Books are obviously one of the most important possessions in our house and we absolutely love to find new ones. Tot school (or homeschool for your toddler) is pretty casual, but a steady source of books are always a requirement. Below, I’ll tell you our top seven favorite book choices, plus how we use them. And stay tuned until the end where I’ll share a few extra that are just for fun!
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Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.
No toddler classroom is complete without a nice sturdy copy of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom! There are so many relevant materials and activities already out there that you could easily use it as the backbone of your entire year of teaching letter recognition. A couple of seconds on Pinterest will give you an endless supply of ideas for wall murals, bulletin boards, printables, games and activities galore! There is so much to do with this book and the colorful art work and catchy rhyming scheme make it a favorite on many bookshelves. If you have a chewer, the book also comes as a board book and when you’re ready to move on to numbers, there’s a pretty catchy 1-2-3 book to accompany it too.
How We Use It
Other than just a fun read aloud, we’ve used Chicka in the past to go along with a series of letter of the week activities. At the beginning of the week (or if you’re doing letter of the day instead, the day) we do a couple of fun letter activities, sing some songs, read the book and then hang that day’s letter up on our “Cocount Tree” display. You can even find printables in a similar font to what is used in the book and cut down on some work for yourself. At the end of your study, you’ll find your little one might be able to pretty much recite the book from memory, which lends itself to some great imaginative play activities too.
Kane Miller’s Count to Five
This is such a great book for your littlest – even as young as infants! The illustrations are so attractive, the pages are super easy to turn and it’s a board book (i.e. no eating!). When you are first starting out counting things with your toddler, your first milestone is going to be that ability to count to five and this book helps drill that skill in a fun and colorful way. Did I mention, it’s beautiful?
How We Use It
This may seem obvious, but this is just one of those books you will read over and over again. Read actively together – point out everything you see. You can have fun naming all of the different colors, animals (maybe even the sounds they make?) and of course counting all the objects on each two page spread. Win. Win. Win.
Doggies by Sandra Boynton
One of the board book greats by one of our favorite toddler book authors. This one includes not only fun pictures of different types of dogs (can you figure out which one looks like your pet?), counting and best of all, all sorts of fun doggy sounds. Shed your self-consciousness and have fun with this one!
How We Use It
This book just lends itself to an entire dog unit doesn’t it? Start with the book and all of the fun things you can do while you read and then follow on with more dog and pet learning for a week of fun. Read up on some facts about dogs (Nat Geo Kids always has good stuff) and then follow up with activities like this fun sensory activity from Pre-K Pages, coloring pages and and crafts. Talk about responsibility and learn how to take care of a pet – either your own, or volunteer at a shelter. Move your body like a dog, build a dog den, set up a pet store. There are tons of great ideas out there on pinterest for your dog-themed unit!
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox
I love so much much about this book. Not only does it have a lovely and repetitive rhyming scheme but the subject matter is so important. With beautiful illustrations of many different looking babies, it reminds all of us that no matter where we are born or what we might look like, we are all more or less the same; and of course, very much loved.
How We Use It
This is one of those books that you don’t need to “use” in the sense that it should come with other activities. Reading it frequently and talking about how nice each of these babies are will quietly reinforce cultural and social sensitivity. We’ve read this book countless times since we first bought it for Venti seven years ago and when I asked him recently what the book was about, you could see him process it into words the first time without realizing it was something he knew all along, “It’s all these babies that were born at the same time but in different places and they’re all as good as each other.” Sums it up pretty well.
Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle
Little Blue Truck is my favorite anchor to a unit on Farms. We love the rhyming, naming all the animals and of course making the sounds together. Already a modern classic, this one will be brought to you time and again.
How We Use It
There are a ton of great books about farms out there (Big Red Barn, Barnyard Dance, Sheep in a Jeep, not to mention a slew of others for preschoolers and older kids if you want to get the whole family involved) but this one is my favorite. Aside from teaching the obvious farm animal names and sounds, you can practice counting the animals and have a discussion about team work while you read. Pair it all up with activities like this gross motor game from The OT Toolbox, or some muddy artwork like the project on I Heart Crafty Things. You can check your local 4-H or county farm board for possible field trip ideas to wrap up your week.
Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
I had a really rough time choosing just one Lois Ehlert book for your toddler’s homeschool library, but came down to this one because I just love learning about plants with the tiny ones! The pictures are just gorgeous and you will absolutely love pouring over the book and learning the names of each plant as it grows from seed to plant.
How We Use It
This one is a staple in all our plant units and has been for a long time. We love going through the book and identifying all of the colors and practicing pronouncing plant and flower names like hyacinth and anemone – wow! Tie this in with a study of flowers in the spring (pairs perfectly with The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle) or with your end of the summer or early fall gardening. Make sure to add in field trips to botanical gardens (or plant stores if you aren’t close to one) and make sure to include the classic pea sprout in a baggie experiment!
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
This is a classic, and I’d be surprised if you don’t already have it, either because you already knew it was a classic, or someone (potential multiple) already knew and gifted it to your family. Public Kindergarten uses TVHC (as the hip kids call it… just kidding, I made that up right now) as a theme when leveling entering enrollees in this area and it’s literally not at all surprising. The amount of activities available online that go with TVHC are basically endless. It’s an awesome book, it covers SO MANY TOPICS and it’s just fun to read.
How We Use It
I love kicking off spring with some Eric Carle – this author is extremely nature focused and I just can’t get enough. (If you don’t already have books like The Very Busy Spider or The Grouchy Ladybug to start your unit on spiders and insects, then run, now!) My favorite purchase on an insect unit and WELL worth the price are the butterfly growing kits where you get to watch your little baby caterpillars spin their cocoon and blossom into butterflies all in the comfort of your home. There are so wonderful many activities out there that go along with this book, I don’t even know where to start. Make sure to check out my Pinterest board for tons of ideas on all of these books.
Honorable Mentions: Toddler Books You Probably Don’t Have But Still Need
The Barefoot Book of Children – I’m a huge Barefoot Books fan for the variety and quality of materials they have to help teach diversity. Kids love to see other kids in action, and they love to see kids that look like them. Pour over the colorful illustrations of children from around the world living lives not unlike our own.
Muddle and Match by Kane Miller – I just could not pick a Muddle and Match book, I love them all so much. Kane Miller always seems to hit it out of the park and this series is absolutely no different. These books are very hands on and so fun for little fingers to turn. The colorful illustrations make them absolutely irresistible. We love the Fairy Tales one because it always leads to reading more books (about fairy tales, get it?) but they also have other books that cover toddler faves like superheroes or the farm.
Very First Question and Answers – This is another great Usborne series that I love and they recently added a “Very First” series for the younger crowd which covers things in an easier way. This one about snow is great to add to your units on winter or seasons in general and has tons of fun flaps to peek under. Check out the other Very First questions books like, “What is Sleep?” and our household favorite “What is Poop?“
How to Brush Your Teeth With Snappy Croc by Jane Clarke and Georgie Birkett – Self care is important, even if you’re in tot-school! Teaching life skills is important at just about every age and having our kiddos home with us gives us plenty of time to train on things like brushing your teeth and putting away toys before we move onto the bigger issues like how to get dressed and using the potty. Plus, any time you can get your little one to be a little more independent is a good thing!
So what do you think? Any obvious ones I missed for the ages 2-3 set? Which ones are you adding to your wishlist? Let me know in the comments!