35 Best Baby Books You Need For You Precious One’s First Year

By  Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH | Updated - 29 January 2021

So, what are the best baby books for their first year?

Well, I love books and I adore children's books.

And choosing books to read to babies can be such fun, especially if your building your baby registry but with so much on offer getting the right ones is key.

At this age, babies love textures and contrasting colours and as a parent, you will need a robust book that can withstand grabbing, sucking and more! 

Over the years I have found some classics that never lose their appeal and in my recent research have found some wonderful new books that I can't wait to hand on to the next generation!

This post is broken down into 8 simple categories to help you find exactly what you're looking for:

  1. Best of the Best ↓
  2. Black & White Books ↓
  3. Books For Very Young Babies ↓
  4. Cloth Books ↓
  5. Classic Books ↓
  6. Board Books ↓
  7. Stroller Books ↓
  8. Keepsake Books ↓

So, what are you waiting for! Scroll down for my top picks from each category and for my Top 35 Baby Books!

Best of the Best

Out of the 35 books I have chosen, I have picked one from each category that is my absolute favourite.

While I think that all the books on the list are worthy of being included, these particular books resonated with me.

Sometimes when I read a particular book there is some quality within it that I feel inexplicably drawn to and all of these books did this for me.

Black & White Books: Hello Bugs (Black and White Sparklers) by Smriti Prasadam ↓

Books For Very Young Babies: I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak ↓

Cloth Books: Fisher Price Monkey Mirror ↓

Classic Books: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle ↓

Board Books: Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown ↓

Stroller Books: Wee Gallery Buggy Books: My Colourful Friends ↓

Keepsake Books: Welcome to the World by Lucy Tapper ↓ 

When To Start Reading To Baby

It is never too early to introduce your baby to the wonderful world of books.

The benefits are boundless and they will never stop being a useful and essential tool in your parenting toolbox. 

Even newborns can benefit from seeing pictures and patterns in books.

Although they cannot understand what you are saying, their little brains will take in everything you say and as they grow, they will start to repeat the words, rhymes and stories back to you.

Books should be ingrained in your daily family routine and held up as a source of knowledge and insight into our world and emotions.

For example, the ever important bedtime routine should always include a book.

Nurturing a love for books is one of the most important gifts you can give your children.

With competition from modern technology and it's instant response to questions asked, it is even more important to foster a love for books in your children.

Teach them the joy and anticipation of a watching a story unfold and allow their listening and language skills and imaginations develop.

Plus, there is nothing more bonding than sitting snuggled up with your little one and looking at a book.

Those moments shared with a book are an oasis of calm in a busy world, filled with love and closeness that you will cherish for years to come.

Black and white books for newborns

Black and white images have been proven to help your newborn focus and develop their concentration skills, so when choosing books for newborns, go for contrasting images, bold lines and patterns in black and white with only an occasional splash of colour.

Here are my pick of newborn baby books if you are looking for inspiration:

Hello Bugs (Black And White Sparklers) By Smriti Prasadam

What is it? When it comes to choosing your baby's first books you can't go wrong by including this little gem. My top pick for this genre is Hello Bugs. With its charming introduction to ten beautiful little bugs.

Why do I recommend it? Featuring high contrast black and white patterns and glittering bursts of coloured foil that bring a vivid splash of colour to every page, this book will capture your baby's attention. A little gem of a book.

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Look Look By Peter Linenthal

What is it? This sturdy little book has cut paper art perfect for little eyes, depicting children running, fish swimming and stars shining, with curving red type describing the scene on each page

Why do I recommend it? This black and white book has been around for 20 years, so is tried and tested and can still hold it own as one of the best baby books that will extend its appeal to older babies too.

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Black & White By Tana Hobson

What is it? Another great baby book is this accordion style book from eminent photographer and acclaimed book creator Tana Hobson. It features fourteen bold, black and white high contrast images to engage babies attention.

Why do I recommend it? This is a sturdy little book that can be folded out to stand alone so is great for tummy time.

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Look At Baby's House By Peter Linenthal

What is it? This is my second book on the list of books for babies by Peter Linenthal, who has more than 30 years experience teaching young children art and bookmaking, so knows what appeals to little ones. Look at Baby's house is a delightful board book with bold black and white illustrations.

Why do I recommend it? This book has a warm simple text that is perfect for sharing with very young babies.

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Tumama Soft Cloth Books For Babies Book Set

What is it? This educational black and white soft book set, is another must in my best books for babies list. Tumama's aim is to enrich baby's childhoods with safe and educational toys by providing toys and books to help babies improve their language and cognitive skills, as well engaging with their parents.

Why do I recommend it? This little set of first books for babies in black and white delivers on so many developmental levels and with the addition of crinkly pages is sure to engage your little one on their journey into the world of books.

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Books for very young babies

Moving on from the basic black and white theme for newborns here are my pick of other babies books for the very young:

I Love You Through And Through By Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak

What is it? This is a rhyming story of unconditional love between a toddler and a teddy bear who declare 'I love you through and through'..... I love your hair I love your eyes, Your giggles and your cries.... The boy and his teddy illustrate a young child's happy side, sad side, silly side and mad side and more, to produce a story that will appeal to young babies right through to toddlers. This one is a treasure to return to again and again.

Why do I recommend it? This little book makes it onto my list of first baby books because of its sturdy pages and padded cover with beautiful illustrations. Along with it's longevity of appeal it makes this is a one of the best first story books for babies.


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Welcome Little One By Sandra Magsamen

What is it? Welcome Little One is a charming heartfelt book written by Sandra Magsamen who has been writing books and melting hearts for over 30 years. This book expresses the love for a newborn in a way that allows parents to share and cherish their bond with their baby using lively illustrations and rhyming text.

Why do I recommend it? Sandra Magsamen writes in a way that is designed to remind and teaches us to explore and experience each day with more heart, meaning, purpose and joy. What better life lesson to offer your little one as you share this lovely little book with them.

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Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? By Bill Martin Jr And Eric Carle

What is it? Bill Martins sing-song text and Eric Carle’s boldly coloured collage illustrations make this a book a firm favourite with parents and children alike as it introduces ‘soft yellow duck and big happy frog amongst others as you are taken on a journey through the North American countryside.

Why do I recommend it? The simplicity of this classic is what I find most appealing about this book and what makes it ideal for young babies. They will love the bright bold colours and the repetitive easy to remember text.

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Goodnight My Darling Baby (New Books For Newborns) By Alyssa Satin Capucilli

What is it? This charming board book from the New Books for Newborns range with it's lilting lullaby text is a lovely book for parent to share with their baby at bedtime from the very start. Animals tuck in their babies, sing songs and give a kiss good night, ending with parents tucking in their child for a sweet sleep.

Why do I recommend it? If you are looking for the perfect first book to fit into your bedtime routine then this is a must. In fact all the New Books for Newborns range are excellent.

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Moo Moo Baa La La La By Sandra Boynton

What is it? This is a time old classic that has been around for 30 years, which is a testament to its appeal. Re released with redrawn illustration this book full of silly rhymes and introduces babies to animal sounds in Sandra Boynton's unique way.

Why do I recommend it? Moo Moo Baa La La La features non traditional text and brilliantly drawn animals presented in a whimsical and hilarious style that will entertain and educate your little one from birth and well into toddler-hood.

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Cloth Books

Cloth or fabric baby books are great addition to your baby library.

Crinkly pages are always popular and little ones love the tactile nature of these books as they are easy and light to handle.

They are also great for playing with in a cot or pram, as well as being the perfect book to put in your diaper bag when you are on the go:

Fisher Price Monkey Mirror

What is it? This has to be one of the most fun filled books for a baby with multiple appeal. This book can be opened up to reveal a mirror which is perfect for tummy time, while on the other side of the book you will find colourful animals for your baby to enjoy.

Why do I recommend it? This book provides tons of sensory stimulation with a monkey that squeaks, a parrot that jingles and fleece grass that is soft to touch. This book certainly covers all the bases helping to develop your baby's sensory, visual and fine motor skills all in one place.

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beiens Soft Baby Cloth Books

What is it? With their crinkly pages and soft textured tails and playful prose these books are sure to be a winner with any young child under the age of 1 year.

Why do I recommend it? This is one of my favourite fabric books series for babies. Worth every penny, you need to beware of cheap copies that do not stand up to the rigorous use that babies can put books through. These books are full of stimulating things for babies to see, touch and chew on.

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Soft Book And Mirror For Baby! (Baby Sees Cloth Book)

What is it? This is another of my favourites cloth baby books from the Baby Sees range of books. Their soft book range is as appealing as their board books, with this particular book focusing on the sea. It is bold and beautifully illustrated which helps babies learn about the big bright world. It features the softest velour on the cover for babies to touch and inside are lots of engaging illustrations of sea creatures including starfish, crabs, dolphins and an octopus.

Why do I recommend it? This book will definitely captivate your baby and encourage visual development and physical activity like wriggling, kicking, clapping and waving.

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Duck And Friends By Francesca Ferri Rettore

What is it? When it comes to soft baby books this brightly coloured, highly tactile book is a winner. The bright yellow duck on the cover opens up to reveal a cute cat, slithery snail and others and fabric tabs extending from each page provide work for little fingers as they enjoy this adorable book

Why do I recommend it? This books cheerful design will capture your baby's attention with its crinkly pages and a gentle rattling sound when shaken. This book will definitely be one of your go to books again and again.

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Lamaze Peek-A-Boo Forest Cloth Book

What is it? This lovely little interactive book introduces little ones to the different animals that live in the forest. Like all Lamaze products this cloth book is designed with your baby’s development in mind and is made of durable washable material in bright contrasting colours with peek-a-boo flaps.

Why do I recommend it? The bright colours and multiple textures make this a great book for little fingers to explore. I especially like the easy to open and close peek-a-boo flaps that promote hand-eye coordination.

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Classic Baby Books

Here you will find my all time favourites that I consider to be the most classic books for baby's first year.

You will treasure these and return to them for years to come.

I was comforted to know that these books, which hold such fond memories for me reading them to my own son, are just as popular today and have stood the test of time: 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar By Eric Carle

What is it? Eric Carle's caterpillar has become a nursery icon and this book is a perennial favourite. This deceptively simple but hopeful story, with its imaginative illustrations and clever cut out detail, charts the progress of a very hungry caterpillar as he eats his way through a week.

Why do I recommend it? No children's library would be complete without a copy of this all-time favourite! I have yet to come across a young child that is not drawn to this book again and again. Although there have been many more books in the hungry caterpillar story, to my mind you can't beat this 2018 edition of the original board book, which is ideal for the very young.

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Peepo! By Janet And Allan Ahlberg

What is it? Peepo! takes you on a rhyming peek-a-boo journey, through the day in the life of a baby boy in a style full of wit, charm and ingenuity. With a series of holes peeping through to the next page, you get a glimpse of what is to come in the next stage of baby's day.

Why do I recommend it? This book described by Nursery World as 'a book to last a lifetime', has become a classic for babies, toddlers and parents and it is the first of two books by Allan Ahlberg on my classics list. The wonderful illustrations provide hours of fun and investigation and you will delight as your little one joins in with a joyful 'peepo' as you turn each page.

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Dear Zoo By Rod Campbell

What is it? This classic lift-the-flap book has been a firm favourite for years since it was first published in 1982. Young children will love lifting the flaps to discover which animal has been sent by the zoo. There is a monkey, a lion and an elephant but will the perfect pet ever arrive?

Why do I recommend it? With its thick card pages and sturdy flaps, this is a perfect timeless book for small hands.

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Where's Spot By Eric Hill

What is it? I have lost count of how many times I have read this book over the years. . Every child needs a Spot book and this original is by far my favourite. Little ones will love lifting the flaps to find all sorts of funny animal surprises as they look for cheeky puppy Spot.

Why do I recommend it? The playful text is great for reading and responding together and the hide and seek flaps encourage curiosity.

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Each Peach Pear Plum By Janet And Allan Ahlberg

What is it? Each beautifully illustrated page of this lovely book encourages young children to interact with the pictures, to find the next fairy tale or nursery rhyme character, from traditional stories such as, 'Tom Thumb' and 'The Three Bears'. This book is a great way to introduce your little one to the world of nursery rhymes and fairy tales.

Why do I recommend it? Although young babies will not be able to identify with the nursery characters until a little older, the strong rhyme and rhythm of this book makes it perfect for the very young and the colourful illustration provide lots to talk about which will later on make it one of your go-to books for toddlers too.

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Board Books

Board books for babies need to be robust and baby proof. Their durability is what makes them a must for your early library.

Most of the best baby books come in board book form, so you can introduce your baby to the classics from early on.

These books are designed to withstand rough treatment, whilst allowing babies to become familiar with handling books.

They are the ideal way for your baby to learn how to turn pages and they will more often than not, be chewed!

Goodnight Moon By Margaret Wise Brown

What is it? In this charming book, a little bunny says goodnight to all the familiar things around him one by one. This is a timeless picture book which is known and loved around the world and although opinions are often divided on its current appeal, it most definitely appeals to young babies and toddlers and it's comforting and lilting rhyme is perfect for bedtime.

Why do I recommend it? One of my favourite baby storybooks, this book was first published in 1947 and is written by the highly acclaimed American writer Margaret Wise Brown. The subject matter, pace, rhythm and repetition of this book make it an ideal bedtime storybook.

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Peek A Who? By Nina Laden

What is it? This is a brightly coloured board book filled with vibrant, happy images. Peek-a-Who! takes the most loved baby and toddler game and puts it in book form. The simple rhyming text helps baby guess who is peeking through the die-cut windows in this fun book.

Why do I recommend it? This book is the perfect size for curious babies and is fun and interactive and I especially love the surprise mirror at the end.

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Ten Little Fingers Ten Little Toes By Mem Fox And Helen Oxenbury

What is it? This lovely little book is about babies from all around the world who although they look different, all share the common trait of having the same number of toes and fingers. Helen Oxenbury' illustrations who is famous her artwork in we are Going on a Bear Hunt, complement the easy rhythm of this book. The phrase 'each of these babies, as everyone knows, had ten little fingers and ten little toes' is repeated in each stanza as the reader is taken on a journey around the world.

Why do I recommend it? This book is sure to become a baby storytime favourite. It is never too early to use the medium of storytelling to teach your children compassion and tolerance and the message in this book does just that. No matter where babies come from, they all have ten toes and fingers, to wiggle, wave and tickle. 

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That's Not My .... By Fiona Watt

What is it? Every book in this touchy-feely series has exactly the same format with the same little mouse looking for its (thing/person) but finds five or six other (things/people) first. These books are more robust than most touchy-feely books which ensures they will be firm nursery favourites.

Why do I recommend it? Each thing or person found along the way has a tactile feature to touch or visually interact with. These touchy-feely board books with simple, repetitive text, tactile patches and bold illustrations are ideal for the very young.

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Indestructibles Books

What is it? Despite their appearance, these books are rip-proof, waterproof, with bright pictures and few words so that the reader and listener can create their own story for the characters on each page. Being so lightweight and durable they are ideal for travelling.

Why do I recommend it? The Indestructibles range of books is a trusted series of books for easing little ones into storytime. Loved by both babies and parents these books are built for the way babies read. In other words with their hand and mouths!

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Stroller Books

Stroller or buggy books are a great way to entertain your baby in the car or pram/buggy. They need to easy to handle, entertaining, safe and durable.

While they are designed to occupy your little one whilst on the go, you should always keep a close eye on them when handling these books.

Here are some of my best baby book picks for this genre:

Wee Gallery Buggy Books: My Colourful Friends By Surya Sainani

What is it? This lovely book gives little ones a first look at colours and nature and is made from tactile crinkly material which little hands will love to explore. Meet a red ladybug, a yellow bee and many more colourful friends in this great stroller book.

Why do I recommend it? This book is from a series of soft books for babies from my favourites 'The Wee Gallery'. With its handy Velcro strap and colourful tabs, this book will keep your baby entertained all the while stimulating their visual and sensory development.

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Lamaze Classic Discovery Soft Book

What is it? This soft baby book is a great first baby book that helps you identify different animals when reading to your baby during storytime but is also ideal for clipping onto the car seat or buggy. With textured corners that are safe for chewing this book is sure to be hit with very young babies.

Why do I recommend it? Your little one will love the soft cloth pages with their crinkly sound and different textures, which will help to develop tactile and fine motor skills.

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Who Do You See? Ocean Cloth Book By Bebe Mondo

What is it? This book f has lots to offer with its extremely soft fabric, crinkly pages, a baby-safe mirror and a teether. The lively design of this book will engage your baby’s attention and promote conversation and fine motor development.

Why do I recommend it? Your little one will love the soft cloth pages with their crinkly sound and different textures, which will help to develop tactile and fine motor skills.

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Petit Collage Wood Stroller Book Safari

What is it? This is a great first book for little hands made of sustainably harvested wood with non-toxic, water-based paints this makes a lovely alternative to the usual fabric stroller book. Babies will love the feel of the wooden pages and they will be enchanted by the unique illustrations of the safari animals.

Why do I recommend it? I am a great fan of wooden toys so this novel little stroller book was bound to get my attention. Petit Collage produces lovely sustainable, educational wooden toys of a very high standard and this book is no exception.

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My First Pets Book For Baby By Playgro

What is it? This soft little storybook with images of real pets inside the book is packed full of lovely ideas to keep your little one occupied. It has a squeaker feature on the front, a textured teether and its vibrantly coloured pages with different textures, crinkly sounds and high contrast stripes and patterns in primary colours will make this a firm favourite.

Why do I recommend it? When it comes to books for baby's first year this Playgro book has lots to offer developmentally, covering fine motor skills, auditory development, tactile development and visual development too. You baby will love looking at this little gem when out and about.

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Keepsake Books

This group of books is my pick of the best you can give as a gift to the parents of newborns or buy yourself for your newborns first library.

These are books you will return to again and again.

Introducing your baby to books at an early age is giving them a gift for life and these books can be treasured and handed down from generation to generation: 

Welcome To The World By Lucy Tapper And Steve Wilson

What is it? This special book celebrates the arrival of a new baby and makes a lovely gift for a newborn. The story follows a charming little elephant on a colourful journey, discovering all the wonders the world has to offer.

Why do I recommend it? This is a very special storybook with its delightful feel-good story to read to a baby or newborn. The thing I love most is the very clever option of adding 'You're the Biggest' as a gift for an older sibling to ensure they feel included in celebrating the new arrival.

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Guess How Much I Love You By Sam McBratney

What is it? This book comes in many forms from hardback, pop up, board book to soft and cuddly. Whichever you choose it is sure to be a hit with your little one for many years, as the story of Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare play the game of expressing their love for each other. proves that love is not an easy thing to measure.

Why do I recommend it? This book was my son's favourite as a child and I recently bought him the anniversary edition (he is now 28) for him to keep and read to his own children one day. For me, the message in this book that proves that love is not an easy thing to measure is very special.

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Pocket Full Of Posies (A Treasury Of Nursery Rhymes) By Salley Mavor

What is it? Each scene in this beautiful book took Salley Mavor nearly a month to complete as she renders a new and visionary interpretation of well-loved nursery rhymes, that will make this book a keeper for future generations.

Why do I recommend it? This delightful book puts a new spin on children's nursery rhymes with its intricate and colourfully embroidered works of art that will be treasured for years to come.

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Read To Your Baby Every Day By Rachel Williams

What is it? This is another classic nursery rhyme book with beautiful illustrations by Chloe Giordano. With 30 well know rhymes from the Mother Goose Collection and beyond, you can bond with your baby as you recite and sing your way through this lovely book.

Why do I recommend it? I love this book as it will give you the opportunity to rediscover just how calming this kind of book can be as you share it with your little one.

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On The Night You Were Born By Nancy Tillman

What is it? This beautiful and unique book makes the perfect keepsake for your baby's first library. It tells the story of how your little one's birth was celebrated as the moon stayed up all night and the polar bears danced. The overriding message throughout the book is that there is only one you and that the world will never be the same now that you are here, without being overly sentimental.

Why do I recommend it? The pictures in this book are absolutely beautiful and the poetic words will make both young and old smile when they imagine how the world changed when they were born.

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Teething to Tantrums Author

Paula Mclaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the childcare industry as a Norland Nanny since 1982. Since then, her mission has been to help parents become the best they can possibly be. And each year, she continues to help more families understand their child's development, the trials and joys of parenting and of course, how to care for their little ones.

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