Baby & Toddler

2016 Holiday Gifts for Book-Loving Babies & Toddlers

by Iva-Marie Palmer

Over the years, I’ve found babies and toddlers — bless them — are surprisingly easy to please when it comes to gifts. Not to get all philosophical about it, but it could be due to the fact that to them, the whole world is a gift, full of new things to discover. Or maybe it’s really that half the fun is in the unwrapping: ripping paper, pulling apart boxes, examining bows. (All photos of me from my first Christmas in 1977 make it pretty clear that I loved the bows best.)

Whatever it is, my favorite gifts for babies and toddlers are always books. They delight in the unwrapping and a book is instantly accessible — no batteries to find, no packaging to dismantle, no assembly required. The added bonus is, starting a child on book gifts early often means that — as that child grows — books will start to appear on their wish lists.

Here are some great holiday gift picks for the infant to 2-year-old set:

  • Magical Musings

  • Day Dreamers: A Journey of Imagination

    by Emily Winfield Martin

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    Although we may not be sure what early and pre-talkers are daydreaming about, the seeds of a strong imagination are planted early in life. Martin’s book, out this year as a board book, is the perfect whimsical invitation to worlds of unicorns, dragons, and jackalopes. The beautiful painted illustrations transport kids to new dimensions and serve as an excellent reminder one needn’t go far to dream big. (Pair it with: a set of their very first crayons or watercolor paints.)

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  • A Child of Books

    by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

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    We may not always know if the littlest readers fully grasp the stories in picture books, but with my own sons, our early holiday gifts always included several storybooks with slightly lofty concepts inside. In this tale, a little girl sails a raft away on a sea of words to invite a little boy to share in the adventure. What’s neat is that the topographical landscapes mix in elements of classic stories and lullabies, so even wee ones might already find it familiar. (Pair it with: a CD of lullabies or children’s songs.)

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  • The Wonderful Things You Will Be

    by Emily Winfield Martin

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    Let’s face it, parents, we love our babies but sometimes the means to tell them escape us. Thankfully, picture book authors seem to know this and provide us with words that are beyond perfect. Emily Winfield Martin’s book expresses beautifully all the hopes and dreams we have for our kids, and does it in a way that’s not treacly or boring for our babes to hear. The rhymes and gorgeous illustrations guarantee this one will be read again and again.

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  • Animal Friends

  • Owl Sees Owl

    by Laura Godwin, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey

    This short and sweet perfect-for-bedtime book follows a baby owl as he leaves his nest for the first time one night. Each page is a burst of three or four words describing the journey (Soar/Glide/Swoop/Swoosh) and midway through the book, the words reverse (after the owl sees his reflection in a pond) and guide owl and your child safely back to the nest. (Pair it with: a set of cozy pajamas.)

  • Sweetest Kulu

    by Celina Kalluk, illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis

    Another bedtime must-have, Sweetest Kulu, is a lyrical bedtime poem by Inuit throat singer Kalluk. The gorgeously illustrated story beautifully describes all the gifts given by Arctic animals to a newborn baby (often called “Kulu,” an Inuit term of endearment for wee ones). The ode is not only a celebration of the baby it’s read to, but also of the Inuit values of loving and respecting the land and its creatures.

  • Silly Storybooks

  • We Found a Hat

    by Jon Klassen

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    Klassen’s got a gift for creating clever animals with a fondness for chapeaus (think I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat), and he’s now back to his usual haberdashery hijinks with We Found a Hat, about two turtles who trundle up upon, yes, a hat. Admittedly, some of Klassen’s slyly simple humor might go over babies’ heads, but his engaging illustrations and easy style mean kids will keep wanting to hear his stories, and eventually will be in on the jokes. (Pair it with: a stylin’ hat for tots, of course.)

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  • King Baby

    by Kate Beaton

    Who knows better than a baby how quickly he or she becomes the center of the universe? (Besides said baby’s parents, of course.) Beaton does, and shows it through this hilarious (and maybe a little exaggerated) story of a royally ruling baby who has many needs. The babies and toddlers in your life will identify (and probably demand a cuddle). (Pair it with: a baby-sized bath robe.)