Begin at the Beginning: Board Book Delights & Good Book Habits

Board Book Delights

Do you cherish these board-book-filled days as much as I do?  They’re sweet and tender aren’t they?  We’re all preparing the soil in these delight-filled early years, and it is no less important that we do so with sweet and sturdy little books that are inviting and build the imagination with the good, true and beautiful.

P1090394I’m often asked about our favorite board books, and I thought I’d share some of our treasures with you – maybe a few of these ideas will give your reading basket a hopeful start.  You’re beginning, right now in these earliest of years, to rebuild the culture!  Yes, that’s right – without a curriculum, without a scope and sequence, without overthinking it – one small basket of thoughtfully chosen books is all that is needed to begin to prepare their imaginations…beginning with the good.

There are many ways to begin to open doors to delight – in imaginative play, working purposefully alongside mom and dad, and plenty of time with little books.  You’ll start right here, sitting for short moments, building and stretching little bits at a time so that your little one begins to engage – lovely pictures, beautiful and simple words, and sing-song rhymes.  These are the foundations upon which a rich and fertile imagination begins to grow so that one day, having been prepared by Hickory Dickory Dock and Home For a Bunny, your child is ready for the more sophisticated poetry of the Psalms or Shakespeare.


{Charlotte Mason, Home Education, p. 161}

It can be discouraging – your perfect little basket of books, a comfy chair, sunlight coming through the windows at exactly the right angle, a quiet moment which seems to beg for this idyllic moment you’ve built up in your mind – and your toddler wants nothing to do with sitting still in your lap to read.  Be patient!  Here are some ideas for beginning with an eye toward the reality of the curious and active toddler.


  • Sit on the floor!  Little people like it when you’re with them, in their space.  Sit down, grab a book and start reading.  Perhaps your little one will wander over out of curiosity, perhaps not.  Either way, you’re filling the moment with your voice tenderly allowing the words in the book to become a part of that space.
  • Read the little book as if it is the first time you’ve ever encountered that book.  Allow yourself to be engaged.  Your open-ness to the wonder and delight in that little book will be attractive.
  • Don’t put board books on a shelf – keep them in a basket or a sturdy bag and low enough that little one can bring a book to you.  {Save your shelf space for big kid and adult books.}  Build a thoughtful little library of board books so that you can have a few in each room.
  • Don’t set out your entire collection of board books all at once!  Be choosy!  Set out 5 – 6 sweet little books at a time in a small basket.  Too many books usually equals –> pile and throw and toss and chew.  One small little basket of just a few books is easier to manage.  I like to set mine out by season, or by theme – so all the fall, pumpkin board books will be out soon.  We just had a bunny theme set out.  There are no rules here, really.  Your selection could be random, or if you’re just starting to collect, it might be small!  Smallish is very attractive to little hands!
  • Their dear little attention spans are not long, so don’t be discouraged if you get through a page – one page – and your little one is ready to move on.  That’s ok!  Good habits start very small!!  One little page today, maybe a page and a half tomorrow, two pages the next…and so on!  The point is — be content with small and build from there.
  • Be choosy!  There are so many board books out there, and here is where you will have the first opportunity to choose worthy and delightful books.  You’ll meet authors that will be friends for a lifetime if you choose well.  You certainly don’t have to be a board book snob, but if you have a quantity of board books with characters from Nickelodeon, you may want to reconsider a few, move them along, and begin to introduce books which delight the senses and inspire the imagination – worthy little books!

And then…start with simple little book rules right now.  When your little one starts to abuse or misuse a board book, there’s no need to be apoplectic or even scolding – simple and gentle little actions and words will help to begin to set a tone of respecting family books.  Simple stuff, really!  But it begins to lay a foundation of treating things with respect and general tidiness.  Moms of littles, these are habits you want to start building now!  Trust me!

  • If little one begins to chew on a book –> remove the book and gently say, “we don’t eat our books {smile}” and hand little one a chewy toy.
    • You ask: What if baby throws a fit because I took the chewy-delicious-heavenly-cardboard book away?  That’s ok.  Again, no need to go ballistic.  Let little one express his/her displeasure.  They do not get the book back though, nor do they get your attention until they’re done throwing the fit.  No bargaining, no begging, cajoling, pleading – no nothing.  Just let them be and walk away…of course, staying within reasonable distance to ensure things are safe.
  • If little one throws the books –> start collecting books and putting them back in the basket {remember this is easier to do if you’ve only set out a small collection rather than all 160 board books that you own} and say, “Oh dear, we must be done reading.  We don’t throw our books.”
    • You ask: What if baby throws a fit because I took the book away?  See above measures.  Stay calm, don’t get upset or take it personally.  You just rained on little one’s parade.  Into each life a little rain must fall!!
  • One time, each day, cheerfully announce, “It’s tidy time!” and let your little one help you pick up books and stack them back in the basket.
    • You ask:  What if my little one absolutely, positively REFUSES to help tidy her little toys and books?  Time to learn!  First off, make sure your toy area doesn’t have enough toys and books to stock 5 aisles of Toys-R-Us!  I’d be overwhelmed by that, too!  Just a couple of simple baskets of toys is all that is needed at one time!  And one simple basket of books!  Now, take little one’s hand, and gently guide them to one book, pick it up, put it in the basket. Speak cheerfully and sing-songy – make a fun song out of tidying together.  Most little ones LOVE to help mommy!

P1090398The following is a list of some of our treasured board books.  Not all are in print, so I’ll try to link you to vendors that offer the book at a good price.  {Full Disclosure:  Most links go through my Amazon Affiliates account.  Thank you!}

These are classic gems:

Eloise Wilkin has always been a favorite author/illustrator of ours.  Her board books are no exception.

The Beatrix Potter board books are an excellent introduction to Miss Potter’s delightful tales!  These would be excellent for older toddlers and each of these retain Miss Potter’s original illustrations and story!

Out of print lift-the-flap books by Sweetwater Press.  These are such delights if you can find them!

Also out of print, but really delightful in simplicity and illustrations are the Look & See Books that are a part of the First Look Nature Books series.

The following books are relatively new, but the idea is simple, the books are based on literary characters {Baby Lit Books} or famous artists {Mini Masters}.  The Mini Masters contain collections of each artist and a very simple poem connects the art pieces through the book.  The Baby Lit series takes counting or opposites or letters, etc., and weaves the literary characters in the theme.  I find both series quite charming!

And…just because it’s one of my favorite times of the year – Autumn Picture Books

I am very picky about children’s illustrations when it comes to conveying the faith.  I do NOT like it when Our Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the prophets, patriarchs and apostles are portrayed in cartoony-style art.  Therefore, I’m only linking the very few board books I recommend.

And one last recommendation…

  • Babybug – Though these are not technically board books, my littles have truly enjoyed this sturdy, smallish magazine-like baby book that arrives monthly.  The pages are small and easily turnable.  There are nursery rhymes, clapping games, and simple stories. {In the pictures above, my Lauren is holding and enjoying one of the Babybug magazines}  They’re also easy to tuck in a bag for a day out of the house!  We like bringing the older, familiar BabyBug magazine-books because my little one is familiar with the story and sometimes when you’re out in unfamiliar spaces having a familiar book friend is comforting.  With some care (nothing crazy!  I mean, our little Babybug mags have folds and creases – they’re loved!) this set can last through a few children.  We’re on a second toddler with one set of Babybug books.

Your Turn to Share


Please do share with me any of your favorite board books!  I’m always looking for a few more treasures {especially with Christmas and birthdays coming up}, and I know others will check in and enjoy as well!  If I didn’t list one of your favorites, share with me!



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      1. Jen, Henry is absolutely precious! I’ve already told my kids that when they have their many children and all live by me that I will host Story Time with Mamó 🙂 Can’t wait!!!!!

        How are you, friend? I should have my new iPhone up and running this weekend. After that, would love to chat! My best to you & yours always ❤

  1. I’m nodding in agreement with what you have written. You’ve listed some of our favorite board books and some others with which we are unfamiliar. I look forward to reading some of the unfamiliar books to my little ones, helping them to make “new friends”.

    A few other books that my children have liked include: Time for Bed by Mem Fox; Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney; The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don Wood; Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You by Dr. Seuss; We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury; Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do You Hear? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle; and The Boy with a Drum by David Harrison, illustrated by Eloise Wilkin. I wish that Golden Books would republish the last book. We have an old copy (not a board book) that belonged to my husband. He was happy to see this wonderful story again when his parents gave it to us. My boys and girls have all asked for The Boy with a Drum to be read over and over and over again.

    Thank you for this great post!

    1. I didn’t know that the Red, Ripe Strawberry came in board book form, Christine! We love that book! Thanks for letting me know about that! I know what you mean about those treasured Golden Books, too!! I have my original copy of Good Little, Bad Little Girl {Esther and Eloise Wilkin} – such a GREAT little book for littles when talking about emotions and acting on emotions and the consequences! Wish they’d reprint that classic!

      Thanks for sharing your additions! I’m taking notes! 🙂

      1. You’re welcome, Jen. Oh, we have my sister-in-law’s copy of Good Little, Bad Little Girl. You are so right about how it helps to teach young children about emotions and acting on emotions.

  2. Love your list, and pretty much have them all. We had a few seasonal ones, too. I purged some of our board books…it was sad. I only saved the very precious ones for my grandchildren.

    A few we loved that you didn’t list: “Runaway Bunny,” “My World,” and “Goodnight Gorilla.” I also found a board version of “Baby Farm Animals” by Garth Williams that they loved to death.

    1. Glad I’m not the only one with seasonal board books, Jenn. And, I’m really glad to know about the Garth Williams book – I have really started collecting books he illustrated over the last few years. I have a few of the Golden Books, obviously the Little House books, but didn’t know there was a board book version of Baby Farm Animals and I’d love to find that! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Every time I get to do board books again I become re-enchanted with my favorites! A few we especially love: I am a Bunny, the board book versions of Harry the Dirty Dog and Little Fur Family, Jan Brett’s board books, and the charming wordless board books by Gerda Muller (one for each season). These are the ones I end up having to replace because they are so well loved. <3

    1. Well, I’m really learning a lot from y’all!! Again, I had no idea that Harry the Dirty Dog was in board book format! We love Harry!! I like the Gerda Muller books, too. Very simple and I just love how they inspire their own sharing and story words each time.

  4. Lovely! Thank you so much. And I love your suggestions for teaching babies good book-tending habits, too 🙂 A lot of our favorites are already listed, but we also love the Gossie series (Olivier Dunrea), Silly Sally and The Big Hungry Bear (2 separate books both by Audrey Wood), We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Helen Oxenbury), Little Blue Truck (Schertle and McElmurry) and Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? (Nancy White Carlstrom).

  5. My four year old still calls board books – “wooden books”, despite the number of times we have corrected her! We have a handful of those you have suggested – but our bookshelf is complemented with an Australian-English selection. Perennial favourites here are: Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell; Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill; We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen; I Went Walking by Sue Williams (illustrated by Julie Vivas who wrote my favourite Nativity book ever!); Peepo! and Each Peach Pear Plum both by Janet and Allan Ahlberg; the Virgina Miller Bartholomew books; and Lynley Dodd’s Slinky Malinki and Hairy Maclary books. More recent board book publications we have enjoyed are Owl Babies by Martin Waddell, The Rain Train by Elena De Roo (my MIL bought this for our son and it is great), Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson and On the NIght You Were Born by Nancy Tillman.

    1. That is so funny about your daughter calling board books, “wooden books!” I’ve been eyeing Owl Babies, so I’m glad to hear you recommend it, Sarah. And I’m really eager to look into the rest on your list! Thank you so much for sharing!

  6. So many favorites listed here! My kids loved the little mouse books by Noelle Carter and I went walking by Sue Williams. My boys loved the DK books as well- pointing to pictures and talking got them interested in reading.

  7. I packed away our board books this year. Lots of boxes in the guest room closet. It was very sad. I could not bear to part with any of them and all their memories. One evening this summer I could not find six children – I walked upstairs and found them all spread around the guest room …the board books were out of the closet, and everyone from 5 to 17 was enjoying a board book fest…..

  8. What a great list!! We have a few others we like… Eric Carle’s First Colors, Jamberry, and a Winnie the Pooh board book with original illustrations called Piglet is Entirely Surrounded by Water. My kids have liked the Sandra Boynton books like Belly Button Book and Pajama Time because of the silly and catchy rhymes. Have you seen the St. Joseph board books: We Go to Mass, Our Friends the Saints, Mary Our Mother, etc? There are about six of them… the illustrations are cartoons but are very pretty, I think, and remind me of Little Golden Book style drawings. The books have little built-in handles at the top. We have a couple others on our wish list at Amazon… My First Root Children and All Creatures Great and Small, which I had seen recommended in a couple different places.

  9. I’m not sure this hasn’t been mentioned (I scanned the comments) but we LOVE The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson and illustrated by Julie Morstad. My kids love the swinging rhythm of the poem and the illustrations are just adorable. We also have a Madeleine book in board form that we love! Sometimes the most beloved books are easier for little hands when they are shrunk down like the board Madeleine.

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