Five elements of board books that make toddlers say “Again!?!”

IMG_20160302_210237Board books for toddlers are an interesting type.  I have to admit, as a parent, when it comes to stages of children’s literature, this is not my favorite.  The next stage, from approximately 3-5 years old, is what I enjoy most.  The animation, the simple lessons, the beauty in stories from the eyes of a child; I can’t get enough. What we are reading now is not that stage.

When we go to the library, I let Goose and Bear tear through the board book bins, pulling out a random selection of whatever was closest when they stuck in their hands.  When we sit down at home and read them, there is an occasional stand-out, but the majority seem so very….pointless.  I can already hear your questions, wondering how much of a point there can really be in stories for little people who simultaneously love and hate every choice put before them. My answer isn’t that I expect there to be some grand moral to every story, just that there is an element of the book that makes a two-year-old want to see it again.

For my daughters, what inspires them to keep bringing me a book again and again are those with at least one of these things:

  • Animation that is one to two steps above a stick figure.  They don’t appreciate anything complex, tiny, or extremely detailed.  A good example of this is the Leslie Patricelli Board Books series.  “Potty” and “Tubby” are very popular in my house, and the images are adorable and simple.
  • Characters that are mostly, if not all, animals or babies.  That’s pretty universal, I think we all gravitate towards those characters.  If you scroll through any of your social media feeds right now, chances are good you’ll find them both.
  • Pages where you can lift a flap, or a story-line involving hide and seek.  The girls are still in love with peek-a-boo games, and covering and uncovering objects, etc.  They fight over who gets to lift the flap in Rod Campbell’s “Dear Zoo“, even though they know exactly who is hiding underneath.  “Mommy! Mommy!” by Taro Gomi features two little chicks tracking down their mother, and my daughters point and yell when they find her too.
  • Changes in texture.  When there are little cut-outs made of shiny foil, or animal fur, or a bumpy strawberry, it engages them to interact with every page.  Those are the books they like to look at on their own, too, without anyone reading to them.  Carry-Me Diggers and Dumpers by Sarah Creese has patches on each page mimicking the texture of tires and tracks on the machinery, a handle to carry the book around, and very popular in our house.
  • Stories that are relatable to what they do every day. If they describe the simple routines like dressing, going to the store, eating with silverware, I see the recognition in their eyes, the excitement when they can point something out that they have already learned.

What other features did I miss?  What does your toddler love?  Please share any recommendations you have for other books with these attributes, too.  Anything to make the reading more exciting until we graduate to paper pages is a win for everyone.

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