Editor's Picks: Books for One Year Olds
Updated November 2016
The second year is an exciting one in a young reader's life! Towards the beginning of the year, your child may or may not have the patience to sit through a short book, or the motor skills to turn the page or open a flap. But by the end of the year, she'll likely not only be able to flip through books herself, but also understand much of what you're reading to her and be able to follow along with simple stories.
You can support her blossoming language skills by having a good variety of books on hand, and reading to her frequently. Integrating books into your daily routine (e.g., always reading a book before bed) is a great way to make sure you get in a minimum amount of quality reading time, even on your family's busiest days.
Simple books work best, but you can really adapt any book to be appropriate for your one year old just by abbreviating and simplifying the text. Don't be afraid to re-read familiar titles, as repetition is key to your child grasping new concepts and continuing to build her vocabulary.
Traditional board books, interactive/activity books, and first words books are great for most one year olds. When your child is ready, you can also add a few concept books to your child's library to introduce concepts such as colors, numbers, and shapes.
Below are our picks for best one-year-old books by subcategory:
Note: Our editors developed this list by summarizing TotScoop parent favorites and adding a few hand-picked editor favorites and new releases. Our picks are 100% unbiased — we never accept compensation in exchange for coverage. That said, this page may contain affiliate links, meaning we may receive a small commission on any purchases that you make (at no cost to you); see our full disclosure.
You may also be interested in the following related guides:
Best general board books
Featuring breathtaking illustrations from famed illustrator Richard Scarry, I Am a Bunny ($5 at Amazon) follows Nicholas the rabbit through the seasons, as he picks flowers, chases butterflies, lies in the sun, prepares for winter, and finally settles down to hibernate until the following spring. It's a calming, serene read that is perfect for quiet time or bedtime.
Budding engineers will love Choo Choo ($5 at Amazon), which follows a train on its voyage from the city to the seaside. Die-cut pages, wonderful graphical illustrations, and sound effect prompts (you provide the vocal power) provide endless entertainment for little ones.
We love Sandra Boynton — she's one of the few authors we can think of whose works adults enjoy as much as kids. This Big Box of Boynton Set ($12 at Amazon) features three books particularly well suited for one year olds. Barnyard Dance! encourages young kids to dance and move to its clever rhyming story. Pajama Time is a great bedtime book starring a parade of lovable animals and their fun pajamas. Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs! introduces the concept of opposites. Boynton's Greatest Hits: Volume 1 and Boynton's Greatest Hits: Volume II, which are featured as picks in our 6-12 month old book guide, also remain excellent picks for one year olds as well.
This classic color primer book is loads of fun with its singsong prose and original illustrations. Children will be delighted as each animal points out the color of the next animal in the book and it won’t be long before they are able to read it by themselves. Brown Bear, Brown Bear is also a great way to introduce children to animals with which they may not yet be familiar.
Following up on the immense success of her wonderful Llama Llama series for toddlers, author Anna Dewdney has since introduced a number of simpler board books for babies. Llama Llama's Little Library ($15 at Amazon) includes four short titles with simple rhyming text: Llama Llama Nighty-Night, Llama Llama Zippity-Zoom, Llama Llama Hoppity-Hop, and Llama Llama Wakey-Wake. Once your little one is ready to graduate to the main series (usually around age 2), start with Llama Llama Red Pajama.
The board book version of the classic book The Very Hungry Caterpillar ($8 at Amazon) — a favorite for over 40 years — features the same wonderful text and stunning illustrations, but is smaller and more durable. Baby will delight in exploring the multiple page sizes and holes throughout (reflecting the caterpillar's eating rampage). It's a feast for the senses!
A must-have in any toddler's collection, Is Your Mama a Llama? ($5 at Amazon) follows a young llama as he (along with your child) learns to identify a number of different animals — including his own kind. It features clever rhyming riddles that adults as well as kids will adore. Recommended for 18+ months.
The Little Red Box ($10 for 4-pack at Amazon) includes abridged board book versions of four classic Beginner Books from P.D. Eastman and Michael Frist. Big Dog... Little Dog provides a great introduction to adjectives, opposites, ... and best friends! Go, Dog. Go! introduces more opposites (e.g. up and down, small and big). The Alphabet Book features a single phrase and picture to illustrate each letter (e.g. "American ants" for "A"). I'll Teach My Dog a Lot of Words teaches opposites, colors, and actions. Recommended for 18+ months.
The board book Baby Beluga ($6 at Amazon) is a wonderful companion to the beloved Raffi song. Its stunning illustrations allow it to stand alone as a wonderful board book all on its own; but once you start singing the song to the illustrations, your child will be in heaven. If you have yet to discover Raffi, well then, you're in for a treat! Here's the album conatining the Baby Beluga song.
Best interactive/activity books
The Wheels on the Bus ($18 at Amazon) illustrates the ever-popular song by the same name — and incorporates ingenious feats of paper engineering with moving parts to mesmerize your baby. Push and pull tabs cause the bus doors to open and close, the windshield wipers to swish back and forth, and so on. It's a bit too fragile for a one year old to read solo, but you'll love reading it along with him to start anyway. This book is a no-brainer — just get it!
Fisher Price's Little People book series accompanies their namesake toy line. They're not only very engaging, thanks to the flaps, but each book also covers a number of different educational themes (e.g. colors in one two-page spread, numbers in another, etc.). Our featured pick, Planes, Cars, Trucks, and Trains ($8 at Amazon), follows Little People discovering different modes of transportation at the airport, train station, city, and harbor. Other books in the series explore school, people's occupations, holidays, and more; see the entire series on Amazon here.
This lift-the-flap book ($8 at Amazon) will delight young truck lovers. Each of eight different tabs explore a different type of truck (e.g. dump truck, tractor, big rig, mail truck, etc.). If your truck aficionado hungers for more, also check out Priddy's oversize My Big Truck Book.
Matthew Fleet has created a wonderful series of sturdy interactive flap books, each revolving around a different concept. This favorite, Tails ($14 at Amazon) features not only wonderful animal illustrations, but also tons of interactive elements, from feathers and textures to flaps and moving parts. If you like this style of interactive books, also check out Matthew Van Fleet's other books on Amazon.
Best early learning books: First words, opposites, colors, numbers, and shapes
My First Words ($8 at Amazon) is a top choice in this category, and will grow with your child from first words through more advanced vocabulary. It contains an excellent cross-section of words across 13 themed two-page spreads: "All about me!" (body parts and positions), "Clothes and shoes," "Around the house," "Food and drink," "Pets," "Playtime," "Things that go," "At the park," "At the beach," "On the farm," "In the wild" (animals), "Colors and shapes," and "Numbers." This is a larger book, best suited for home use. Once your baby graduates from the basics, the other books in the series are also highly recommended.
This great three-in-one book ($5 at Amazon) provides a great basic introduction to numbers, colors, and shapes, all in a pint-sized package that is easy for little hands to hold and to take on-the-go. Recommended for ages 18+ months, or whenever you feel your child is ready for those concepts.
This great bundle ($20 at Amazon) includes three of Leslie Patricelli's opposite books: Yummy Yucky, No No Yes Yes, and Big Little. They all feature her beloved and expressive baby character; a simple, bright graphical style; and a simple repetitive format that is great for stimulating speech and cognitive development. See all of Patricelli's books on Amazon here.
This compact little book ($4 at Amazon), a sister volume to the super popular First 100 Words provides the perfect introduction to the animal world. It's the perfect size for little hands and to take on-the-go. Parents with real animal aficionados can also check out Priddy's oversize My Big Animal Book.
Best good night books
In addition to the following picks, also check out our recommended good night books for six to 12 months, which continue to be great for one year olds: The Going-To-Bed Book by Sandra Boynton and A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na.
This sweet bedtime book (board book $6, hardcover $10 at Amazon) from beloved Australian author Mem Fox features stunning illustrations of parent-child animal pairs and simple soothing rhymes. The large hardcover version is gorgeous and is worth the extra cost. Highly recommended.
This sweet bedtime story ($6 at Amazon) features a relaxed tone and reassuring words that encourage your child to go to sleep without any fear of the darkness: "the night is just a blanket that helps the earth to sleep"; "I'll be here if you need me — I'm only steps away."
And of course we can't neglect to mention this eternal classic ($7 at Amazon). It's perfect for soothing your baby and slowing down the mind as bedtime approaches, and is a steadfast component of many families' bedtime routines!