Great Books for 2 year olds: What to look for
Identifying books for 2 year olds is a great first step to support their growing language and literacy development. But it can be difficult to select the best books for 2 year olds because the attention spans for younger 2’s might differ significantly from older 2’s. We’ve presented a collection that will carry your child right up to age 3, but if you feel it’s too advanced for what your child needs at the moment, check out our favorite books for 18-24 month olds.
Another great resource to leverage is your local library. The librarians in the children’s section of the library can help you find age appropriate books for your child. If getting to your library is too cumbersome, just give them a call and ask them for their top books for 2 year olds!
If you couldn’t make it to story time, ask them what stories were read that week and incorporate those books into your rotation. Finally, ask if your library offers free home delivery. This perk has been a lifesaver in my household.
Our friends at Zero to Three have a few suggestions for busy families: read while you are waiting for appointments, before bed, or during bath time; sing or tell your child stories as you drive in the car; keep books within easy reach for children to get by themselves; keep some books in the car they can access as well. Making these small changes will help build their vocabulary and listening skills and will help you bond with your child.
1. Llama Llama Red Pajama
If your toddler is putting up a fight during bedtime because they want you near, Llama Llama Red Pajama is the perfect book to start with.
Llama Llama and his mama go through their nighttime routine (story time followed by bedtime) but as Mama Llama heads downstairs to prepare for the next day, Llama Llama craves a little more snuggle time with his Mama.
He goes through various motions of despair as he waits for (what seems to him), forever, for his Mama to come back upstairs. Mama Llama seeks to understand what Llama Llama is feeling before tucking him in bed for the second time.
What could be more comforting to a little one than knowing that a llama feels the same way they do?!
2. Roar! Roar! I’m a Dinosaur!
This sturdy board book is great for younger 2’s who can’t get enough of dinosaurs! Toddlers can use their fingers to make a dinosaur’s jaw chomp and make their tail swoosh.
It’s a compact book which makes it perfect for stashing in the car or in the seat back of a plane.
What a great way to learn about dinosaurs and to satisfy the need of a dinosaur-obsessed toddler. It’s easy to see why this tops the list as one of the best books for 2 year olds.
3. In My Ocean
Your child will love poking their finger through the pages pretending to be a dolphin! They’ll get to experience life below the surface! The illustrations are simply stunning.
This book is part of a series so if your child is more of a bird, bear, or butterfly lover, there is a book out there just for them!
An added bonus of this book especially if you have a baby, is that you can use the finger puppet feature of this book to help develop the grasping skills of a 6 month old.
4. Piggy Pie Po
This fun rhyming book follows the adventures of a lovable pig who gets into everything (and I mean everything)!
There are relatable moments in the book for kids like bubble baths, painting, and not being able to tie your shoe.
And then there are moments you hope your two year old doesn’t experience like stuffing a habanero pepper in their mouth. But, the illustrations do an excellent job of capturing what would happen if they did…
This is one of my favorite books for 2 year olds.
5. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell
If you thought the old lady who swallowed a fly was bit odd, image meeting a lady who swallowed a bell (and a sleigh)!
This book is great for a number of reasons: you can sing it instead of reading it; you can ask your child to identify the items she is swallowing; and you can ask your child to find certain items hidden on the page.
A delightful book to read in December, but this book is also a part of a series so there are books for 2 year olds incorporating St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and other celebratory occasions.
6. The Little Dump Truck
This is one of the perfect books for 2 year olds who love trucks. The main character in the book is a small but mighty dump truck! This rhyming book illustrates the day in the life of a dump truck who is proud of the job he does.
Make sure you brush up on your truck vocabulary so you can keep up with your 2 year old. Ask them to spot tow trucks, front loaders, excavators, cement mixers, and more!
And to keep it fresh and interesting, especially if you’re being asked to read this book multiple times a day, try singing the words!
7. 1 Grumpy Bruce
This is one of my favorite counting books for 2 year olds. It features Bruce the Bear, who is a bit grumpy, despite many attempts by friends who ‘bring the party’.
Each page introduces more new friends so count along with your child, as some of his friends are hiding!
The illustrations are fantastic and most adults will laugh because they have probably met a ‘Grumpy Bruce’ at some point in their lives.
8. Hooray for Hat!
This book focuses on a group of animals cheering up their sad friends. They do everything in their power to make them feel happy…and then they all celebrate together!
If you’ve ever had a toddler who woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and you spent time trying to turn that frown upside down (into a smile), you’ll be able to relate. One of the must-read books for 2 year olds.
Final Thoughts on Great Books for 2 Year Olds
Reading to your child is a great thing to do at any age, but if you’ve got a 2 year old you may only have a short window of time to keep their attention. We’ve featuring the best books for 2 year olds, no matter if they just turned two or are well on their way to three.
Don’t forget: once you find a book your child is interested in, make it come to life by asking questions, like “What’s this? Can you find that? What happens next?”
You can even liven up books for 2 year olds by changing your voice for each character in the book or singing the book instead of reading it. Be imaginative and most of all, have fun!