Baby & Toddler

The Best Informational Books for Toddlers

by Lindsay Barrett

Photo credit: kate_sept2004, E+ Collection/Getty Images

When you hear “informational books for toddlers,” do you picture a tiny human with a disproportionately giant encyclopedia perched on his or her lap? Don’t! Informational books for the very young are actually a thing, and the children’s publishing world is bursting with more enticing options each year. Including informational books in a toddler’s reading diet builds vocabulary and world knowledge. For some children, informational books are the ones that spark their love of reading.

Toddlers’ worlds tend to be pretty small, so informational books that connect to their real-life experiences are reliably appealing. Of course, books also serve to expand children’s worlds, so books that introduce unfamiliar ideas in age-appropriate and engaging ways are shelf-worthy, too. Here are some toddler-approved go-to options.

  • Hello, World! Series

    by Jill McDonald

    Like all parents know, as toddlers grow better at communicating, they start asking questions. A lot of questions. These titles introduce a range of captivating topics and include many of the standard features of informational writing for older readers — labeled diagrams, captions, and charts, but with adorable, little-kid-level flair. How Do Apples Grow? was immensely helpful in explaining to my frustrated toddler why our backyard apple tree didn’t offer fruit for picking in the middle of January. Able to grow with a child, Hello, World! titles can be enjoyed just by browsing the pictures, and later by sharing every fact and label. (Chances are, adult readers will learn a thing or two also.)

  • Good Night Our World Series

    by Adam Gamble

    This series wins for breadth of topics — its titles can help your toddler say goodnight to just about any location or thing you could imagine. In my family, we’re partial to Good Night Beach and Good Night Lake. Our family enjoys both landscapes in the summers, and reading these books year-round keeps the conversations about fishing and sandcastles flowing. All the titles in the series are excellent for breaking down big topics into toddler-sized ideas.

  • Tool Book

    by Gail Gibbons

    Gail Gibbons is an institution in the field of children’s informational books. Her board book options for toddlers are to-the-point, but still offer plenty of specificity for little ones who appreciate a higher level of detail. My little construction-worker wannabe loves the labeled pictures of different hand tools in Tool Book. (Now where do I find a plastic chisel for his toddler tool belt?)

  • Look & Learn Series

    by National Geographic Kids

    Like all National Geographic titles, the photographs in this board book collection shine. The text encourages interaction with the pictures, which makes reading them aloud even more fun. Bears is useful for getting toddlers to think beyond “Teddy” and begin to appreciate the diversity of bears with questions like, “A sun bear has a yellow patch of fur on its chest. Can you find it?” Many titles integrate concept learning with topical teaching: Birds offers a primer on colors while inviting toddlers to witness compelling moments like a cardinal taking a bath!

  • Vehicle-Shaped Board Books

    by DK

    If you have a toddler vehicle-enthusiast, you’ll make his or her book dreams come true with Fire Truck, Digger, and Tractor. The chunky, shaped pages layer to create an actual head-on vehicle shape. Inside, the labeled photos of related vocabulary encourage lots of studying and pointing. For adults who are more comfortable delivering dramatic renditions of story books, the language gives a little help toward expressive reading of the informational genre. Fire Truck asks, “Can you flex your arm like my boom?” and ends with, “Siren on, lights flashing, we are off to the rescue!”

  • Global Fund for Children Series

    by The Global Fund for Children

    Toddlers love to look at pictures of babies and children. These titles are akin to coffee table books for the under-three set. The image-focused books share photographs of youngsters from around the world and have so many details for toddlers to marvel at. It’s hard to pick a favorite photo, but my son is partial to the Peruvian baby in the brightly colored woven hat and the Spanish infant supporting his local soccer team in Global Babies.