As I’ve said before, I love the idea of getting kids a book with a matching gift. This combination can help bring the book to life and extend their imaginative engagement with the story. Over the next week, I’m going to be sharing gift guides for several different age groups that include books appropriate for that age with a matching toy or gift idea. I’m sharing these early this year because I know shipping has been slow in some areas and people may want to get an early start on those gift lists! To see gift guides for older children, check out our preschool, elementary, and middle grade guides.
I’ve decided to include a baby and toddler category this year because there are so many wonderful books for this age group and I truly believe in the benefit of reading to even very young children. For this age group, I’ve tried to find books that come as a board book whenever possible. It’s so important for babies and young children to be able to “play” with their books, chew on them, try turning the pages themselves, etc. Board books allow for this kind of interaction without parents having to stress out about the book getting torn or baby getting a paper cut. I also tried to find books that would appeal to kids all the way through preschool so that the recipients of these gifts will have many years to enjoy them. Whenever possible, I’ve suggested interactive gifts instead of things like clothing, blankets, or stuffed animals. However, this is a little bit harder to find for babies so I have included a very cute stuffed rabbit here and a few baby items that might be more for parents’ comfort than babies’ enjoyment. For example, the Skip Hop portable owl noise machine was a life-save for us with our son who slept best with some white noise in the background. There is a wide variety of price points in these gifts, although I tried to keep most of the gifts under $50. I linked to most of the books on amazon.com for convenience, but you could definitely find most of these in a local book shop as well. I’d love to hear any feedback about your experiences with these products or how these gifts were received by the kids in your life. Happy Holidays!
Little Owl’s Night by Divya Srinivasan is a lovely, calming read for little ones at bedtime. In a clever twist, it follows a baby owl as he prepares to go to sleep as the sun comes up. We follow little owl as he sees many interesting sights in the forest at night and finally rests in a tree as the sun comes up. Short enough for babies to enjoy, with lots of animals and nature to point to, but also interesting for older toddlers and preschoolers.
The Skip Hop Stroll & Go Portable Baby Soother was a life saver for us when my son was at a certain age. He has always struggled to go to sleep on his own, but especially when he was in a new place or away from home. This is a portable white noise machine that can be set to play either music or nature sounds and can be set on a timer to turn off after either 15, 30, or 60 minutes. The owl is very sturdy and can be either set on a table top or attached to a crib, bed, stroller, or car seat with the strap on top.
You Matter is one of the latest books from author and illustrator Christian Robinson and is a wonderful choice for younger children. The book talks about different places, feelings, or situations that kids could be experiencing and affirms each time that no matter what the circumstances, each person matters. It is a simple concept but Robinson’s colorful, engaging illustrations and clever text make this a fun, impactful read for kids of all ages.
Robinson’s illustrations are always so rich with bright colors that I thought a rainbow toy would be a good match for this book. Skip Hop’s Silver Lining Cloud Rainbow Push Toy is a modern take on the classic push-and-pop toy for toddlers. Every time a child moves forward, colorful balls pop up in the rainbow, encouraging movement and gross motor skill development.
I love any book by Teagan White as her illustrations are always cheerful, cosy and beautiful. Counting with Barefoot Critters is especially great for babies because it has so many things to point to and talk about on each page. As kids get older, they can participate by counting the animals on each page, which corresponds to the number presented.
Reinforce the counting concepts from the book with these woodland friends stacking cubes. Colorful pictures on each cube shows a different animal, a number, and a picture of that number of items for kids to count. Great for either nesting or stacking, both of which work on fine motor skills. This is a toy that is both simple and very versatile.
Get your favorite baby started on the classics early with this board book version of the beloved favorite The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. Keats’ writing always manages to be adventurous, interesting, and soothing at the same time. A lovely celebration of winter, childhood wonder, and snow!
I love how the peaked shape of this baby hat mirrors the shape of the hat worn by the boy in The Snowy Day. This red Pixie Bonnet is made of soft organic cotton and has a chin strap to make sure it stays on in cold weather.
Celebrated author and illustrator Eric Carle sadly passed away this past May, but his legacy lives on in his brightly illustrated classics for young children. His most popular book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar continues to delight children with its fun design of holes punched in each page, as if the hungry protagonist is actually eating his way through the book!
Pair this classic childhood book with a basket of bright fabric vegetables from Haba toys. Every toy I have ever bought from Haba has been high quality and long lasting, so you can be sure these fabric vegetables will last for many years. These are perfect for babies who are still learning hand coordination as well as toddlers, and even preschoolers, who are transitioning to pretend play.
All of Baby Nose to Toes was one of my favorite board books to read with my little ones. It is a loving celebration of how perfect each child is, from their head to their toes. It is both a love letter to your baby and a good beginning anatomy lesson, as you can point to each body part that the story names.
The Baby Stella Doll from Manhattan toys is the perfect first baby doll. It is soft and safe for babies to play with, has a magnetic pacifier and easy to remove clothes for imaginative play, and comes in a wide variety of skin and hair colors. For about $10 extra, you can create a completely customized Baby Stella Doll that is packaged in a special gift box.
Playtown is a lift-the-flap book extraordinaire! Every page has lots of flaps of different sizes and shapes, each with a different surprise hiding underneath. This is a book that will grow with a child for years. There are so many colorful details on each page of this book that you could probably look at just one page in each sitting with a baby. For babies, this book is a wonderful opportunity to point to different objects in the pictures and build vocabulary, while a toddler or preschooler will want to start lifting the flaps and exploring the town for themselves.
This Grimm’s wooden toy car is a beautifully crafted object with bright, natural dyes adding color and a driver that can be removed and put back again. It’s simple design and bright colors make it perfect for little hands that are just beginning to play with vehicles and it would also make a lovely decorative object sitting in a nursery.
Pat the Bunny was first published in 1940 and is considered to be one of the first interactive children’s books. Rather than a story, this book is more of a collection of sensory experiences for babies. There are things to touch, sounds to make, and a mirror to look into. This is a wonderful gift for new parents since it is a book that even small babies can enjoy and has a highly interactive element for parents and babies to experience together.
I said I was not going to include stuffed animals or other “passive” sort of gifts in this list, but what else can you pair with Pat the Bunny other than a soft bunny for babies to pat? My kids have had several Jellycat stuffed animals over the years and they seem to hold up better than lots of other brands. My daughter in particular had one Jellycat bunny that lasted for years and always washed up very nicely. This Jellycat bunny soother is both a bunny and blanket, perfect for toddlers who like to go to sleep with something snuggly.
When my children were babies, I loved just about any book by Gyo Fujikawa. Her colorful illustrations always include a diverse group of children playing together and her stories use simple, straightforward language for little ones. Ten Little Babies is one of her classic board books that teaches simple counting concepts with a bunch of active babies. This book is also great for helping young kids recognize and name emotions!
I chose this handmade rainbow stacking toy to reinforce the concept of counting to ten. Stacking rainbows can be used in so many ways from counting and sorting to building and balancing. There are a ton of these stacking rainbows on the market, but not all of them include 10 pieces, and this looked like a particularly sturdy one at a reasonable price point.
If you have a baby or toddler who is rough on books, these Indestructibles board books might be the answer. They claim to be “Chew Proof and Rip Proof” and are made with non-toxic paper and inks. While I haven’t seen these claims tested, the Indestructibles books do seem very sturdy with thick pages and tough spines. A selection of these affordably priced books would be a wonderful gift on its own. Let’s Go Outside! by Ekatrina Trukhan is a lovely example with simple, bright illustrations and a short suggestion on each page of an activity to do outside.
This Jungle Baby Activity Tent from Maisonette is on the pricier side for the gifts I’ve featured here, but I think it is a gift that worth the extra expense. It can be used as a play mat, with just the bottom pad, or a portable tent for a fun reading nook or shade outside. The tent is beautiful, portable, and sturdy with removable hanging toys to capture baby’s attention. This is a great gift for helping families get outside by providing an easily portable shelter and shade option for young children.