I’ve been reflecting on Riley turning 2 this month and, when I think about this past year, what stands out is that this was such a fun year for watching Riley’s love for books & reading take off as a 1 year old.
I loved watching her explore and enjoy books as a baby but once she turned one it was like her love for books just exploded and it’s been such a fun journey.
It has been fun to watch her start to sit down by herself and look through her books for extended amounts of time PLUS shove books in my face and say “here!!” and then later on “read this, mama” until I read them. I love watching her engage and interact with the books we read. I love seeing her be able to further explore the world we live in through books and see her learn through books.
We’ve read SO MUCH this year that I feel like I’ve become a bit of an expert on the best books for a 1 year old, between the books she loves and the books I read to the kids as a former nanny, so I wanted to share what she we’ve loved this year and that I think are great books to read with kids ages 1 to 2.
So obviously Riley can’t dictate this list of her favorites but I clearly know which books she gravitated to all year and which ones made her happy so you’ll just have to trust my observation skills and judgment.
I feel like she definitely had some favorites from 12-18 months old but once she passed 18 months she got into books in a WHOLE differently level and really started memorizing, pointing things out and gravitated towards some longer books and it opened the door to a lot of new favorites — especially as she approached 2 years old!
She still loved a lot of her old favorites as a younger toddler but it was really fun to see the kind of stuff she really got into as an older 1 year old.
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How To Find Good Books For Your Toddlers?
As an aside, I always get asked at how I find such good books to read with Riley. We browse the library a lot (and ask the librarians!) which is where I find a lot of them as well as searching online for specific topics she seems into or following what other moms with toddlers are reading and loving.
But I think one of the most easy ways for busy parents to find good books to read (especially when you are getting sick of the same ol’ books and don’t have time to devote to curating a new list of books) is a book subscription box for kids! I have really enjoyed Bookroo ever since she was a baby and, now, well into her preschool years!
You can choose by age range and Riley LOVES getting her book mail. I have found the books to be good selections for her age and all interesting ones I had never heard of before! Check out my review of Bookroo!
Looking for great books for your toddler?
Find age-appropriate books your kids will love with a Bookroo subscription!
Good Books To Read With Your 1 Year Old
P.S. I really like this chart that breaks down the reading by age groups and tips and tricks for them and how to engage with your baby/toddler while reading at different ages!
I’ve broken them up into two groups: 12-18 months and 18-24 months just to show the difference and progression in the ones she really got into once her language really exploded and she understood so much more at 18 months.
A lot of the earlier ones have remained favorites throughout the whole 1-2 year range though so still solid choices for older 1 year olds and toddlers. Even at 2 she is still loving most of the ones from her young 1 year old life but I can tell she craves a bit more in her books so we don’t read them AS often anymore.
But she really does sit still and have the attention span for longer books whereas other kids may not at this age range — both are perfectly normal and some of these shorter books might still be perfect if your kid is squirmy and doesn’t like to sit for books.
What We Loved At 12 -18 Months Old
A lot of the books she loved under the age of one are in this category, too, because she really got into them in a different way once she turned one.
She’d always been good at sitting down and paying attention to books but I felt like when she turned 1 she exploded in her ability to really understand them AND she really liked to point and interact with them and say the words.
She also really started sitting by herself and going through ALL of them. Literally. Every book pulled off the shelf. Every day. But it’s the kind of mess I can get behind haha. I know something about book piles myself.
Tip: Board books for younger 1 year olds are the way to go in my opinion because their fine motor skills seem to translate into ripped pages even when they aren’t trying to.
Because of that I always tried to get board book editions of books if possible because she tended to accidentally rip pages when she was turning them and otherwise be rough with them.
She got a lot better once she got to be around 18-20 months and we can read a lot more non-board books but it’s always risky because she’s so rough with books. She just loves them so hard.
Best non-fiction/educational type books that Riley LOVED
(and still loves)
These types of books have been her favorite since she was under 1 and I feel like her language exploded in this age range with these books.
She always liked looking at the real pictures in them when she was younger but she spent so much time sitting on my lap and pointing to them all (or making me point to them at first) and making me say them and then she would start pulling it out by herself and pointing and saying what she knew.
We have so many of these types of books but these are the ones she loved the most and that I thought were great books for 1 year olds.
First 100 Board Book set
A really great investment that honestly are great even before baby turns 1. They can really grow into them. I wish they would do an updated version because some of the pictures and things in them look outdated looking but they are solid and I can’t tell you how many times we went through and named all these things. It was cool to see her really start to connect the vocabulary word with the picture and then the item outside of the book in her world. That’s a really great skill that happens at this age and I feel like this book helped her put that concept together. There’s a bunch of other books in these series too!
My First Touch and Sound Book Series
I hate noisy things but this set of books are wonderful and she really loved them! The buttons are a tad hard to push but she really learned how to do it quickly. The combo of touch AND sound is great for this age! This one is our favorite but Noisy Trucks and Noisy Farm are great!
My First Animals Book from DK Books
I’m so bummed the copy we have is out of print because I think it’s my favorite “first animal” type book that we’ve read. I do like the updated version (I had to go check it at the library before I recommended it) and think it’s a solid update though I prefer the older version we had that I bought at the thrift store. The format was just better IMO. We pull it out a lot and it’s fun to see her know more and more of these animals. I honestly love a lot of the DK books!
All the Nat Geo Look & Learn books
We have a couple of these/have gotten a couple from the library and they are stunning and keep her attention so well. (Note: Bookshop.org seems to only have a couple from this series and doesn’t have that Things That Go book).
Favorite Lift The Flap Books (1-1.5 years old)
Lift the flap books are so tricky in this age range for us because she still was rough with them but she was outgrowing some of the chunkier lift the flap ones we had for her as she got older.
Luckily I feel like flap books got WAY better around 18 months and she rarely rips them now. I really loved these interactive books for 1 year olds! There’s so many ways we played around with them — especially animal noises.
Check out our favorite lift-the-flap books!
This is such a cute lift the flap book full of animal sound and guessing the animal. Study flaps and bright colors make this a great book to read with a 1 year old.
Peek a Who
This is a short cute little peekaboo book that Riley really loved when she just turned one and for quite a few months after. I was underwhelmed by it but Riley was NOT — she loved guessing what would come next in the peekaboo game. There’s 2 others in the series — check out the box set!
This one is SO fun and a hit for my animal loving toddler. The narrator is looking for a pet so the zoo keeps sending them new animals but it takes a bit to find the perfect pet. She loved naming the animals and making the sounds — especially because we had just gone to the zoo when I got this one for her so she was familiar with the animals.
Do Cows Meow?
Oh how we love this one even still! Salina Yoon just is always a hit with us! Bright and cute pictures, good rhyming and all sorts of fun with animal noises. This one we discovered as a read-aloud at a baby/toddler storytime and we loved it so much we bought it — it was a hit in the library storytime group, too!
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Karen Katz’s lift the flap books (literally all of them but these are our faves)
This book is a DELIGHT. The illustrations are wonderful as the child starts their day and takes us along to see what they see. It’s fun for little ones with the “peekaboo, I see….” repetition and familiar people/things.
Choo Choo by Petr Horacek
I love this board book so much!! It was a random pick from the library and ended up being such a great one. It’s so dynamic and so fun and has cut outs on the pages. Simple text, lots of fun sounds to say as the train is going on its journey and the illustrations are eye catching. I just love the flow of this one. It’s just perfect for this age and especially if your one year old is a train lover or on a transportation kick!
Looking for great books for your toddler?
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Brown Bear Brown Bear
A classic but this particular edition has sliders that Riley really liked doing. I think she got more into the colors and the animals around 18 months but she loved reading this book and figuring out the sliders way earlier on.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
This one, even at 2, is one of our most requested books at night. And she LOVES to “read” it herself and it’s hilarious. Very animated and I can’t believe how long this one has been one of our go-to’s. She can read it over and over again. I honestly get warm and fuzzies because *I* loved this one as a kid!
This one has been a favorite book since she was a baby and has continued on to be one of her favorites to read at 1 years old also. It’s also one of the books I raved about in our best bedtime books for babies & young toddlers post — still one of our favorite bedtime books. Sweet little book about the whole family giving baby kisses before bed. Now Riley rubs the last page and makes kissy noises saying night night baby. So cute!
Daddy Hugs / Mommy Hugs: These ones are just so sweet and such cuddly cute books for 1 year olds. Perfect for bedtime especially!
All things Sandra Boynton are fabulous books for 1 year olds and beyond. They are silly, short and always among the most requested. So many great ones to choose from but these seem to be Riley’s faves out of all that we’ve read this past year.
Riley’s giggling during this one will forever be in my head. She gets all silly with the “noooo”. Very engaging!
Super fun bedtime story! A little silliness, good rhythm – we even did some shimmying.
Doing all the barking of all the different dogs was work for me but hearing her giggle when I read made it worth it.
A fun book about different moods! I love how it says it’s okay to have these different feelings & moods!
Oh it’s just a delightful romp with some barnyard animals! Good interactive fun!
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes
This is such a classic book and one that Riley ALWAYS picked to read this year! It’s sweet with all the diverse babies and I love the flow of it with the rhyming and the repetition of the “ten little fingers and ten little toes” which Riley really seemed to love. Plus it’s such a great message!
More More More Said The Baby
What a cuddly little book about 3 little babies and the caregivers who loves them! I think Riley really liked the repetition.
Ten Tiny Babies by Karen Katz
This probably her FAVORITE Karen Katz book — she loved the shenanigans of these little babies. She loves the book so much we renewed it for months and then I finally just decided to buy it. It’s still a hit at 2!
Whose Toes Are Those? by Jabari Asim
This is a cute little book that Riley loved immediately! Very playful and cute! Perfect book if you are looking for ones that feature kids with brown skin as it talks about the brown toes and such.
Leo Loves Baby Time:
I love love love the Lola books and this is Lola’s little brother. A simple and fun little book about Leo going to baby time (which I switched out to say story time because Riley really started to understand what “story time” meant and connected us going).
Love You Head To Toe:
This is a sweet little book full of cute babies and animals wherein babies are compared to animals (sounds weird but like “splash in the water like ducks”). Riley loved pointing out the animals.
This whole series of books from Leslie Patricella is a hit with Riley. They are silly and short and fun. Tickle is another favorite of hers. They are mostly all real interactive and engaging in their simplicity.
Riley loved this one as a baby (bright, high contrast books are awesome!) but really loved it when she turned one and recognized some of the animals! Cute and simple about morning and night.
The Babies in the Park series
Loved introducing these to Riley at each season to help learn about the seasons. Really cute!
We love all things Karen Katz in this house but when we moved and were outside playing in the Fall all these school buses would go past and she started getting so excited about them as she started putting it together the school buses vs the wheels on the bus. (She literally does the motions every time one goes by). So I bought her a BUNCH of school bus books but this is definitely the fave for both of us. Definitely one of my favorite books for 1 year olds and young toddlers. Such a fun twist on a classic song!
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Old Macdonald by Salina Yoon
At this age I really enjoyed getting her some books that were also songs because I really felt she started to understand the correlation and she REALLY loved reading the books of favorite songs like Old MacDonald and Wheels on the Bus (above). This Old MacDonald book is really cute and is my FAVORITE of all the Old MacDonald’s out there. Each page the animal head is a textured “tab” of sorts that turns with the page. I don’t really know how else to explain it but I just think this one is the best and Riley LOVED it so much.
Pete the Cat Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
This one is special to me because of how much Riley loved it (and it was given to us by the kids I used to nanny who I used to read LOTS of Pete the Cat with) but it’s also special because it was one of the longer phrases she ever said. It took me forever but she kept saying “ubba bubba” and I realized she was asking me to read the book or sing the song. Ubba bubba = up above the. She got SO happy when I finally realized what she was asking for. Such a good one if your kid loves Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
18 months – 24 months
When 1.5 years old rolled around, a lot of the books in the 12 month section were still major faves around here and some of them she discovered in a whole new way which was fun! We read every single one of these books, in this next section, today at 2!
Riley really became smitten with books with realistic photographs especially of kids. These next two books are FANTASTIC and have been our most read books and still are keepers. Every night these two books seem to be on our bedtime reading lineup. She really engages with them and I think it’s because of the realistic photos of kids doing things that she also might do. Both are diverse and I love that!
We renewed this one over and over and over again until I finally decided just to buy it because I was pretty sure we were destroying the book with all the wear and tear of reading it multiple times of day plus HER flipping through it on her own. It’s a cute book all about all the things hands can do – throw and catch, plant seeds, etc. One of the books that I think has engaged her the most so far!
Show Me Happy
Every night I hear “Show Me Happy!!!” if I don’t put it in our pile to read at bedtime. Wonderful photographs that Riley loves to interact with. A lot of great concepts that she’s learned so much from while reading it. Things like “show me up, show me down” with corresponding photos. I think this is one I’m going to have to buy also because we’ve renewed it for months at this point. Update: I bought the board book and it is definitely shorter and missing some of the parts that our library copy had. Look for the non-board book option because it’s better!
Riley became obsessed with all things babies somewhere around 18 months when we read Ten Tiny Babies which I shared about above. Then Everywhere Babies and then I had to snag a bunch of other books about babies. I don’t know what it is but she likes reading about babies and what they do which probably mirrors a lot of what she does. These are perfect books for toddlers!
Or as Riley calls it, BABIES ERRYWHERE. I just love this book. A sweet book about babies and all the things they do and all the ways they grow. THIS would be a perfect book for a first birthday present. She also has a really cute one called Hooray for Babies that I really like but Riley hasn’t been as in love with yet!
This is another great book to buy for a 1 year old birthday! It’s about baby’s birthday and all the friends who come to play on their special day — babies with all sorts of different moods and personalities! Riley loves all the babies!
Up Up Up Down:
I love this book so much and Riley does too! It’s about a stay at home dad and a toddler and what they do all day — featuring lots of early concept opposites like up/down, yum/yuck. Riley thinks it’s funny and I do too! Totally one of those books I appreciate as a parent because I’m like YEP THIS IS OUR DAY haha.
A Good Day For Ducks
I looooove this book maybe even more than Riley and that’s saying something. I was looking for a good rainy day book and I love how this explores the fun you can have on a rainy day. Such a cozy book that sees the beauty in a rainy day and I know she’s still going to love this beautiful book as she gets older. When Riley asks for this book she says “read drip drop” haha. I put this list on my best books for Easter baskets (by theme) and this one was part of my rainy Spring section! Update: she still loves this book at 4 years old.
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Arf! Buzz! Clack!
This is the perfect early introduction to ABC’s book ever!! It can be grown into once they can start recognizing the letters but it introduces the ABC’s as animal sounds! It’s lovely and a hit with Riley!
How Does Baby Feel? by Karen Katz
This one has been such a good one for teaching her emotions and feelings! She doesn’t read this one as much now at 2 but she loved it around 18-20 months.
We’ve read this to her since she was about 14 months or so and she giggles at this one all the time and always likes to say BLUB BLUB BLUUUUB while we read it but she’s gotten WAY more into it as she’s gotten closer to 2. Such a great book to read to a 1 year old and for sure older toddlers too as they really understand more! I think the rhythm and the funny BLUB BLUB BLUB makes it a hit at a younger age. Update: this book really became even more of a favorite at 2 years old.
Zoom: A Fast-paced Book of Colors
I feel like Riley always loved this one since she was like 6 months old but she definitely got into it more as she got older and even now at 2 she thinks this one is GREAT! It’s bright, catchy rhymes and a great book for kids who are learning or into their colors. Now Riley loves to point at all the cars and tell me the colors. Just a fantastic book! We have a couple of others in the My Little World series and they are just all around great, sturdy board books. This one is still my favorite though!
I haven’t read the Bruce books in a little bit (the boys I nannied LOVED them!) but when Disney sent a free copy of this board book to us, Riley was obsessed instantly. She giggled when we read it and loved trying to find Bruce. I found that it has been really great for her in learning using words like “in” “behind” etc when talking about where something (in this case Bruce) is. A cute little peek-a-boo fun with grumpy Bruce geared towards a bit of a younger kid vs the rest in the Bruce series.
Big Red Barn
A classic that has been a hit for my farm loving kid that shows what the animals do when the people are away! I actually really like reading this one, too! Riley loves pointing out EVERY animal so it takes us a bajillion years to read haha.
Some of her favorite seasonal & holiday books at 1
10 Busy Brooms: a fun little counting book for Halloween that Riley seemed to like a lot!
Duck & Goose Find a Pumpkin: We were reading this book year-round pretty much until I finally hid in February. She LOVES silly Duck and Goose. It’s a perfect book for the younger 1’s. Riley thought it was the funniest book ever in the fall when she was like 14/15 months.
Jingle Bells: I can’t even say this is an actual book for this age group but Riley fell in love with this one!! I finally had to hide this one because I couldn’t take how often she was asking for it. It’s literally just the Jingle Bells song but the pictures tell a different story. She doesn’t get the story happening in the photos but I get a kick out of it. Update: still a favorite and now she sees the story the pictures are telling.
We’re Going On An Egg Hunt: This was such a fun lift the flap for Easter! Riley really enjoyed finding the eggs.
So those are some of Riley’s and my favorite books and stories for 1 year olds! I really have been enjoying making these toddler book lists because we read SO much and I love sharing them. What are some of your favorite books for 12-24 month olds?
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