How Young Is Too Young?

Oh No, Goerge! by Chris Haughton

Parents often think that their baby needs to be upright and grabbing things before they can have a book of their very own. But it’s not true — you are never too young for a book!

If your baby is newborn to two months old, I recommend starting with cloth books and bath books. These range from cuddle books with crinkly pages such as the Peter Rabbit Cloth Book, or the Guess How Much I Love You Snuggle Book, to more basic ones about the farm, the sea, and animals.

The key features you are looking for are bold, black outlines to help baby focus, and bright, primary colours to draw their gaze. If your baby is closer to newborn, monochrome books can work wonders for their cognitive development, as all visual stimulation does. These books are generally made with materials that are safe and easy to wash.

From three to six months old, you can move onto board books. But stick with the bold and simple illustrations. The That’s Not My… series are great for this, with their textured pages for an extra tactile experience to keep your baby fully engrossed. Most board books in this age range will lie flat, making them perfect for popping in front of your baby for tummy time!

Silly rhyming books go a long way to getting those first giggles out of your little one – try Wiggly Wiggly by Michael Rosen. You can also find classic nursery rhymes in board books for tiny hands.

Once your baby is six months and older, almost any board book is suitable for reading aloud.

A list of my personal favourites would be too long for one blog post, but if I had to pick a top three…

On the Night You Were Born — try getting through this without sobbing all over your baby’s head.

Oh No, George! — all of Chris Haughton’s books are brilliant. Simple enough to give a younger baby, but with enough story for an older toddler

Where’s Mr Lion? — Ingela P. Arrhenius’s vibrant felt lift-the-flap books are full of retro illustrations, and even a mirror hidden under a flap for baby to find for themselves. I love these books because they are so user-friendly, and have plenty of lovely repetition in them to keep baby entertained.

Top tips:

  • Try to pick board books with rounded edges so there’s no risk of eye-poking!
  • Stick with bright primary colours for play time and story time, but switch to books with pastel tones or “night-time” colours before naps and bedtime.
  • For lift-the-flap books, choose felt – it will last longer in their hands!

Your baby will respond to being read to, regardless of their age, so read to them all the time. They’ll associate it with love and attention from you, and go on to be great readers when they are older.

Lisa Corr has been a Children's Bookseller for fourteen years, and holds a Master's in Children's Literature. She reads about 8-9 books a week, and hasn't read a grown-up book in about 7 years. She has a passion for making sure that children go home with the book that's exactly right for them, and revels in the challenge of getting reluctant readers hooked on books too.

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