Editor's Picks: Books for Two Year Olds
Updated November 2016
It's simply a joy to witness the growth in most kids' mental capacity between 24 and 36 months, and there's perhaps no place that this will become more evident than in your reading sessions with your child. Get ready to have some fun!
Two year olds are generally ready to graduate from very simple to slightly more complex storylines. They often love rhyming and humor. We've divided up our general picks below into classic books and modern books. Most two year olds are also ready to engage in early learning topics such as learning opposites, colors, the alphabet, and numbers from 1 to 10. You can also feed their growing vocabularies with word books. There are also great book resources out there for helping your two year old to navigate two common life events for two year olds: potty training and becoming a big brother or sister!
Below are our editor's picks for two-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:
Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk! The heartwarming story Blueberries for Sal ($6 at Amazon), first published in 1948, tells the parallel stories of two youngsters — a child and a baby bear — on trips with their respective mothers to pick berries to store up for winter. The two pairs get mixed up on Blueberry Hill — but all gets sorted out at the end of the day, and not without instilling a sense of wonder at how similar we are to those majestic creatures. The simple 1940s-style illustrations, rendered in blueberry-colored ink, are absolutely charming.
Let the wild rumpus start! Where the Wild Things Are, the 1964 winner ($8 at Amazon) of the Caldecott Medal, follows mischievous Max, who is sent to bed without his supper and passes the evening following his imagination to the land of the Wild Things. This wonderful book celebrates both the magic of the imagination as well as the importance of home and acceptance. It has inspired generations of role playing and Halloween costumes, and simply a must-have for any child's library.
Most Dr. Seuss books are geared toward older kids, but a few of his simpler books have been adapted (abridged and put in board book format) into "Bright & Early Books for Beginning Beginners" books. This handy Little Blue Box set ($14 for 4-pack at Amazon) contains four great titles that are age-appropriate for two year olds, including Hop on Pop; Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!; Ten Apples Up On Top!; and The Shape of Me and Other Stuff.
Are You My Mother? ($8 at Amazon) follows a newborn baby chick on the adventure of a lifetime as he searches for his mother. Spoiler alert: he finds her, and all is right with the world in the end. It's one of our favorite Mommy & Me books — and makes the perfect gift for any mom and baby.
Brown is best known for her eternal classic Goodnight Moon, but we love the sweet book The Runaway Bunny* ($6 at Amazon) even more. Published in 1942, it tells the story of a young bunny who wants to run away: he describes all the theoretical ways in which he could try to get away, while his mother responds to each scenario with steadfast love and an unwavering commitment to getting him back. It's just the perfect Mommy & Me book.
Big Red Barn is yet another fantastic title from Margaret Wise Brown — this time exploring the life of animals on a farm (no humans are present in the book) over the course of a a day. From sunrise to sunset, we follow them as they play, explore, and finally sleep. The parting image is hauntingly beautiful. We recommend the gorgeous hardcover edition ($14 at Amazon), which is worth the extra cost.
The classic story Corduroy ($6 at Amazon) stars a lovable bear who lives in a department store and longs for someone to come and take him home. It has delighted children and parents alike for over 40 years, and it's just as relevant today. The love between the little girl who eventually comes along and falls in love with him will have you wiping a tear away every time.
Dewdney's fantastic Llama Llama series is highly recommended: its lovable main character and clever rhymes are consistent hits with kids and parents alike. Llama Llama Misses Mama ($12 at Amazon) explores the separation anxiety that Llama Llama experiences when he starts preschool — and is perfect for two year olds just starting daycare or preschool. If your child enjoys this title, Llama Llama Red Pajama (featured below) and Llama Llama Mad at Mama are also highly recommended.
We're in love with Cronin's wonderful farm series — including the introductory title Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type ($12 at Amazon), which follows the hijinks of Farmer Brown's farm animals — who discover and old typewriter and begin negotiations for better living conditions. This is one of the few series with the unique ability to appeal equally to adults and kids. If you and your child enjoy this title, the next book in the series, Giggle, Giggle, Quack, is every bit as good.
Beep! Beep! Beep! The fun farm book Little Blue Truck ($7 at Amazon) follows Blue, a little blue pickup truck, as he and his farm friends learn about the rewards of helping others — even those that haven't always been nice to us. The simple, rhyming text makes for a quick, satisfying read.
Perfect for the train aficionado in your life, Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo ($12 at Amazon) brings a child's playroom and train set to life as they prepare for a big train journey. The illustrations are vibrant and the rhyming text very well done.
The original tale Giraffes Can't Dance ($5 at Amazon) tells the story of Gerald the giraffe, an awkward dancer who learns that anyone can dance — once he discovers his own unique source of inspiration. We love the message that everyone marches to the beat of a different drummer, though not so much the fickle friends in the story (who only like Gerald when he's no longer a bad dancer). However, the fantastic illustrations and very well done rhyming text still make this a worthwhile overall.
This "kit" ($23 at Amazon) includes the book (a well-done rhyming story about a friendly monster who has just flown in from Planet Tickle) as well as an accompanying pair of tickle monster mitts — perfect for acting out the story live on your resident victims. The designers have thoughtfully put finger holes in the gloves so your tickling will be as efficacious as possible. The mitts are great fun, but if you're short on storage space (the box is huge) you can also opt just to get the book.
We love this book ($10 at Amazon) because it shows our tech-savvy generation of kids that "dumb" books can be engaging and interactive too! The book invites children to follow the journey of a yellow dot as it multiplies and bounces around the book. If your child enjoys this one, we also recommend Tullet's follow ups, Mix It Up! (provides a fun introduction to color theory) and Let's Play!.
Early learning books (opposites, colors, alphabet, numbers, vocabulary building, etc.)
The wonderful pop-up/flap book Animal Opposites ($14 at Amazon) uses illustrations of opposing animals to teach opposites, from the simple (heavy/light, short/tall, fat/thin, quiet/loud) to the more unusual (still/bouncy, smooth/spiky). The illustrations and execution are excellent.
My First Colors: Let's Learn Them All!, from the same DK Publishing series as the popular My First Words: Let's Get Talking!, is equally well done. It features a two-page spread for 11 major colors, and many different objects (all the same color) in each spread. A couple other favorites for teaching colors include Pantone: Colors and Little Owl's Colors by Divya Srinivasan
A favorite introduction to the alphabet, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom stars all 26 lowercase letters, as well as their elder uppercase letters. We recommend the hardcover version ($10 at Amazon) (the board book version ($5 at Amazon) is abridged, omitting the entire last part of the story).
Bright graphical illustrations and die-cut pages make the 26 letters of the alphabet (and a single word selected to illustrate each letter) simply come alive in Alphablock ($11 at Amazon). Great concept and very well executed. Also check out the companion title Countablock for a parallel introduction to numbers up through 100.
The compact little board book Animal Alphabet ($7 at Amazon) introduces the 26 letters of the alphabet via colorful illustrations of animals and fun sliding panels that will keep kids engaged as they try to guess what animal will accompany each letter.
Richard Scarry's Best First Book Ever ($9 at Amazon), containing over 700 words, is the perfect tool for building your child's vocabulary. The illustrations are (per Scarry's usual standard) fantastic as well.
Potty training books
Potty ($5 at Amazon) provides a great basic introduction to its namesake: it follows a baby's inner dialogue as he contemplates going pee in the potty ... and ultimately exclaims a delighted "I did it!" The basic text and graphical images are best suited for younger potty trainees (one and two years old).
Everybody Potties! ($9 at Amazon) from the I Can Do It series features a rhyming story line and is perfect for encouraging toddlers and preschoolers who are showing interest in the potty. The story line is easy to understand and can help make potty training a positive experience for any child.
Oh, poor parent of a child about to embark on a potty training journey, if only your 21-year-old self could see you now — reading a review of a book entitled Where's the Poop?! Anyway, this flap book ($7 at Amazon) introduces kids to potty training by showing that baby animals (and even a human child, in the last spread) all go poop. Your child hunts for the poop on each page, eliminating the mystery and making bodily functions a fun game. Woohoo!
Yep, it's a universal truth that Everyone Poops — and you've got a potty training kid now, so you might as well embrace it. This is a great addition to the library ($10 for paperback, $20 for "library binding" at Amazon) for littles who perhaps have trouble embracing their bodily functions.
New sibling books
My New Baby ($4 at Amazon) addresses lots of the basic situations and questions that toddler siblings are sure to encounter. It doesn't really have a developed toryline, rather just features scenes in the life of a family (e.g. getting dressed, eating/nursing, going for a walk together, bedtime) to provide you with opportunities to spark conversation on each topic with your toddler. Also check out Waiting for Baby (geared toward the earlier pregnancy stage) from the same author.
These gender-specific books (with one edition geared toward big brothers, one toward big sisters) ($6 at Amazon) are told through the eyes of the elder sibling. They cover all the things that babies do and don't do, so your child will know what to expect, and also help to plant the seed that being a big brother or sister is a special role.
Good night books
We can't recommend the gorgeous book Little Owl's Night ($12 at Amazon) highly enough — the illustrations are stunning, and the story is serene and full of wonder. It follows Little Owl as he explores the night forest before it's finally time for bedtime at dawn. We recommend the hardcover edition, which is worth the extra cost.
Llama Llama Red Pajama is the initial title ($12 at Amazon) that kicked off the Llama Llama craze. Through wonderful illustrations and rhyming text, it explores the solitude and separation anxiety that the main character feels when he is left alone in his room after being put to bed, and Mama doesn't immediately respond to his cries for comfort. Mama ultimately reassures him that she's "always near, / even if she's / not right here." It's perfect for the toddler who still has trouble going to sleep or sleeping through the night. If your child enjoys this title, there's a whole series of Llama books to discover!
Little construction fans will be clutching Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site ($11 at Amazon) long after bedtime; and you'll love the message too — that even big, tough trucks need to wind down and get some rest at the end of the day. Great illustrations and exceptionally well-executed rhyming text.
Good Night, Gorilla ($6 at Amazon) features no words, yet manages to communicate a lucid storyline through the pictures alone. The lovable animal and zookeeper characters, the fun illustrations, and the humorous story make this a toddler favorite.
The magical, Caldecott-winning Sleep Like a Tiger ($14 at Amazon) follows a little girl getting ready for bed. In classic tradition, for the longest time she insists that she is not tired ... but ultimately she succumbs to her imagination and dreamland. The illustrations are absolutely stunning.