Pre-K

11 Books That Celebrate Imagination for 3-5 Year Olds

by Jennifer Garry

Image credit: Westend61/Getty Images

Creativity and imagination are an enormous part of what makes childhood so magical. One minute, you can be a princess trapped in a tower — forced to do all of the cleaning. The next, you’ve broken free and are fighting dragons while riding a unicorn that smells like cupcakes. It’s amazing and fun and helps children experiment and problem solve in a way that feels really safe.

If you’re looking to get your kids’ imaginations going and spark their creative sides, these 11 books provide perfect jumping off points.

  • In a Jar

    by Deborah Marcero

    Llewellyn is a collector. The little rabbit collects ordinary objects like buttercups, feathers, and heart-shaped stones in jars - remembering all of the things he's seen and done whenever he opens one. Then he meets Evelyn, another rabbit. The new friends begin to gather extraordinary things together: rainbows, the sound of the ocean, the wind just before snow falls. But when Evelyn's family moves away, how will the friends continue their magical collection - and their friendship?

  • The Box Turtle

    by Vanessa Roeder

    Terrance is a turtle who was born without a shell. He happily uses a cardboard box instead until another turtle calls it weird. Suddenly, Terrance is not so sure about his little box. With a little imagination, he begins searching high and low for a better alternative - a mailbox, a lunchbox, a treasure chest, and more - before realizing there's nothing wrong with being different.

  • One Snowy Morning

    by Kevin Tseng, illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte

    One morning, a squirrel and a chipmunk find a great big pile of snow that's decorated with the strangest objects. Little readers will immediately recognize the odd find as a snowman, but the animal friends have entirely different ideas about their discovery: the top hat is a tall rowboat with a golden anchor, the carrot nose is a dragon's tooth, the mittens are fish puppets. They take the mysterious items home and use their imaginations to put the finds to new uses.

  • The Lost Cousins

    by B.B. Cronin

    When Esmé and Tate find Grandad looking at an old family photo album, they want to go on an adventure to find their long-lost cousins who live all over the world. From icy landscapes to cities and jungles, it's not so easy to find their cousins in this immersive seek-and-find book.

  • I Wonder

    by Kari Anne Holt, illustrated by Kenard Pak

    This story looks in on a diverse cast of characters as they ponder big, imaginative questions about the world around them. With questions like What do clouds taste like?, Do my toys miss me when I'm gone?, and Could there be a galaxy in my belly button?, little readers will be encouraged to come up with big questions of their own.

  • Hey Grandude!

    by Paul McCartney, illustrated by Kathryn Durst

    Grandude is a super-cool grandfather who lives in a totally normal house where totally extraordinary things happen. His magic compass takes him and his four grandkids on incredible adventures all around the globe: from riding a school of flying fish to dodging stampedes and escaping avalanches. The perfect read for little explorers, this book will get their imaginations revved up for their next adventure.

  • This is Not That Kind of Book

    by Christopher Healy, illustrated by Ben Mantle

    If your child starts every story time with the question "What kind of book is it?," they're going to love this silly, genre-bending book. It starts out as an alphabet book and quickly morphs into a fairy tale, a mystery, a superhero story, and more. A clever mash-up of just about every type of picture book there is, this book will reel little readers in and keep them guessing every time you turn the page.

  • The Paper Kingdom

    by Helena Ku Rhee, illustrated by Pascal Campion

    When the babysitter can't come, a sleepy Daniel has to climb out of bed and join his parents as they head to their jobs as nighttime office cleaners. To make the experience less boring for Daniel, his parents reimagine the office as a magical paper kingdom with dragons and kings. It's an incredibly sweet story of a loving family that turns an ordinary night into something extraordinary.

  • Please Bring Balloons

    by Lindsay Ward

    When Emma notices a note tucked into the polar bear's saddle on a carousel, she has to follow its directions. Soon, Emma and a handful of balloons ride the polar bear right off the carousel and go on a soaring adventure to the arctic and back. This enchanted adventure story will encourage readers to find everyday magic of their own.

  • Also An Octopus

    by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, illustrated by Benji Davies

    This adorable, meta picture book starts with nothing, like all stories do. Slowly but steadily hilariously zany details are added to turn the book into a story. First, there's a ukulele-playing octopus. But the octopus has to want something for it to become a story - like maybe traveling to a faraway galaxy in the most awesome purple spaceship. Layers and layers are added to the story and readers feel as though they're helping all along the way.

  • Poppy Pickle

    by Emma Yarlett

    Poppy has a really big imagination. When her mom sends her up to her room to clean, she starts imagining instead and soon something really weird happens: her imagination comes alive! Her room starts to fill up with weird and wonderful creatures. But as the mammoth puts his foot through the floor and the crocodile eyes Poppy as a snack, she needs to figure out how to get rid of these creatures fast.