16 best books for toddlers: Perfect for 2-5 year olds

Here's a list of some of the top children's books for new readers.

Best books for toddlers can be tricky to find as they range massively, from alphabet to numbers, boardbooks to paperback, pop-up to fold out? The choices are endless.

Fret not, you'll soon be moving on to the best bedtime stories for kids and then to best books for teenagers in no time at all. And to really create lovely memories you could choose a personalised book.

But until then, know that toddlers have a natural love of the ridiculous, as well as rhyming and repetitive words paired with bold and bright illustrations. Reading with them can be both a joy... and a burden. There we've said it.

While a study in 2011 discovered that when children were read the same book many times, they remembered and understood the meaning of a new word, reading that book over and over can leave the parent, well, a bit at their wits end.

Kirsty Ketley, an Early Years practitioner and Parenting Consultant tells us; "Lift the flap books, rhyming stories and stories that have counting in, are all good choices. As well as board books; think most of the Julia Donaldson books or The Tickle Book, by Ian Whybrow, are great too as their hardy and can withstand a toddler touch.

She adds; "Also be aware of books that may heavily stereotype or use negative language to describe the characters, such as their appearance as 'horribly fat' or 'awfully skinny' 'silly' 'stupid' or 'naughty' - children absorb and copy what they hear."

So, to help with that we’ve found 16 of the best tried-and-true books you and your toddler will love. 

16 best books for toddlers

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Image of the day the crayons quit book

Credit: Harper Collins

1. The day the crayons quit

Age suitability: 2-5 years | Paperback 

As best books for toddlers go, this is a book with talking crayons, what’s not to love? But what happens when they aren’t happy? This is the scenario faced by Duncan when he takes out his crayon box and finds a pile of resignation letters from all the different colours. 

The Day the Crayons Quit is a must-read for children; a tale about relationships, accepting differences and learning to get on despite them.


Image of an african american boy on s diving board looking into a pool

Credit: Walker Books

2. Jabari Jumps

Age suitability: 3-5 years | Paperback 

A beautifully illustrated book, the story follows a young boy called Jabari. He’s working up the courage to take a big important leap… and he’s almost ready. 

The story is all about overcoming fears and following your determination. One reader said: “The message is quite subtle, not overdone, but has worked a treat improving my 3 year olds way of thinking. The story is about overcoming fears but also how to support and be kind to help others. I like that the dad and little sister are there supporting, not pushing him in just a lovely way, and are there to cheer him on.


Image of a book with illustrated children joining hands on the cover for best books for toddlers

Credit: Bloomsbury

3. All Are Welcome

Age suitability: 3+ | Paperback 

A vibrant and colourful  book, spanning all types of children and their carers as they go to school. One reader rated it 5 out of 5 starts and said: “Heartwarming. This book really represents every child and I’m so glad all types of children can see themselves in this book. I love the rhythm and the short sentences as they make the book flow so well.” VIEW AT AMAZON | £5.79

Imge of book with a yellow button on front for best books for toddlers

Credit: Chronicle Books

4. Press Here

Age suitability: 2-5 years | Boardbook With over 10,000 ratings on Amazon this 'Teachers' Pick' book starts with a simple instruction to press the dot on the front cover to start the story. An interactive book that’s completely offline, each page then has a different, fun order for the reader to carry out. Herve Tullet is known as the ‘Prince of Preschool’ and it’s easy to see why from this book.


Everybody Poos book cover

Credit: Frances Lincoln

5. Everybody Poos

Age suitability: 3+ | Paperback A simple book with few words, great illustrations and lots of talk about poos which toddlers love. It’s especially a bonus for encouraging potty use. 

One reader said: “Great illustrations of animals and it gets the message across that everybody poos. It’s great it also shows a potty, plus adults and kids using the toilet. I add some sound effects when reading and I’m always asked to read this again a second time.


Image of a well dressed fox without his sock

Credit: MacMillan

6. Fox’s Socks

Age suitability: 2-5 years | Boardbook A number 1 best seller, this Julia Donaldson classic has over 5000 ratings, earning it a solid 4.8 out of 5 stars. It helps your toddler to search for items on the page. 

One reader said: “This is a good quality, nicely sized and well illustrated board book. Julia Donaldson stories are always good. Her stories are well loved too and the books flaps make the book even more interesting.”


Dark blue book cover with image or brightly coloured planets on the front

Credit: Sourcebooks

7. 8 little planets

Age suitability: 0-3 years | Boardbook Written by an award-winning physicist, this delightful rhyming book talks all about the planets in short verses. And the bright simple illustrations make all 18 pages, fun to read. 


Pink book cover with a yoiung boy wrapped in a sheet like a mermaid tail

Credit: Walker Books

8. Julian is a mermaid

Age suitability: 3-9 years | Paperback

As best books for toddlers go, this best seller brings LBGTQ chats to the fore. Julian sees some fabulous looking ladies, and wants to dress up like them. But then he’s worried what his Nan will think. 

A heart-warming story about acceptance and knowing who you are. Mum-of-three, Lucy says: “Be warned there’s no rhyming, repetitiveness or many words, in fact. I think it’s more of an open discussion book. For us, it’s a day book. I prefer bedtime reading to be listened to not discussed.”


Purple book cover with yellow writing on front and an excited girl wearing glasses looking up at stars

Credit: Pufifn

9. Look Up!

Age suitability: 2-5 years | Paperback This number 1 best seller has an impressive 4.8 out of 5 stars. It’s bursting with energy and passion about science and space. The heart-warming, inspirational picture book is about Rocket, a young admirer of astronaut Mae Jemison, never stops telling others to "Look up!". A motto we should all live by.


Image of a bear on the cover look suspicioua

Credit: Walker Books

10. I want my hat back

Age suitability: 3-5 years | Paperback As best books for toddlers go, this will have you smirking until the end too. Stamped as a ‘Teachers’ Pick’ on Amazon this best-selling  book has had over 3,400 ratings, earning it an impressive 4.8 out of 5 stars. I Want My Hat Back is the story of a bear who almost gives up the search for his missing hat until a chance meeting with a deer sparks an important memory and puts it on the right path. It is written with dark humour that will appeal to children and parents alike. VIEW AT AMAZON | £6.55

Bright blue book cover with red writing and a girl on the front

Credit: Bloomsbury

11. Meesha Makes Friends

Age suitability: 1-5 years | Paperback

Stamped as a ‘teachers’ pick on Amazon this book is warm and affectionate celebrating diversity and inspiring children to talk about making friends, and how to do it.  One reader said: “Both my children and I loved this book. I adore the illustrations and the story is so relatable. It is an uplifting and helpful story. Perfect for anyone who wants to explore being themselves and learning how to make friends.”


Book cover with a family walking onthe front

Credit: Walker Books

12. We’re going on a bear hunt

Age suitability: 3-7 years | Boardbook As best books for toddlers go, this is a classic. Published in 1989 this award-winning book has spanned generations. A heart-warming story of two adults, three children and a dog going off on an adventure. They are faced with many obstacles, but each time they narrate how they will solve it. This best selling book is a great mix of repetition and rhyme, while teaching problem solving for your toddler. 


bright orange book cover with a purple dog illutration

Credit: Walker Books

13. Oh No, George!

Age suitability: 3-5 years | Boardbook George is a dog that tries very hard to be good, but even the best intentions can go awry when you are faced with chocolate cake and cats. The bold, bright and colourful illustrations of this book make it a great one to read and share.

As best books for toddlers go, this is a great book to kick-start their imagination. Try closing the book and asking 'what happens next?'.


Blue book cover with the image of a boat with a boy and penguin in it

Credit: Harper Collins

14. Lost and Found

Age suitability: 3-5 years | Paperback

Published in 2005 this is the story of a boy who finds a penguin on his doorstep and decides to take the penguin home himself via a journey to the South Pole in a row boat.,/span. Lost and Found is actually an uplifting story about the importance of friendship and the power it can have on our lives.


Illustration of a little girl in a red cardigan holding paperdolls up

Credit: Macmillan

15. The Paper Dolls

Age suitability: 3-5 years | Paperback A beautiful tale of childhood, love, loss and the power of memory and imagination, The Paper Dolls is the story of a string of paper dolls, and their owner, throughout the years.

Mum-of-one Bex says; "This one really made me teary. They grow up so fast."


Girrafes Can't Dance

16. Giraffes can’t dance

Age suitability: 1-4 years | Paperback As best books for toddlers go, this has over 38,000 ratings on Amazon, this best seller has gained an impressive 4.8 out of 5 stars. A beautiful book about a giraffe who can’t join in the jungle dance because he doesn’t know how to Tango, but learns that it’s OK to be different and he can dance to other songs instead. The brightly coloured illustrations and rhyming language keep them enthralled along with the funny story. VIEW AT AMAZON | £4

I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato

17. I will not ever never eat a tomato

Age suitability: 3-5 years | Paperback Charlie tells a reluctant Lola that peas are green drops from Greenland and carrots are orange twiglets from Jupiter, she’s soon eating her greens. They’ll sympathise with Lola for not fancying her veg – great for fussy eaters! One reader said: “Quirky imagination and humour make this book for fussy eaters. As always, older brother Charlie must talk his sister into something she doesn’t want to do. Lola won’t eat her tea, until Charlie tells her carrots are really orange twiglets from Jupiter and peas are greendrops from Greenland.” VIEW AT AMAZON | £5.63

What to look for in a toddler book

Age-Appropriateness - Choosing titles that are appropriate for your toddler's age group means it might capture their attention. Books for older kids may include complicated storylines and concepts that simply aren't interesting for little ones.

Durability - To create a love for reading in your child, it helps to encourage open access to their books. So you'll want to reach for hardcover or board books as they are more likely to hold up against your toddler's rough handling. Though as they get older, let them read paperbacks; model and teach how to handle the more delicate pages.

Educational Value - While it’s okay to stock your little one's library with books that are just for fun, adding in educational options (such as books that showcase the alphabet, colours, or animals) will help them learn new skills and concepts and prepare for nursery and infant school.