Reading is so important! Especially for toddlers whose little brains are developing in so many ways. But while there’s no shortage of books to choose from when looking on Amazon or in store, the sheer volume of options makes it all too easy to get swamped trying to find something unique and truly gift-worthy. When giving books as a gifts the trick is to find books that are not only a great read but also fun and unique in some way — special features or humor can make all the difference in making them stand out and be a little more exciting to open, talk about, and of course read!
So what does “unique” mean in the toddler book scene? The whole idea is one-of-a-kind but generally speaking our list here focuses on books that stand out for being different. Some have humor, some have unexpected subject matter, and quite a few have fun features like sound and elements to touch and feel like flaps, ribbons, and textures. They’re not all over-the-top, playing-music pop-up-craziness however. Some of these books are just unique in the way they’re written (some have no words, some have no pictures), what they’re about (quantum computing anyone?) and other interesting concepts.
I want to mention quick that I also love old stand-by classics like Goodnight Moon and The Hungry Caterpillar. You can’t go wrong with those either! But while classics are, well, classic, what I’m going for on this list is that extra special something that surprises people in a fun, interesting way. Memorable books that complement the classics. Plus when giving gifts to someone else’s child for a birthday or holiday you can never quite be sure what books they already have — going the more unique route is a surer path to avoiding a duplicate.
I’ve also curated this list to fit my own personal definition of “toddler” which is admittedly wide at about 1 years old to 3 years old. Plus some of these will work for 6 month olds and others can go up to 4 or 5 years+. Kids are all so different! I have a 5 year old and 2 year old right now (they were 1 and 4 when I first put this post together) and they still love most of these. Good books really do last awhile, even as children grow past the initial “challenge” of them the familiarity is so comforting they continue to give back for a long time.
So on to the list!
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Top 10 Unique Books for Toddlers (Updated for 2019)
No time to scroll a big list? Here’s the short version of my top faves:
- The Book with No Pictures by BJ Novak (humor)
- Quantum Computing for Babies
- Pride and Prejudice: A Babylit Storybook
- So Many Stars by Andy Warhol
- The Very Lazy Ladybug (Pop-up)
- Follow the Trail books (finger tracing)
- I’m Not Just a Scribble
- What Makes a Rainbow?
- The Day the Crayons Quit (humor)
- Cheerios Playbooks (fine motor skills, snacking)
See full descriptions of why I love these in the full list below, plus a few additional books worth a look.
*And be sure to check out Amazon’s Prime Book Box for kids. It’s a subscription for 2 new books sent every three months based on your child’s age and interests. We’re signed up and have received one delivery so far and it’s a great value! You can customize the exact book selections or let them surprise you with new releases and current best sellers.
Best Unique Books for Toddlers
This book is first on the list because if you only see one book that I recommend I wanted this to be it. It’s laugh out loud funny, and not just the first time you read it. It really does have zero pictures, and it’s 100% designed to be read out loud to a child by an adult. It’s super creative (and hilarious) in how it takes advantage of what that dynamic means, playing off what kid’s love in some very fun ways. Also fun fact: B.J. Novak played “Ryan, the temp” on the hit show The Office. Remember him?
Okay so I said this list wasn’t about the classics, but this title isn’t really “classic” for the infant and toddler subset is it? Expose them to some of the world’s best literature from an early age with this appropriately written version of the Jane Austen classic. Take a look at what else they have also, you could make a bundle with Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Little Women, and others!
Mr Warhol isn’t just about pop art and soup cans — introduce children to the beauty and magic of his artistic style with this sweet and inspirational board book that includes a fun surprise at the end.
Yes, that’s right. Let’s get those littles started early! Seriously though, this book teaches real quantum computing concepts on a baby level (although I learned something reading it too), with a tongue-in-cheek approach and simple illustrations. Sure to get a laugh as a gift, and provide real entertainment and education at reading time afterwards. I totally bought this for my little’s girl 1st birthday!
This is big, beautifully done pop-up book that gets bonus points for both moving parts (tails swish, arms swing) and a humorous surprise ending. Our copy of this has held up well, considering, but it’s finally starting to fall apart after many many reads. Plus this pop-up version seems to come and go more than other books in terms of being able to find it online. Just a heads up!
Give the gift of music with Ditty Bird Interactive Music Books. There’s a whole series of these — I always prefer Classical Music (a mom can only take so many nursery rhymes) but there’s also Noisy Farm Animals, Children’s Songs, Musical Instrument Sounds, and (of course) Nursery Rhymes.
These are very substantial board books with bright colors and glittery, textured “trails” that kids trace with their fingers. We have the Follow the Trail: Trucks book and it talks about where different types of trucks go — the digger to the construction site, the recovery truck to the repair garage, etc. My 5 year old still loves this one at bedtime (he takes it bed to “read” by himself, and we’ve had it since he was two, and of course my 2 year old is nuts for it also. Who knew glittery finger tracing could be so addictive? They also have a cute one for Bugs, Baby Animals, Farm, Dinosaurs, and more. See the complete list here.
Isn’t he just the cutest thing ever?! I’m a sucker for cute illustrations but this book also has wonderful messages about inclusion, feelings, and connecting colors to feelings for better expression. And it includes sticker sheets as well for making your own scribble people.
Give this along with the Quantum Computing for Babies above and really present a challenge! In all fairness though, these books can be so much. No one’s saying you have to memorize these crazy words (know what the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth is? This book will teach you!) but there’s a lot to be said for exposing kids to knowledge in fun, age-appropriate ways. This gets that job done!
This is a sweet story about a bunny learning the colors of the rainbow from his outdoor friends — ladybug knows about red, grasshopper knows about green, etc. And each time you turn the page a new ribbon of color appears (a real fabric ribbon), slowly forming a complete rainbow. A uniquely visual and tactile way to learn and practice colors.
This one is memorable for its fun story, rich illustrations and complete lack of written words. It’s a picture book, so if you want to read it aloud you’ll need to narrate it yourself. That being said there’s a great deal of detail, and my 4 year old loves tracking the pink balloon through all the scenes, as it slowly floats off into the light of the moon. Charming and richly colored, this has always been one of my personal favorites to “read.” And although it’s less durable I highly recommend the hardcover version as more of the scenes (and the balloon!) can be seen on the larger paper pages.
My son received this board book when he was 1 years old and although the flaps have taken a beating (that’s a rough age for flapping flaps) this is a surprisingly sturdy book and now, at 4 1/2, it’s still a regular bedtime favorite. Features 14 Bible stories, 40 flaps to flip, and a larger size at about 8″ square.
We actually own the “Ten Little Bees” version of this book but I can’t find it anywhere online at the moment! This one looks equally cute though. Visually appealing as well as uniquely tactile, Ten Little Ladybugs is a lesson in counting (and excitement) as you get closer and closer to the end and find out what happened to all the ladybugs, one by one.
Can a book for littles be suspenseful? You bet it can. My 4 year old was on the edge of his seat for our first read through. Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32 is a fun lesson in suspense, mystery, and magical whimsy. Fairies, goblins, suspicious boxes… and of course Door 32 make this one an exciting adventure (with a happy ending!).
We got a Halloween version of this from my Grandma a couple years ago and it still gets pulled out for fun every time Zeplin notices we have Cheerios in the house. They’re quick to read and interactive in a way I haven’t seen before (as a snack-time activity! You’re supposed to use actual Cheerios to complete each page, in various ways). Check out the Animal Play Book here as well as the original, and one for Christmas.
My son loves seek and find books and you can start them on these earlier than you probably think — Zeplin got his first when he was about one year old and had fun finding everything with my help (he would watch me searching and squeal when I found something) but as time went on he began to remember where things were and get a kick out of pointing them out himself. Now he loves doing new ones independently. There are all kinds of seek and find books for toddlers but I like this one for it’s sweet illustrations.
The Day the Crayons Quit
A crayon strike is no joke! Read a humorous story that’s designed as much for the adult reading as it is for the kids listening and learn some lessons along the way about sharing, playing fair, and more.