Best Picture Books for Toddlers

My eldest daughter Lucy loved pulling books from the little shelf in our apartment living room as a toddler. She would sit with them tucked between her chubby knees and turn the pages continually. The books began to tear from her daily routine. My first instinct was to put them high where she could not reach them so they could be preserved for her future siblings.

It took me a few years–and two more children–to realize that often the best picture books are the ones that end up torn, taped, re-taped, and broken at the binding from being opened so many times. They are the ones that end up in my lap for the tenth day in a row with the words, “Mama, book?”

Lucy, 2015

Here is a list of books that have been beloved by my toddler-aged children (you better believe I have these memorized!):

Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes by Beatrix Potter, also Cecily Parsley’s Nursery Rhymes

Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman

Blue on Blue by Dianne White

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

Corduroy by Don Freeman

Diggers Go by Steve Light

Freight Train by Donald Crews

The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone

Going to Sleep on the Farm by Wendy Cheyette Lewison

Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman

Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

Have You Seen My Duckling? by Nancy Tafuri

The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson

I am a Bunny by Richard Scarry

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff

Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? by Nancy Carlstrom

The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

Moo, Baa, La La La! by Sandra Boynton

Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? by Dr. Seuss

My First Counting Book by Lilian Moore

My First Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne (poetry)

My Very First Mother Goose by Iona Opie

The Napping House by Audrey & Don Wood

1 is One by Tasha Tudor

Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt

Pelle’s New Suit by Elsa Beskow

A Picnic with Monet by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober, and others in the “Mini Masters” series

Poems to Read to the Very Young by Josette Frank, illustrated by Eloise Wilkin

Prayer for a Child by Rachel Field

Put Me in the Zoo by Robert Lopshire

Richard Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever by Richard Scarry

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

Ten Red Apples by Pat Hutchins

The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr

The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats

Who Made This Cake? by Chihiro Nakagawa

Click here for a printable PDF booklist!


Which picture books does your toddler pull off the shelf again and again? Please share in the comments below.

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Welcome! Introducing Beloved Bookshelf

Hello! My name is Lauren Williams. Welcome to Beloved Bookshelf.

My deep love of literature began at Hillsdale College, where I met professors and students who treated books not as something to be used or delighted in merely, but as the gift and treasure they are to our human flourishing. I ended up majoring in English, soaking up every class I could on the literary classics.

When I became a mother, I couldn’t wait to share my love of literature with my children. I had difficulty at first finding quality children’s books (choosing at random from the library bookshelf was unsuccessful), but then a friend directed me to John Senior’s booklist.

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This list was exactly what I had been looking for. Seeing the delight in my children’s eyes as we read Winnie-the-Pooh and the Beatrix Potter tales, hearing the questions they began asking, and observing how their imaginations grew was incredibly motivating. I began spending hours searching for other resources and combing booklists, determined to find the best children’s literature I could. Other parents expressed their interest in the titles I was finding and the seed for this blog was planted.

Over the past two years, I have checked out and reviewed hundreds of books with the hope that I could bring you these booklists. They are far from finished, but I hope they can begin to bridge the gap for other parents and educators searching for quality literature.

Here are my criteria for what makes a children’s book a real treasure:

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What I desire most for this blog is that these books will make their way into your library bag or on your bookshelves and that you enjoy them as much as we do! I would also be grateful if you shared your family’s favorite titles so we can help each other find the best children’s literature has to offer our families.

Thank you so much for visiting!

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About the name: I chose “Beloved Bookshelf” as a nod to an old habit I have of lining up my most beloved books on a shelf. Although my family does not own all of these titles, they would be lovingly lined up on a shelf (or shelves😉).