In-depth reviews guided by a Pediatrician

Best Books for 2 Year Old

By Molly Bradac ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Tuesday August 25, 2020
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Searching for the best books for 2-year-olds? We researched, purchased, and selected the top 10 books of 2020 for toddlers. We assess each product for appealing features and book format to provide you with the details and recommendations to find the best bookshelf worthy books. It is never too early to start reading to your little one, and our lineup of top-notch books will help kick-off your little one's library and life long interest in reading.

1

Overall Best Bedtime Book


Goodnight Moon


Editors' Choice Award
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$5.70
(37% off)
at Amazon
See It

Format: Board Book | Author: Margaret Wise Brown
Classic and poetic
Spot the mouse
Unvarying color palette

There's a good reason why "Goodnight Moon" has been a well-loved bedtime story since 1947 when it was first published. This sleepy tale is about a little bunny snuggly tucked into bed, who says, "goodnight" to objects around the room or seen from the window. By the end, the lights are out, the moon is high, and the little bunny says, "Goodnight stars. Goodnight air. Goodnight noises everywhere."

We think this story is as sweet as a lullaby, and the illustrations, which alternate between bold colors and monochrome, soothing and attractive. The color palette is not as diverse as other books in our review, but we don't think it matters much since you may be reading it at bedtime. As the book nears the end, we feel our voices grow softer and softer until the last page. We highly recommend this book to friends and family. Also, see if you can spot the little mouse hiding around the green room.

If you would like more bedtime-related books, check out Guess How Much I Love You and Good Night, Gorilla.

Goodnight Moon is a classic  well-loved bedtime story.
Goodnight Moon is a classic, well-loved bedtime story.

2

Our Favorite Rhyming Book


The Pout-Pout Fish


Editors' Choice Award
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$5.00
(38% off)
at Amazon
See It

Format: Board Book | Author: Deborah Diesen
Clever rhyming lines
Fun underwater illustrations
Slightly longer text

The Pout-Pout Fish is a fishy tale about Mr. Fish, who is feeling unhappy, spreading the "dreary-wearies all over the place." Other sea creatures notice Mr. Fish's mood and advise on how to turn his frown upside down. Will Mr. Fish cheer up? Swim from page to page to find out.

The rhyming text, perhaps one of the best, is clever and playful, plus the repetitious lines are catchy. The story is slightly longer than others in our review, but reading this book is swift thanks to the text's cadence. We appreciate the fun illustrations of underwater life, with lots of details. This picture book is fun for caregivers to read, and we recommend it to toddlers, but also think your newborn won't mind listening, too.

The Pout-Pout Fish is fun for both children and adults.
The Pout-Pout Fish is fun for both children and adults.

3

Best Bang for the Buck


First 100 Box Set


Best Value Award
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$16.17
(10% off)
at Amazon
See It

Format: Board Book | Author: Roger Priddy
Picture Book
Perfect for language development
Label vocabulary

The First 100 Box Set is excellent for early learners and talkers. Whether your baby enjoys looking at the pictures or your budding toddler is discovering and practicing vocabulary, like numbers, colors, shapes, animals, etc., this set is a hit. The books are durable and may endure lots of page-turning, plus they include colorful, eye-catching photos.

The books include pictures of other babies and familiar objects, which will catch your child's attention. The books do not offer a storyline, just labels, but your child will benefit from listening to vocabulary and repetition. If you seek educational books to build your child's vocabulary and language development, we think this set is a bookshelf must-have. Plus, with three books in the collection, it is budget-friendly.

The book set is great for pre-readers.
The book set is great for pre-readers.

4

Best Interactive Book


Press Here


Top Pick Award
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$8.72
(3% off)
at Amazon
See It

Format: Board Book | Author: Herve Tullet
Creative and innovative book
Best for toddler or preschooler
May require some assistance

Press Here is a brilliant and unique interactive book, providing screen-free entertainment. Follow the instructions and let the magic begin as dots move, change colors, multiply, and grow. Will the yellow dot return to normal?

A toddler may need some assistance here and there, but it won't take long before mastery. We think this fun book will bring giggles and smiles to both children and adults, and we believe it is a must-have book for your toddler's reading list.

Press Here is an innovative interactive book  most suitable for toddlers and up.
Press Here is an innovative interactive book, most suitable for toddlers and up.

5

Our Favorite Pop-Up Book


The Wide-Mouthed Frog


Top Pick Award
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$10.19
(32% off)
at Amazon
See It

Format: Hardcover Book | Author: Keith Faulkner
Funny
Large pop-up illustrations
Short story
Pop-up illustrations fragile

The Wide-Mouthed Frog is curious about what the other creatures like to eat until he meets the alligator… "splash!" The pop-up illustrations are large and adorable for any age, plus the academic lesson of learning what other animals eat is a perk.

Unfortunately, this book is short, and we wish the frog would meet more characters. We also understand pop-up books provide movement and excitement, but they are fragile, and children are not always gentle creatures. However, don't let these flaws stop you. We believe reading and using a book is more important than allowing it to collect dust on a bookshelf. We recommend this funny pop-up book to babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Plus, have a stab at giving each character a different voice.

The Wide-Mouthed Frog is an excellent pop-up book with a funny ending.
The Wide-Mouthed Frog is an excellent pop-up book with a funny ending.

6

Best Quick Read


Blue Hat, Green Hat


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$4.58
(24% off)
at Amazon
See It

Format: Board Book | Author: Sandra Boynton
Funny
Teaches colors and clothing
Quick read

Blue Hat, Green Hat may be simple in text, but it is silly, and toddlers delight yelling, "oops!" Every animal tries on clothing, each wearing a different color; however, the last animal just can't get it right and messes up the pattern. This adorable story is written and illustrated by Sandra Boynton, and the pictures are charming.

The book is a quick read, but the story will keep you smiling. We appreciate that the illustrations are simple and clear, and the book teaches about colors and clothing in a silly way. This amusing book is perfect for younger audiences, and it is one we often grab to read to littles. We highly recommend it to friends and family.

We think Sandra Boynton is a talented children's literature author and illustrator, especially for this age group, and we think you may also like Moo, Baa, La La La! and Doggies.

Blue Hat  Green Hat is a quick read  yet funny.
Blue Hat, Green Hat is a quick read, yet funny.

7

Best Book About Individuality


Giraffes Can't Dance


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$4.68
(33% off)
at Amazon
See It

Format: Board Book | Author: Giles Andreae
Colorful illustrations
Positive message
Longer than others

Giraffes Can't Dance is a tale about individuality, confidence, and overcoming challenges. At the jungle dance, the warthog's waltz, the rhinos rock 'n' rolled, the lions tango, but Gerald, the clumsy giraffe, he can't seem to dance. Will Gerald find his rhythm?

This book offers humor, rhyming lines with a catchy cadence, and colorful illustrations full of details. The book is slightly longer than other books in our review, but we recommend this endearing story, and think it is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers who will have a longer attention span.

Giraffes Can't Dance offers a positive message with lyrical text  making it fun to read.
Giraffes Can't Dance offers a positive message with lyrical text, making it fun to read.

8

Best British Classic Book


Each Peach Pear Plum


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$6.99
at Amazon
See It

Format: Board Book | Authors: Janet and Allan Ahlberg
Beautiful illustrations
Excellent introduction to "I spy"
British book, which may influence rhyming

Each Peach Pear Plum is a pure delight and British classic. Written in an "I spy" format, you must find beloved fairy tale characters hiding in the illustrations, like Tom Thumb, Mother Hubbard, Cinderella, and more. With rhyming words and Mother Goose nostalgia for caregivers, we think this is a must-have book.

We think this story is easy to recite by heart over time, and we never tire of re-reading this book. The beautiful illustrations are detailed, and we enjoy the hide and seek concept, which encourages interaction. Keep in mind, the author is British, and to rhyme, you may need to take a stab at a British accent for a word or two. We recommend this book to all ages and think it is bookshelf worthy.

Each Peach Pear Plum is a classic story with Mother Goose characters hiding in the illustrations.
Each Peach Pear Plum is a classic story with Mother Goose characters hiding in the illustrations.

9

Best Book with Liftable Flaps


Where's Spot?


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$5.00
(38% off)
at Amazon
See It

Format: Paperback Book | Author: Eric Hill
Lift-the-flap feature
Great illustrations
Flaps may rip

The lift-the-flap feature of Where's Spot? makes this book a baby's favorite. Indeed, babies love to open and close the flaps. Also, the warm pictures and simple text make this book perfect for early readers. So, see if you can find Spot, a mischievous, but an adorable puppy.

Keep in mind, the flaps may tear over time, but we think this possibility is worth the gamble. From about six months and on, your baby may be ready to explore liftable flaps, and we believe this book is perfect for baby's first lift-the-flap book.

If you like this book, we think you will also enjoy Where is Baby's Belly Button?

The Where's Spot? book is attractive for its lift-the-flap feature.
The Where's Spot? book is attractive for its lift-the-flap feature.

10

Not Recommended Book


The Wonky Donkey


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$4.85
(46% off)
at Amazon
See It

Format: Paperback Book | Author: Craig Smith
Silly wordplay
Best for older toddler or preschooler
Paperback not as durable

The Wonky Donkey is a quirky and silly book about a donkey, and as the story unfolds with silly wordplay and pictures, you learn more details about the donkey.

We understand why this book is popular. The silly, tongue-twister rhymes are a selling point of this book and they are funny sounding when you read them aloud. However, we feel the content isn't inclusive. The donkey in this book is essentially being ridiculed for his differences, and we think the message encourages bullying behaviors and name-calling. Words are powerful, and since we believe inclusiveness, compassion, and love starts early through actions and words, we think you should pass on this book, especially as there are better rhyming books on the market that do not alienate people or animals for the things that make them individuals.

If you are looking for a book about inclusiveness of differently-abled individuals, perhaps for an older child, check out We're All Wonders. Based on the true story of Auggie Pullman, this book explores why being different isn't a bad thing.

The Wonky Donkey is not a book we recommend  especially as there are better options.
The Wonky Donkey is not a book we recommend, especially as there are better options.

Tip: If your toddler's attention span is short, don't worry. Toddlers like to move. It is more important to create positive experience with books than to finish reading each book. Start by frequently reading books that are short and simple, then build-up to longer books.

Each book in our review was research  purchased  and hands-on tested.
Each book in our review was research, purchased, and hands-on tested.

Why You Should Trust Us


BabyGearLab has hands-on tested numerous baby-related products over the past decade, developing comprehensive testing methods to rate and rank baby gear. Leading our review is Molly Bradac, Research Analyst, and Nanny with over 14 years of experience. Over the years, Molly has read countless children's books to babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children. Also, Molly was an Early Learning Specialist for AmeriCorps, where she promoted school readiness by teaching in a preschool and kindergarten classroom. Combining all of these experiences, Molly can identify which books are fun for children and enjoyable for parents to read because your child will ask to read it over and over again. For this review, BabyGearLab purchased each product, and hands-on tested it to evaluate performance.

Make reading fun with a variety of books.

Analysis and Test Results


Each book experienced lots of reading to determine which one has exciting features and appeals to younger audiences.

Books with flaps are fun and entertaining for younger children.
Books with flaps are fun and entertaining for younger children.

Features


Reading is fun, and it is essential to make it a positive experience for your little one, which will help nurture a love of books and reading. Babies explore books by touching, and Where's Spot? with liftable flaps is an exciting feature for younger audiences as it keeps hands busy. Press Here may be the most interactive book in the bunch, and The Wide-Mouthed Frog is the only book that offers pop-up illustrations. Also, babies enjoy books with bright and bold photos, particularly pictures of other babies, and we think the First 100 Box Set is the perfect set to meet these needs. If your toddler enjoys an "I-spy" book, we suggest Each Peach Pear Plum as it offers detailed illustrations, which are great for exploring. Other books in our review offer rhythmic lines, like The Pout-Pout Fish and Giraffes Can't Dance. If you are seeking humor, which is a big selling point for this toddlers, we suggest Blue Hat, Green Hat. Regardless of which books you choose, offer a variety and follow your child's interest to get and keep them engaged.

The Wide-Mouthed Frog offers large pop-ups and although fragile for little hands  we think it is worth the experience.
The Wide-Mouthed Frog offers large pop-ups and although fragile for little hands, we think it is worth the experience.

Book Format


Children's books for two-year-olds come in various formats, including board books, hardcover books, and paperback books. For your little one's library, keep books in easy to reach locations and offer durable books because children don't always handle items with care. The go-to book format for babies and toddlers are board books. The pages are thicker board stock that is harder to bend or damage. Once your little one develops fine motor coordination, they can turn the pages themselves. Also, be warned that books may be the target when teething and drooling; therefore, you may notice wear and tear. In comparison, hardcover books provide a hardcover, but the pages are standard, and they can easily rip, the same is true for paperback books. We think this is a factor to consider when purchasing a book, but don't let it be a deal-breaker. All of the books in our review are board books, except for The Wide-Mouthed Frog and The Wonky Donkey.

Benefits of Reading


The human brain is truly amazing, and it develops at an extraordinary rate; in fact, science shows that 80 percent of a child's brain forms during their first three years. Therefore, within this window of time, the simple act of reading to your child immensely impacts their development and it creates more neural connections. Those brain connections strengthen, link, and build over time, setting the stage to do everyday tasks in life, such as thinking, communicating, learning, etc. All of these skills create success in school and beyond. And the benefits don't stop there. Reading is a bonding experience between caregiver and child. It provides a safe and nurturing environment that promotes a love of reading. So, don't hesitate or feel silly reading, singing, and playing with your child, even as a newborn. During the early years, the interactions you have with your baby are rich in learning and make all the difference.

Tip: Read, sing, and play over and over again. Repetition strengthens your baby's language development.

As your child grows  slowly increase the length and complexity of books.
As your child grows, slowly increase the length and complexity of books.

Conclusion


Books are magical, and we think you'll enjoy creating your baby's first library. With many children's books to choose from, our round-up includes top-notch books that will help kick-off your baby's collection. So, snuggle up with your little one and read away.

Molly Bradac