus. Ultimately, this is such a wonderful book which will always have lovely memories attached to it. His other work is brilliant also so I would definitely recommend looking at those also."

Best for a sensory baby book

If you're looking for a sensory book for your baby, the Where Is Baby Activity Book is great for a bedtime story or just for story time during the day. The designs are cute and interactive with lift-the-flap engagement and lots of ideas and characters to explore on the touch and feel pages; one review said: "It's a beautiful little book, the colours are wonderful and we loved taking it in the pram with us, and his brother helping spot the animals from the book on our walk."

You can hand-wash this sensory book, but don't pop it in the washing machine; this book is best from about six months old when baby can start to notice the shapes and colours, and interact with it properly.

Best for a rhyming baby book

best-books-for-babies-first-year-moo-baa-la
Price: $13.06

A simple rhyming book, Moo Baa La La La goes through different farm animals and what noises they make. It has cute illustrations, and as your little one starts learning words they can join in with the noises that animals make; one review said: "I bought this book for my friend's one-year-old girl after reading it to some children at the nursery I work at. Lovely pictures and words."

We like this book as it's not only got characterful animals, but also because it's a little silly - and the cow in particular seems a little sarcastic. Books that engage the parents as well as the children are always the best; another review said: "Very cute book, nice pictures and most importantly our three month loves it!"

Best for a baby book keepsake

best-books-for-babies-first-year-guess-how-much-i
Price: $13.67

This lovely board book describes how much Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare love each other. Guess How Much I Love You is a sweet book that your baby will love listening to you read, and the board book is easy for little hands to move the pages once they get a little older.

It's been a favourite book for years, and so many parents will find themselves repeating the famous "to the moon and back" phrase to their own little ones for years to come; one review said: "This is the the perfect book to snuggle into bed with your little one. I bought it when my little one was around 5 months old. I have been reading it out loud and animated ever since. It's brought smiles to his face every single time. Now he is just over I've year old. I read it just before bedtime. And every single time I reach the part where the dad puts his little over to sleep giving him a good night kiss, my little one climbs onto my lap, gives me kisses and hugs me! It's so wonderful!"

Best for a repetitive baby book

best-books-for-babies-first-year-brown-bear-book
Price: $13.33

With lovely illustrations, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is a repetitive book that's perfect for introducing colours. Each double-page spread leads well into the next, and the pages are thick enough to withstand little hands; one review said: "All three of my little ones love this book. It is good fun to read and teach my children colours, they interact, focus and are learning with a smile on their faces"

We love that this is illustrated by Eric Carle, in the same iconic style as The Very Hungry Caterpillar; another review said: "Lovely brightly coloured pictures which my five-month-old loves looking at. Nice repetitive narrative which he’ll appreciate more as he gets older."

Your little ones will not only love the bright characters but also the repetitive flow of the story, making it easy for them to join in with and repeat some of the words as they grow.

Best for an interactive baby book

This touch and feel book is great for sensory development. The Baby Touch: Seasons book helps to boost motor skills and teaches your little one all about the four seasons, using bright and colourful interactions; one mum's review said: "This beautiful book was so interactive with lots of sensory details for Reuben to play with while I was reading to him. It's really sturdy for baby hands to hold too!"

There's not just a lot of colours to grab your little one's attention, but also shaped tabs at the top for them to engage with; another review said: "The book has shapes at the top of each page which make it really easy for my daughter to turn the pages. The book itself is bright and the textures are great quality. This book is great for toddlers who enjoy the touch and feel pages but also as she grows up we will be able to explore more of the objects relating to each season."

Best for an educational baby book

A beautiful story about social and emotional growth, Feelings is great at introducing different emotions to babies. Encouraging little ones to talk about their feelings is so important, and with this pull tab board book they'll learn about Little Crocodile and friends expressing how they feel; one review said: "It's a great interactive book, Cameron's eyes lit up at the pull out flaps. It's a hard book that will withstand a lot of reading."

Your little one will not only love hearing you read the story out loud, but can get involved and engaged by pulling the tabs and seeing the story develop; another review said: "This book provides a helping hand in showing kids how to express what they are feeling. We love the interactive pull tab design."

Best for a black and white baby book

best-books-for-babies-first-year-first-book
Price: $15.68

The Baby Touch: My First Book features black and white illustrations and a touch and feel on every double page. It's a beautiful cloth book that's designed to develop babies' eyesight and help them with focus and concentration. There are cute illustrations, simple sentences to engage your baby, plus sensory parts to touch and feel.

Black and white designs are best for newborns, who can't see colours until about four months; one review said: "I bought this for my newborn to start trying mat time. She loves the crinkly sound the pages make and it encourages her to turn her head. She stares at the images and it's also encouraging her to test her hand/eye coordination to attempt to grab the book. Great book, buy it!"

Best for an animal baby book

The Noisy Farmyard is a soft cloth book made from 100 per cent cotton with a retro-style pinked edge. It's beautifully illustrated and it helps children to learn animal sounds; one review said: "It's become a staple toy to grab and chuck in the bag - it's small & light so takes up no space & a great distraction while trying to grab two minutes' peace."

It's a simple book just focusing on the farm animal noises, but it's so soft to touch and easy to engage with your baby while you teach them the sounds; another review said: "Moo, Baa, Cluck! They will love all these animals causing a racket, and each sounds' written out, so they can learn while they impersonate them."

Best for an inclusive baby book

best-books-for-babies-first-year-who

Rrp: $8.99

Price: $5.08
Alternative retailers
Target$5.08View offer

This sweet book explores the relationships babies have with others and with the call-and-response melodic text, they'll be drawn in to listen to your voice and even join in.

The illustrations are super cute and this book will help your baby figure out who people are in their life.

We particularly love that Who? A Celebration of Babies illustrates different ethnicities and cultures, essential as a reflection of the world your baby will see around them; one review said: "Baby loves it, her face lights up as soon as I get it out and she giggles at each page. There’s no story, just repetition of ‘Who’s that? A BABY! That’s who!’ etc, but clearly, the author knows what babies like! Diverse ethnicity babies as well which is important to us."

Best for a dinosaur baby book

best-books-for-babies-first-year-not-my-dinosaur

Rrp: $9.99

Price: $9.39

That's Not My Dinosaur is a lovely book about finding the author's dinosaur - the 'That's Not My...' books are iconic and so popular with children for good reason. It has touch and feel pages that meet a variety of dinosaurs who aren't the one we're looking for, with different textures and elements for baby to touch and engage with; one review said: "My one year old loves this as much as all the others in this series of books."

Be warned, once you buy one of these 'That's Not My...' books, you might end up buying a lot more of them; another review said: "The touchy-feely pages are good, and the book is nice and colourful, baby bit young at present but will certainly get a lot of use."

Best for a lift-the-flaps baby book

best-books-for-babies-first-year-dear-zoo
Price: $9.02

First published in 1982, Rod Campbell's classic Dear Zoo has been a favourite for babies and parents alike for years, with bright pictures, catchy refrain, and a whole host of animals to meet.

To keep your baby engaged there are lift-the-flaps to discover the zoo animals beneath which is sure to make them smile; one review said: "I bought this book for my child's nursery library scheme. I vividly remember this book from my own childhood (which was quite awhile ago now) and as I turned each page, it brought back fun memories. My daughter absolutely loved it so I bought one for home as well and she loves pulling back the flaps to reveal the animals and then quickly shutting them again so the 'animals don't escape'. She'll read it through again and again and again but I'm happy to sit with her and enjoy this book together."

The pages are thick and the flaps are sturdy enough to withstand curious little hands; it's no wonder this little book has been a favourite for generations - it might even inspire your little one to write to the zoo and ask for a pet themselves.

Best for a durable baby book

best-book-for-babies-first-year
Price: $14.32

Baby's Very First Touchy Feely Book is a great way to introduce different textures to your baby. With brightly coloured illustrations, the pictures have simple descriptions that help babies to associate certain words with the pictures; one review said: "My grandson is eight months old and seems to like different textures, this little book doesn’t disappoint. Bright, each picture has a different texture, holds his attention"

Similar to the 'That's Not My...' books mentioned above, this features a different texture to elements on each page, describing the feel to the baby - such as squashy wellies and a lumpy crocodile; another review said: "I bought this book for my 5 month old because of its simplicity and ability for her to touch the different textures. It is nice and bright and so it captures her attention easily. She loves to have a feel of the textures. The pages are very thick as you would expect of a board book and will hopefully withstand a lot of throwing around/chewing etc!"

Best for a fun baby book

best-books-for-babies-first-year-wheres-spot
Price: $11.32

This best-selling board book, Where's Spot?, is a must-have for the nursery shelf. Your baby will enjoy the playful text and hide-and-seek flaps with all sorts of funny animal surprises hidden beneath.

Spot has been a favourite for generations and continues to be the one lovely dog that all children know and adore.

Designed to spur their curiosity, your little one will be excited to join in and luckily this book has sturdy, toddler-tough flaps so it will stand the test of time, even when they get a little older; one review said: "This was a book I read in my childhood. A basic storyline and quick read, which is good for little ones who can't sit still for too long. The book has interactive flaps and my son likes to lift as we are reading. The book is a good size and lovely that it is hardback as it means it is harder wearing for my son who likes to throw things around a lot."

Best for a traditional baby book

best-books-for-babies-first-year-peter-rabbit
Price: $14.05

This Peter Rabbit Touch and Feel Playbook is full of shapes, colours, numbers, animals, and actions for your little one to discover, through your spoken word and through touching the tactile elements on the pages too; one review said: "Beautiful colourful book for babies and toddlers. The variety of textures on the pages are perfect for babies and toddlers."

Different textures on each page will keep your baby engaged as you read, and it's a lovely short story to introduce your child to Peter Rabbit; one review said: "A great book for babies lots of materials to experience, including fluffy, sticky, smooth, and handkerchief. Good value for money."

Best for a hide and seek baby book

best-books-for-babies-first-year-bunny
Price: $10.36

With beautiful illustrations of animals and different environments, Where's Little Bunny? features simple sentences that prompt thought and encourages children to open the tabs to find if little bunny is there. There are flaps to open and little peekaboo holes to peek through as you search for bunny with your little one.

It also features a pop-out ending which reveals where little bunny had been hiding; our Product & Lifestyle writer Samantha said: "My little girl absolutely loves this book! She loves pointing at all the animals and has even started pointing at certain ones and saying what they are (she loves the bird and bee). She loves the lift the flap element too and the pages are easy for her to hold and turn."

Best for a textured baby book

best-books-for-babies-first-year
Price: $15.78

The Baby Touch Peekaboo Book has plenty of different textures for your baby to feel, and large flaps to play peekaboo too. The characters are cute and your little one will love to join in shouting "Hop!" and "Chug chug!"

The book helps to encourage interaction and play, with textures to feel and little holes to peep through; one review said: "I bought this book for my daughter who was around five months old at the time of purchase. She loves looking at the bright pictures and turning the flaps and pages. There are different textures and furry bits to play with and explore. Now she is 9 months old she still loves this book and gets very excited by the last page which has a mirror in it. This is ideal for baby's first book and I think she'll enjoy looking at this for at least another 6 months."

Best for a BSL baby book

best-book-for-babies-first-year
Price: $14.64

With lovable illustrated characters, the My First Signs: BSL book depicts 40 signed key words, with a helpful description and hand shapes and movements with each. It clearly demonstrates the gestures, explaining a skill that's important to you and baby too.

This book is ideal for showing baby that there are different ways to communicate, whether you already use BSL at home or just want to learn some yourself; one review said: "Myself and my son love this book, the illustrations are so cute and he loves spotting the various items on the pages (helping with his speech). Easy to follow signs, we have almost the whole set now."

Best for a first words baby book

best-books-for-babies-first-year
Price: $24.16

This 100 First Words book is vibrant and large to keep your little one engaged. It features beautiful illustrations and easy to lift card flaps to help them identify their first 100 words.

It's a fun book that uses brightly coloured characters to help teach your little one their first words in a different way to a normal story book; one review said: "I don't know why, but my son loves this book. He has a million books but he will bring this one out multiple times per day and he sometimes even gets up during the night to read it a little"

Best for a board baby book

best-books-for-babies-first-year-porcupine

Rrp: $10.99

Price: $6.72
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Target$6.72View offer
Macy's$10.99View offer

This interactive sensory book, Never Touch a Porcupine! has a different silicone texture on each page. It has a fun rhyme and warns about why you shouldn't touch different animals. It also has thick, board pages that are easy for little ones to hold and turn; one review said: "It was used for part of my grandson's little library. It is sturdy, beautifully illustrated with easy to learn rhymes. The touch panels are exceptional and encourage fine motor skills. I would say the whole range, which we now have, are a must for little ones."

If your little one enjoys this book, there are others in the series including Never Touch a Shark and Never Touch a Polar Bear.

Best for an interactive baby book

With 10 interactive board book pages, Peekaboo Moon has easy-to-use sliders, cute faces, and a surprise mirror ending. It helps to connect faces with playing peekaboo, which is one of the first fun games your baby will learn to play; one review said: "I liked the bright colours and interactivity of this book, especially the mirror at the back for her to look at herself. It's perfect for her age range, and would make a lovely gift too."

We love the retro colours and big bright eyes of the characters, which are sure to engage with your tot; another review said: "This is a really lovely board book, easy for Lilah to hold and she was intrigued by the little flaps and push up tags."

Best for a noisy baby book

best-books-for-babies-first-year-garden-sounds

Rrp: $24.00

Price: $20.23

Your little one can listen to all the lovely sounds you can hear outdoors with the Garden Sounds book. With croaking frogs, hooting owls, and baby birds tweeting, this colourful book adds a different sensory element that allows your baby to listen to the noises.

It has simple text and peep-through holes to explore, and this book is sure to help engage your little one with the wildlife you can find in your garden and beyond; one review said: "We're big fans of Usborne and love these little books. Lively variety of sounds, beautifully illustrated and with some textures for little hands to play."

The pages are busy with lots of things to show your baby and get them interested in, from shapes and colours to animals and sensory elements; another review said: "Brilliant book. Not just the sounds but also the pictures and cut outs."

Best for a classic baby book: The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Buy now on Amazon
Best for a black and white baby book: Baby Touch: My First Book - Buy now on Amazon
Best for a baby book keepsake: Guess How Much I Love You - Buy now on Amazon
Best for an animal baby book: The Noisy Farmyard - Buy now on Kidly

Best books for babies and toddlers: All you need to know

Why is it important to read to my baby?

Creating a bedtime routine: Even though your newborn is still too little to understand what you are saying, it is a soothing ritual to start from a young age.

Learning to talk: Your baby will settle with the sound of your voice, and will subconsciously pick up the rhythms, tones, and inflexions of your voice which can help when they learn to read later on.

Developing eyesight: The stories might be too complex, but from birth to around three months old, your baby is learning to focus their eyes on simple patterns. All of these books will have bright illustrations, shapes, and letters to occupy your baby.

Storytelling skills: Your baby will develop their own imagination in time and storytelling will be a big part of this. Reading to your baby from an early age can encourage this.

Developing empathy: Scientists have found that children who have stories read to them regularly show more empathy and find it easier to understand people.

Extending understanding: As your tot gets older, at the end of storytime stop and ask them ‘why do you think this character did that’ — this can help your child develop their understanding and vocabulary.

What makes a good baby book?

When creating our list of the best baby books for those under 12 months, we took into consideration these features which we think make for the best book for your baby:

Strong characters: Fun, strong characters will keep your little one mesmerised and engaged following them through the book. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Spot and Peter Rabbit are some classic characters loved by babies, young children and parents too.

Brilliant illustrations and vocabulary: Books with bright and colourful pictures and beautiful illustrations will help keep your baby captivated along with repetition and rhyme.

Sensory interaction: Encouraging your baby to touch, feel and play with tactile materials and lift-the-flaps will not only make them smile but provide them with sensory stimulation, great for early development. Cloth books are brilliant for that sensory aspect too.

Board books: Not all the books on this list are board books but the majority are. Board books are great for babies. They're more durable, robust and remove the risk of papercuts from your child eagerly wanting to turn the page.

Opportunities to learn: As well as helping your baby to develop their vocabulary, understanding and imagination, some of these books provide your little one with the chance to learn more about the world around them; from feelings to animals and cultures to counting.

Emily Gilbert is a Digital Writer for Mother&Baby and has written for the website and previously the magazine for six years. Specialising in product reviews, Emily is the first to know about all the exciting new releases in the parenting industry.

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