Our 10 Must Have Toddler Books of 2020

You may or may not be able to remember precisely how you learned to read books as a toddler, but you have reaped the benefits of having learned to do so your whole life. Speaking, reading, listening and writing are fundamental aspects of modern human life and culture. Reading books to children not only opens their minds and imaginations, it teaches them communication and literary skills from which they will benefit their entire lives. 

Why It’s Important to Read Books with Your Toddler

Because kids are indeed like sponges that soak up the world around them, it is especially important for caregivers to be aware of what information they share with children and specifically what books they do or do not read to them. Especially toddlers, who are between the ages of 12 and 36 months of age, are very receptive to stories, pictures and ideas, often comprehending much more than they are given credit for.  Parents who regularly read stories to their children not only spend quality time with them and bond with them, they also help them to learn to imagine, to visualize, and not to mention to drift off to sleep. 

“Even reading to 9-month old infants is proven to benefit the development of babies.”

A 2017 study presented at the Pediatric American Societies Meeting found that the quantity and quality of books read to toddlers was strongly linked to better literary skills, such as name-writing at age four. Toddler books can help young children develop their self-confidence and their sense of safety and trust, to expand their growing vocabulary, to comprehend the world around them and to teach them grammar. Even reading to 9-month old infants is proven to benefit the development of babies. Children who are not read to at home on the other hand, may begin kindergarten at a disadvantage, having heard by some estimates one million fewer words than their peers who are read to daily.  

While the research is clear that reading to children daily is beneficial, and while we have come a long way from the days when fairytales were passed down orally from parents to children to impart lessons and knowledge relevant for survival, the question still remains, what are the best books to read to children and especially to toddlers? Our list of the best toddler books of 2020 is here to help you with that. As a bonus, these books also make great gifts for parents of toddlers.

We selected the following toddler books for this list based on a number of criteria including:

  • The message of the story has to have a positive emotional benefit for toddlers
  • The illustrations have to appeal to children
  • It must have been published in 2020
  • It must be suitable toddlers aged 12 – 36 months
  • As a bonus, parents should enjoy them too (especially since they may have to read them over and over!)

Without further ado, here is our list of our favorite toddler books that were published in 2020:

1. You Are Home with Me by Sarah Asper-Smith and Mitchell Watley

You Are Home with Me by Sarah Asper-Smith and Mitchell Watley

Summary: This sweet board book showcases the love between animal parents and their offspring. See how polar bears protect their cubs by making dens in the snow and how a lynx burrows a hole into a fallen tree to keep its kittens cozy in winter. Not only are the stories heartwarming, they are also educational as your toddler learns about where various animals make their homes. The gorgeously illustrated animal photos will surely turn your toddler into an animal lover if they are not yet one!

Why we recommend it: Every parent wants to make sure their child is warm and safe, just like the animal parents in the book. Seeing the baby animals feel what it is like to have a secure base will help children to also feel secure in their base. 

Buy your copy on Amazon.

2. Breathing is My Superpower by Alicia Ortego

Breathing is my superpower - Top 10 Toddler Books of 2020

Summary: We all have superpowers, most of us just do not know what they are. This fun paperback will teach your children the art of breathing so that they learn how to use breath to regulate their emotions and to healthfully manage unpleasant feelings. This skillset will help them to relax, to be mindful and to feel confident. Sofia is the heroine who will teach your toddler a breathing technique accompanied by rhymes and delightful photos.

Why we recommend it: Don’t we all wish we had learned how to breathe properly as children? Now your toddlers have the chance to learn a skill that will help them manage stress their entire lives.

You can purchase this book on Amazon.

I Thought I Saw A Panda! by Templar Books

3. I Thought I Saw A Panda! by Templar Books

Summary: This slider book delights toddlers as they seek to uncover the panda hiding in every scene. Illustrated by Lydia Nichols, even parents will enjoy this silly book thanks to the beautiful artwork. There are secret pandas hidden all over, so get ready to watch your child’s face light up with joy as they uncover the world of hidden animals. It is simple enough for even babies to follow along with it, and engaging enough for two- and three-year-olds to have fun with it. If you and your toddler enjoy this book, then check out the others in the series including bears, lions, elephants, dinosaurs and more.

Why we recommend it: Children can begin to develop an early appreciation for different types of animals by reading this fun book. Not only will it make them laugh, it will potentially set the seeds for them to delight over animals their entire lives.

Get the book here on Amazon.

4. Good Night Dublin (Good Night Our World) by Adam Gamble & Mark Jasper

Good Night Dublin (Good Night Our World) by Adam Gamble & Mark Jasper

Summary: Let your child explore Dublin without leaving the safety of their bed. The story begins with “good morning” and ends with “goodnight” – perfect for a bedtime story. In this board book, children can take a peek at Dublin’s most famous landmarks including Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Phoenix Park, the Dublin Zoo, Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle, National Botanic Gardens, Science Gallery and many more. If you enjoy this toddler book, then the Good Night Books Series has many other books about cities, countries and things.

Why we recommend it: Help your toddler to get a bite of the travel bug at a young age and to appreciate other countries and cultures. The book is also colorful and sturdy, so perfect to hold onto and pass to other generations.

Purchase your copy here on Amazon.

A Million Years From Home by Jana Broecker

5. A Million Years From Home by Jana Broecker

Summary: This charming book does not just fire children’s imaginations by showcasing dinosaurs, it also shows the power of a parent’s love for their child – even if it is not their biological child. A dinosaur egg that was trapped in ice for millennia is getting ready to hatch. It travels to find a safe place as a hungry African lioness follows it. The book contains elements of mystery – children get to interact and to predict what will happen next.

Why we recommend it: This rhyming children’s book is suitable for newborn babies and for children up to the age of 8 years old. It is perfect if you have kids of more than one age.

Get your copy of the book on Amazon.

Please Don't Tell Cooper He's a Dog by Michelle Lander Feinberg

6. Please Don’t Tell Cooper He’s a Dog by Michelle Lander Feinberg

Summary: This comical toddler book will have your whole family laughing. The rescue dog Cooper rightly believes himself to be one of the family. One of the human family members, that is. Cooper’s family dotes on him in this lighthearted and at the same time heartwarming story. Cooper even travels through Europe at one point, but his home is really where his heart is. The book showcases important themes such as kindness, loyalty and respect.

Why we recommend it: It is very relatable especially if your family has a dog or is thinking of getting one. The positive adoption story is also great for children to encounter at a young age.

Buy it here on Amazon.

Wild Home by Deanna Weeks Prunés

7. Wild Home by Deanna Weeks Prunés

Summary: This poetic tale encapsulates a theme difficult for everyone in life to understand and accept – and that is letting go. Sometimes truly loving something means setting it free, as is the case in this beautiful tale where a squirrel must return to its natural habitat – the wild. Not only does it teach compassion and caring, it teaches wisdom. Some animals are made to roam free and no matter how much you love them, you must respect their nature.

Why we recommend it: Your toddler will be captivated by the beautiful pictures and prose as they learn one of life’s most difficult lessons first hand. As a bonus, parents may feel they can relate to it when it is time for their children to leave home once they grow up.

Buy your copy on Amazon.

Play with Your Plate! by Judith Rossell - top 10 toddler books of 2020

8. Play with Your Plate! by Judith Rossell

Summary: Children love to play with their food, much to the annoyance of many parents. Your toddler will love using the book’s four mini board books to build plates based on prompts. For example, to mix together foods of the same type, shape or color. There are 4,000 possible combinations so this mix-and-match book will keep kids occupied for quite some time.

Why we recommend it: Between concerns about eating disorders and obesity, it is important for children to learn about nutrition and to develop a positive relationship with food at a young age. Help your kids to develop this healthy relationship with food in a fun and playful way, all while learning.

Get a copy of the book on Amazon.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar's Snowy Hide & Seek by Eric Carle

9. The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Snowy Hide & Seek by Eric Carle

Summary: This Christmas- themed story about the famous Very Hungry Caterpillar includes rhyming texts, beautiful illustrations and flaps that lift. Meet special guests including Santa Claus, polar bears, reindeers and lots of snow. Although the first “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” was published back in 1969, the author and series are still going strong 

Why we recommend it: A classic with a twist that will remind parents of their own childhood. Teach your child to love Christmas and watch their joy as they search for the hidden caterpillars.

Buy the book on Amazon.

Love Rays - Top 10 Toddler Books of 2020

10. Love Rays by Paula Sacks

Summary: What if animals could talk? Love Rays is a story that follows a young girl on an adventure in a magical forest. On this journey, she learns important life lessons with the help of her animal friends. Both toddlers and adults can benefit from the examples of healthy expression shown on the bright and beautiful pages. This story will engage the imagination of children while helping them connect emotionally through love. Like the fairytales of yore, Love Rays teaches by showing, bridging imagination with emotion.

Why we recommend it: Not only will your toddler fall into a peaceful sleep after hearing this delightful story, you will finish it feeling energized and ready to send out love rays with your own eyes. Never before has a story made it so easy to understand how to give your child love.

Purchase your copy for under $20 on Barnes & Noble or POWELLS.com or Amazon.

In Conclusion

Reading to and with your toddler is one of the best gifts you can give them. Hopefully this list will give you inspiration and help you to find the perfect book!

Sources used:

Paula Sacks LICSW, Attachment Specialist & Author
Meet the Author

Paula Sacks is a licensed, clinically trained social worker.

  • Co-author to the book “Attachment Disturbances in Adults,” recipient of the 2018 ISST-D Pierre Janet Writing Award
  • Completed advanced course training through Harvard Medical School
  • Provided 5,000 hours as a volunteer therapist to low-income clients from 2004-2017 in Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Licensure Board of Registration of Social Workers from 2010-2015 in Massachusetts
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