So there you are, standing in front of an overwhelming wall of picture books in your local department store or online, wondering which ones are any good? Which ones will your little one like? Why don’t these books have an age suitability guide on the back like a toy??!
At Story Mama online kids' books, we are often asked how to go about choosing books for a baby, toddler or preschooler. We know you want the ones will they sit still and listen to, the ones that are suited to their age and development. You want the ones which won’t drive the parent/grandparent/babysitter nuts after the 50th read. We give you the inside word below as to how we go about choosing a great picture book below.
Books for Babies
We didn’t know until we had kids ourselves that babies can’t really see colours when they are born and that their vision continues to develop over the following 6 months. For this reason it is best to choose books with simple, highly contrasting pictures. Babies especially love pictures of faces and hearing the sound of your voice.
New mums should note that rhyming books are great because they can be quite soothing which can help to settle your new bub. Baby’s love books about things that are familiar from the world around them, like toys, household objects, animals, balls.
Don’t stress when your little one tries to explore books in their own special way – chewing them and putting them in their mouth is all part of the fun. This is why the clever people at book publishers invented the board book which is much more durable than your average picture book. These make a great choice for this age group. Many of the best-selling children’s titles become available in a board book format. Cloth books that can be easily washed are also a good choice.
Once your baby is a little bit older, books that include different textures to touch and feel become really appealing. This is a good time to start to point out things on the page and interacting with your little one whilst you are reading the story.
Books for Toddlers
There are sooooo many picture books out there that it can be really hard to choose. A good way is to keep an eye out for award winners, the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) has an annual Picture Book Award, the Caldecott Medal is the award for the most distinguished picture book for children (USA) and the Carnegie and Greenaway awards are the UK version.
Bed time books are a great choice for toddlers, particularly if you are introducing a routine with some wind down time. Toddlers love lift the flap and pop-up books (although note to parents, particularly delicate pop-ups may need both supervision and sticky tape!). Toddler books start to get a little bit more interesting for the parent reading aloud now too.
Picture books can help you introduce a whole range of new experiences to your toddler, like going to the dentist, getting a sibling or toilet training. Toddlers love guessing the word to come in a rhyming story and will often learn these by heart. Tons of picture books are about human-like-animals and little kids seem to love these.
This is also a good time to introduce books that explore both the ABCs and 123s. Don’t keep it all educational or a chore though, as a love of reading is best encouraged though by reading stories they love, about whatever they are into, often.
It’s always a good choice to keep your books where your toddler can get at them. (You may even find this gets you a couple of minutes of peace occasionally.) Your toddler will love choosing their own book for story time too.
Books for Pre-schoolers
Once you get to the pre-school years, children have slightly longer attention spans (if you are lucky!) and picture books can continue to help them make sense of the world around them. Pre-schoolers love books about children like them doing things that they do (like going to a birthday party, the zoo or the park). This is a great chance to introduce some comedy and simple, fun plots are great for this age. Children of this age seem to particularly like books with surprises in them, and you can also introduce books that have positive value messages.
Most picture books are 32 pages and have been designed to read in one sitting. If you find your child’s attention span is longer than this then maybe read a handful, or you could move onto chapter books.
It’s okay to choose books that appeal to both you and your child – after all, you will be the one stuck reading it again and again and again. Your feelings about a book can influence your child. (We have been known to hide a few books to get them off the rotation for a couple of weeks but we promise we always put them back!)
Now is the time when their language and little personalities are developing and you can start to choose books based on their own interests. This will help you encourage a love of books and reading that will stand them in good stead for both their education and entertainment.
How do you choose books for your little one?
Story Mama is an online children’s bookstore specialising in picture books for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers. We stock just our favourite titles, many of them award winners. You can find us at www.storymama.com.au