The 21 Best Books for 3-Year-Olds
No longer a toddler. Not quite a grade-schooler. What should they read?
Finding the best books for 3-year-olds is an adventure worthy of its own book. By the age of 3, toddlers can handle increasingly sophisticated books. They can follow more complex narratives and sit still for longer stories than they might have as 2-year-olds. In general, toddlers are ready to dive into stories that are more interactive and layered.
And most 3-year-olds will have stopped eating their books and started devouring stories instead, meaning parents of 3-year-olds can move away from board books and toward early picture books with narrative, heart, and humor. Though they’ll still love a simple book about concepts like colors, numbers, or farm animals. (And parents will appreciate a shorter book come bedtime.)
These 21 books for 3-year-olds contain silly, moving, and interactive stories that parents and toddlers will appreciate for years to come. Just be prepared to read them a thousand times.
The Best Books for 3-Year-Olds
Oliver Jeffers' beautifully illustrated ode to our home planet unfolds as a humorous and moving introduction to everything about Planet Earth, from our place in space to the amazingly varied composition of air, land and sea — as well as humanity. From wild animals to bustling ports, this book offers tons to explore for 3-year-olds and beyond.
A mouse finds a new home inside the belly of a wolf. Barnett and Klassen have collaborated on a number of books, including the Caldecott Honor–winning ‘Sam and Dave Dig a Hole’ and the shape trilogy, ‘Triangle,’ ‘Square’ and ‘Circle.’ ‘The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse’ is a modern fable that features a party in a wolf’s belly with candlesticks and top hats. What’s not to love?
Listen: This stuff is dark (as in, your-friendly-protagonists-may-get-eaten dark). But it’s also hilarious. If you have an off-kilter sense of humor and want your child to share it, say hello to Jon Klassen’s hat series: ‘I Want My Hat Back,’ ‘This Is Not My Hat’ and ‘We Found a Hat.’
When someone tells you no, you just keep forging ahead. In this follow-up to favorites ‘Rosie Revere, Engineer’ and ‘Iggy Peck, Architect,’ Mexican-American Sofia Valdez is ready to take on a dangerous landfill. With Beaty’s spot-on rhymes, Roberts’ mod-cool art and empowering messages, the books in this series are little kid crowdpleasers.
A beautiful story about a rock that's meaningful to different creatures. This follow-up to Brendan Wenzel’s Caldecott-winning ‘They All Saw a Cat’ tells the story of an ordinary rock that is seen and used differently by different animals. It’s an exercise in perspective and awe.
You'll love this book where a boy throws an escalating pile of mayhem into a tree to get his lost kite. If you don’t know Oliver Jeffers from his art exhibits and coffee table book, you’re probably familiar with ‘The Day the Crayons Quit.’ Jeffers has oodles of lovable books for kids, but for sheer hilarity you can’t beat ‘Stuck.’
Three-year-olds will love telling the pigeon he can’t drive the bus, no matter how much he begs. Willems is expert at tapping into the preschool psyche. (And if they truly love it, there are a number of sequels in which they can deny him a hot dog, make him go to school and more.)
Sometimes, you need to just listen, and this book makes the concept accessible to 3-year-olds. When something bad happens, a series of animals have not-so-helpful solutions, until the rabbit gets it just right and listens. This sweet, simple story shows the power of emotional intelligence and empathy.
It's all about perspective, and this book teaches that mistakes can be beautiful. A parent hoping to instill a growth mindset into little ones would do well to add this charming book by Corinna Luyken to the library. It shows how imperfections can add up to something perfect.
This is a sweet story of a young unicorn born to a family of narwhals who thinks he's one of them. Kelp is born deep in the ocean and feels at home with his fellow narwhals, until a current sweeps him away and he discovers he’s actually a unicorn. Will he stay with the creatures like him, or return to his friends? He finds a beautiful way to be a little of this and a little of that.
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