Finding the best kids’ books is an ongoing challenge. Your toddler or young child has been reading the same book every single night now for days, weeks, or quite possibly months. Every page is memorized, down to the pregnant pauses you make when you’re reading aloud. And he—or you—is craving a new page turner. There are so many good ones out there, how do you even pick?
Lucky for you, I have two kids aged 4.5 and 2 who like to read– and I like to make lists. So I’ve compiled my most recent favorite go-to books for bedtime stories for the under-elementary sect. I’ve found these books to be some of the best out there for kids under the age of five. These books are sure winners in my household—and I am sure they will inspire the little bookworm in your home too!
Dragons Love Tacos Looking for a fun book with a random story line? This is the right choice for you! And for my son, who finds it hilarious that dragons eat the same food that he does, yet have a lower tolerance for spicy foods. When he reads this book, he’s tougher than a dragon!
Tickle Monster This book is perhaps my most favorite book at the moment. My kids love the illustrations and the story line, which is why the book gets its first thumbs’ up. The second thumbs up is because it’s literally written so that the reader can tickle his or her listener right alongside the Tickle Monster himself. (And yes, you can buy accompanying Tickle Monster Mitts too!) Somehow, I’ve found that giggles that result from the reading and Tickle Monster tickles are far louder and more contagious than your typical kid giggles. How can you not love a book that provides that? Two thumbs up for sure.
Aliens in Underpants Save the World Think about this series from the viewpoint of a 4 year old for a moment. Can you think of a single child that doesn’t get a giggle out of underwear? I can’t. And from an adult perspective, reading a story that makes your kids laugh while using rhyming with a pretty impressive vocabulary list for the PreK set – sounds good, right? And that’s the great thing about this book – it’s entertaining for both kids and adults (I promise!). There are others in this series, although this is our favorite to date. Aliens who use underwear to save the world? Sign my kid up for that story please!
The Day the Crayons Quit When my son picks this book from his shelf, it’s because he’s in the mood for a long story about a collection of very opinionated crayons taking their owner to task for his coloring decisions. I, on the other hand, like this book because I find it to be a smart and sneaky way to show my kids that they may not be truly living the Platinum rule – treat others the way they want to be treated – from the perspective of the crayons, of course.
Those Darn Squirrels Both mom and child get a kick out of this story for the same reason — those darn squirrels are pretty funny! I find it to be a nice story about second chances and going beyond first impressions, my PreK’er likes the back and forth between the bird-loving old man and the squirrels in his life.
A Perfectly Messed Up Story This story is a short, simple one. And I don’t have much to say about it because there’s not much to say about a book that’s about getting a book dirty. But it’s cute and my kiddo really seems to enjoy it.
While I’d say this next list of books is better for the slightly younger age group, I feel the need to caveat this a bit. We started reading some of these books years ago – and yet, my son still requests to take them off the shelf to read at times. Now that my younger daughter is having an opinion on what is read to her (the days of picking a short little board book for her are over!) she’s gravitating towards the same books as he once did.
Playtown This book is, hands down, my daughter’s most recent obsession. While only five or six pages long, don’t kid yourself. There are so many flaps on each page to lift, with little explanations behind them about what is going on in different parts of day to day life in the fictional town of Playtown , that there is so much for little ones to discover. We’ve read this book almost every night since she got it for her birthday and she’s still finding new flaps we haven’t opened yet. I can tell we’re in it for the long haul with this one.
Llama Llama Misses Momma All the Llama Llama books are great rhyming reads, but as a working mom, this one really resonates with me personally as it’s about a little child who spends his days at school learning to have fun without the closeness of mommy. I’m not sure if either of my children sees the similarities between their lives and IIlama’s, or feels the mom guilt in the pages the way that I do, but they love the lyrical nature of the narration and the relatable storyline (mommy leaves, yet comes back!)
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site If you have a little boy under the age of 4 and don’t have this story memorized by heart, run to your closest bookstore or pick up a copy right this second online. How can reading about trucks and construction possibly be so downright adorable and catchy? Try it and I promise you – and your kids—will agree.
Cat There are several books in this “series” – and my kids like them all. I’m partial to Cat because, well, I love cats, but you’ll have as equally great of a hit on your hands with Dogs or Tails. It’s a fast-paced book with not many words on the page, but there are a lot of add-ons to play with, like tactile items (think “fur”) and pull outs (think cats getting into trouble).
Giraffes Can’t Dance This is a newer book in our collection, but again, loved by both my PreK-aged son and Preschool-aged daughter. And it’s message is wonderful: it’s ok to be different. Everyone is different, and being different is what makes everyone special. How can you argue with that moral, told through a giraffe’s dancing experiences?
I Love Monkey We received this gift as a baby gift when my son was first born along with the stuffed monkey that stars in the book. It’s been such a hit in our house that I’ve copied the idea, gifting both myself. The message is all about being comfortable with being yourself, which is somewhat of a heavy message for toddlers, but the illustrations and story are easy to follow. A sweet story.
Elmo Let’s Help the Earth To be honest, I was surprised that this book became such a must-read in our house, but with the combination of Elmo, fun interactive pull-outs, and ideas on things even little ones can do to make our Earth a better place, this book has received the first-choice book prize many times over the past few years.
Little Blue Truck and Little Blue Truck Leads the Way I’ve combined both of these adorable books into one bullet on my list because my kids love both and I’m not sure I can choose a favorite. Blue Truck in the country or Blue Truck visits the city. It’s like a choose your own adventure for toddlers depending on the book they pick.
Any way you cut it – when your kid loves to read and fixates on a book, that’s a great thing for both of you. Even better when it’s a great book like one of these my family has fallen in love with. Happy reading!