Newborns & Infants: Books By Age
Top Recommendations For Newborn Through 12 months
Quick Things You Need To Know:
- 3-5 high-quality books are way better than 1,000 crappy books.
- Normalize racial diversity.
- Don’t rush to the next stage of development. Meet kids where they are now.
- Sign language is real language. ‘Baby‘ sign language is not a thing (and it’s ableist).
- Forget literacy – master motor control first.
- Babies need well-rested caretakers more than they need story time.
Quick & Messy Book List:
0-3 Months: Tummy Time Books
- Art For Baby, aka ‘Fartr Baby’ – Templar Publishing – If you get only one book for tummy time, make it this one.
- Look At The Animals – Peter Linenthal
- What Do You See? – Martine Perrin
- Baby Faces – DK Publishing
- Global Babies series– The Global Fund For Children
3+ Months: Social & Bonding Story time
- Kiss, Tickle, Cuddle, Hug – Susan Musgrave. Awesome for practicing consensual touching, and also explaining facial expressive emotions with autistic babies.
- “Gabriel makes a sad face, Gabriel needs a hug.“
- Hey R2 – do you want a hug?
- Gabriel is sad. Look how Gabriel’s eyebrows are pointing up. Gabriel has sad eyebrows.
- My Face Book – Star Bright Books.
- Baby Faces – Orli Zuravicky. So boring, but R2’s favorite from 4-6 months.
- Cock-A-Doodle Who?, Martine Perrin
4+ Months: Fine-Motor Development
- Indestructables various – SO AMAZING. GET ONE. There are a ton, so choose any. They don’t have words, but they are bath-proof, rip-proof, chew-proof, mangle-proof and can be washed in the laundry. They soften and wrinkle over time – made from the same stuff as a mattress tag.
- Tiny Board Books – MANDATORY – These were beloved and less frustrating than regular small board books. They could hold and flip through pages while developing fine-motor control. Don’t get them from the library. They will be destroyed by your kid’s first birthday, but it’s worth it. Here are some new ones that came out, since our favorite series is out of print:
6+ Months: Sensory Exploration
- Large-patch tactile sensory books – hard to find, they are expensive to make.
- Small-patch sensory books with smell
6+ Months: Social & Emerging Language
- Baby’s Day, Blake – Deceptively simple, this book is amazing. Selective coloring for new language, normalizing a nonbinary Black baby, recognizing daily routines, and very few (re: not overwhelming) staggered pages in a lightweight book for little fingers. SO GOOD.
- Baby Day, Wallace – A little long, but great for daily routines.
- Things That Go, (Say & Play, Sterling Publishing)
- Oink, Moo, Meow (Say & Play, Sterling Publishing)
- Pantone Colors – Pantone
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Eric Carle – I can’t stand every other book by Eric Carle, but we all love this book.
- The Sign About Series, Anthony Lewis – (ASL) Most board books teaching sign language to families for use with children are problematic and often contain errors. Check youtube and/or take a class if you can to clarify your signs. This series has multiple signs cluttered on each page, which is not ideal, but my favorite is out of print and I haven’t found a better version.
- Hands & Hearts, Donna Jo Napoli (ASL)
6+ Months: Books To Read On The Potty
- Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? (Eric Carle) – I hate this book for many reasons, but it’s the only one that entertained the Earthquakes on the potty for long periods of time (ahem), with noise and buttons that even they could push at this age. Worth it.
- There are lots of noisy books with buttons that are too hard for infants to push down. Test them before you buy them.
- Indestructables – Again, are great for the bathroom, particularly if they get dropped in something gross and need to be washed.
Why The Little Earthquakes Loved These Books
You know I am compelled to explain why we loved these books, so here are the deets:
0-3 Months: Don’t overdo it.
- Babies under 4 months can’t use their hands. Use books that can be propped open out-of-reach during tummy time.
- Simple clean lines and high black/white contrast is easiest for newborn brains to process. Also periphery vision is better, so set books just off-center during tummy time, instead of directly in front of them.
- Add bold, contrasting colors around 6-8 weeks.
- Neurotypical babies love both real (photographed) and simplified (smiley) faces.
- It’s okay not to read to newborns at all. They don’t care. Take a nap and eat something instead.
- Mobiles are better than books at this age (invaluable if you want time to take a shower)
- Montessori mobiles made it possible for me to entertain Q when R2 was a newborn, brush my teeth, and shower. I wish so hard that I had known about them when Q was a baby. They’re staged week-by-week for eye development. Google it – they are awesome!
- Art Cards For Baby or high-contrast gray-scale portraits of your family members, clipped to face downward in a photo clip mobile work well, too.
3-6 Months: Social Skills & Reducing Frustration
- Reading 1 book together for weeks develops comfort, familiarity, and mastery. Those ‘1,000 books before kindergarten‘ programs are designed to shame exhausted parents and are backed by lazy research. Owning books is correlated with children’s success for reasons having to do with the familial education and poverty, not reading them. Don’t fall for it.
- Choose books for babies, not for parents. They will fall in love with books they can hold, and don’t care about the sappy/creepy Nancy Tillman book Aunt Debbie gave them. Boring books breed resentment.
- 4- to 6-month-olds will smash themselves in the face with wacky-inflatable-car-dealership-dude arms. Look for rounded corners and thick pages that won’t give babies paper cuts.
- Books will be chewed. Choose glossy pages that can be easily disinfected or books that can go in a dishwasher (see below.)
- Infants under 9 months can only manage Indestructables (dishwasher-safe!) and teeny tiny board books. From months 4 through 9, prevent frustrated screaming and have these on hand in your diaper bag, stroller, car, and in every room of your home. Keep one in your bra, if you wear one.
- Neither of the Earthquakes were into the soft fabric plush book we had, but these ones with taggies look appealing.
- At this age, neurotypical babies just can’t get enough of looking at other babies. Start normalizing racial diversity now.
6+ Months: Sensory Books & Understanding Words!
- Expect mouthing to ramp up around 6 months. NOM ALL THE THINGS!
- Everything will be covered in drool. Grimy library board books are not your friend during flu season. Buy new & disinfect glossy pages with vinegar and a soft cloth. Never leave any infant or toddler alone with a library book.
- Little fingers still have a hard time targeting small patches for touch & feel books. Aim for books with larger patches of sensory material.
- Flaps should be thick and durable for obvious reasons.
- Older infants love screaming ‘NOOOOO!’ give them ample opportunities to get it out during storytime.
- Keep it simple. If you’re learning to identify items (ex: cup) or properties (ex: red), isolate a single image on each page and look for clean white backgrounds.
- Teach your baby real sign language (ESL, ASL, etc. whichever you prefer). It’s awesome and super helpful for pre-and non-speaking folks. Don’t teach them baby sign language or a bastardization of a Deaf language – that’s infantilizing, ableist, and cultural appropriation. We don’t teach our kids baby Spanish, that would be ridiculous.
- If you’re doing elimination communication, keep a basket of indestructables and also maybe those junky, noisy books right next to the potty along with a little footstool to use as a table. This is the only time battery-operated junk books are worth it, but make sure the buttons are pushable with little fingers, otherwise screaming will happen.