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12 Classic Board Books You Need to Buy Before Your Kid Is Born

It’s never too early to start reading to kids, or for kids to start handling books — honing manual dexterity by opening covers and turning pages, and exploring all the colorful complexity of board books designed for the youngest readers. The best baby board books serve a couple of purposes. Not only do board books provide easy and educational entertainment for babies, they’re also incredibly durable. Considering most infants’ interest in books largely centers on their chewability, board books will fare much better than their paper counterparts. Whether you’re looking for a board book for a baby boy or girl (hint: there’s no difference), baby board books make great gifts and registry items. These dozen board books offer timeless tales that parents won’t mind reading over and over again, or at least for the first 100 times.

The Best Board Books for Every Baby’s Library

Another Caldecott winner, this one from 1962, ‘The Snowy Day’ tells the story of a little boy named Peter who wanders joyfully through a snow-bound city. Told in striking collage illustrations, ‘Snowy Day’ follows Peter as he stamps tracks in the snow, packs snowballs and makes a snow angel.

Margaret Wise Brown's timeless tale of parental devotion belongs in every library. As a little bunny describes all the ways in which he plans to run away from home (by becoming a fish and swimming away, by climbing high into the mountains or turning into a flower), his mother reassures him that she will come find him ('I will become a fisherman and I will fish for you').

You probably remember the ‘Very Hungry Caterpillar’ from back when you were a kid. However, you might not remember the ‘hole’ story. That freaky little caterpillar eats a lot! On the last day he tears through cake, ice cream, a pickle, cheese, salami, a sausage, a cupcake … basically he has a normal evening for a pregnant lady.

From Japanese author Taro Gomi, this is a simple, lovely story of how others help us to learn new things. The girl in Gomi's book learns how to run from her friend the horse, to jump from a helpful dog, and to climb a tree from her pal the monkey. With beautiful illustrations and the repetitive cadence that tiny readers love, this tale of mastery will grow with kids into toddlerhood.

A classic retelling of the Paul Bunyan story, only this time the steam shovel is the hero, not the villain. ‘Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel’ was first published in 1939, when the nation was perhaps more enamored of heavy machinery than massive blue oxen, but the lesson remains the same: There will always be a newer, bigger, faster version of you coming down the pike, but heart, hard work, and determination can outlast mere technical progress. Clearly, Virginia Lee Burton never saw ‘The Terminator.’

A Caldecott winner from 1943, ‘The Little House’ tells a story of a well-built abode in the country that’s eventually engulfed by really poor urban planning. Luckily a great granddaughter of the original builder comes to the rescue in the end. But one thing remains mysterious: While the little house in the story is certainly mighty mighty, there is no mention of it being made out of brick.

Pat the Bunny is the OG of the touch-and-feel genre, offering kids a sensory experience within a very loose narrative. Actually it isn’t so much a narrative. It's more a list of commands for the kid to interact with the various pages. Said pages are decked out in in things like fake rabbit fur and even sandpaper to mimic your 'scratchy face.' So maybe stop shaving with a sharpened rock already.

You can probably recite the short and sweet rhythm of Margaret Wise Brown’s classic from heart. But in case you haven’t read this book a million times, it’s the story of a sleepy rabbit saying goodnight to everything in his great green room, including your kid. Although even a toddler has to ask, why does a bunny need both a comb and brush?

Harold applies his purple crayon to the task of drawing himself into a moonlit walk. But it’s not long before he veers off the straight and narrow path he’s made into a crazy town of his own mind. While it's true that Harold appears to be drawing on the walls, he's still the Prince of classic children’s books, considering his purple reign.

Harry is a cute-as-hell dog with a serious issue: He doesn’t like baths. So when he hears one being drawn for him he buries the scrub brush in the backyard and goes on an adventure through various grimy locations around the city, from running around the railroad yard to sliding down coal chutes. Soon he’s gone from being a white dog with dark spots to a dark dog with white spots — and is unrecognizable to his human family.

A sweetly rhyming book with some fine illustrations of an idyllic life in a different era, ‘1 Is One’ takes your kid on a journey all the way to 20. Along the way they’ll learn things like what a ‘heath’ is. Also, how people used to serve cherries on white china plates, and how a dude named Tom wrote on his slate (which was probably some counterintuitive column about how 1 isn’t actually ‘one’ but ‘two’).

This modern classic is a timeless tale of how a dad should absolutely never let his son win at anything. OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration. The father-and-son nutbrown hare team are actually going back and forth over who has the most love for the other. Still it’ll drill the message into your kid that they will never love you more than you love them. And they’ll never be able to beat you at anything. Ever.

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