In-depth baby product reviews led by a Pediatrician

Best Books for 2 Year Old

Reading to your 2-year old is a magical experience, and in this review we share our favorite toddler-age books from Goodnight Moon to Interactive books your child will love.
As your child grows, slowly increase the length and complexity of book...
Credit: Abriah Wofford
By Molly Bradac ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Monday July 19, 2021
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Ready to read some top-notch books with your favorite 2-year-old? Check out our lineup of 2021's top 11 books. With a market flooded with children's books, plus more being published every year, selecting a book that your little one will love can be a task. Lucky for you, we've got the scoop. To determine the best, we've researched the market before purchasing well-loved contenders to send through hands-on testing. Between lots of reading and page-turning, we evaluated each one for book format and appealing features that catch toddlers' attention, providing you with important details and expert recommendations so you can purchase the best bookshelf-worthy book for your toddler. We are confident that an option in our review will be a great addition to your child's library.


1

Our Favorite Rhyming Book


The Pout-Pout Fish


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 feels 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. We think the rhyming text is creative, playful, and catchy.

The story is slightly longer (although not the longest) than other books in our review, but the repetitive text is swift to read, thanks to the text's jolly cadence, and you may notice your toddler memorizing and reciting along. If you appreciate fun illustrations of underwater life and rhyming, we think this book is a fit, and you will not mind reading it over and over again.

The Pout-Pout Fish is fun for both children and adults.
The Pout-Pout Fish is fun for both children and adults.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

2

Best Classic Bedtime Book


Goodnight Moon


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 classic bedtime story since 1947, when it was first published. This sleepy tale (in a good way!) is about a little bunny tucked snuggly 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." This story is as sweet as a lullaby, and while reading aloud, we notice our voices growing softer and softer until the last page. The book's illustrations, which alternate between bold and monochrome colors, are attractive and charming for little readers. If you seek other bedtime books, check out Guess How Much I Love You and Good Night, Gorilla.

The book's color palette is not as diverse as other options in our review, but we don't think this is a deal-breaker. We highly recommend this classic bedtime book to friends and family, and for extra fun, see if you can spot the little mouse hiding around the green room.

Goodnight Moon is a classic, well-loved bedtime story.
Goodnight Moon is a classic, well-loved bedtime story.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

3

Best Bang for the Buck


First 100 Box Set


Format: Board Book | Author: Roger Priddy
Picture Book
Perfect for language development
No storyline

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, books with a single word and picture, like this book set, can help progress literacy development. Honestly, we think this option is a hit. The books are durable and may endure lots of page-turning, plus the colorful, eye-catching photos of other babies and familiar objects, which will catch your child's attention.

The books do not offer a storyline, but your child will benefit from listening to vocabulary and repetition. If you seek books to build and expand your child's vocabulary and language development, we think this set is a bookshelf must-have. Despite the upfront cost, 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.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

4

Best Interactive Book


Press Here


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? Explore the pages to find out.

A tot 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...
Press Here is an innovative interactive book, most suitable for toddlers and up.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

5

Our Favorite with Liftable Flaps


Where's Spot?


Format: Board Book | Author: Eric Hill
Lift-the-flap
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 and spend lots of time reading. Also, the warm pictures and simple text make this book perfect for early readers. So, see if you can find Spot, a mischievous but adorable puppy! If you seek more lift-the-flap books, consider Where is Baby's Belly Button?

Keep in mind, the flaps may tear over time, but we think this possibility is worth the gamble. We believe this book is perfect for your baby's first lift-the-flap book, and they will enjoy exploring the book's features.

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.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

6

Best for Friends and Helping


Good Night, Little Blue Truck


Format: Hardcover Book | Author: Alice Schertle
Rhyming storyline
Paperback

The Good Night, Little Blue Truck is not only fun to read aloud (thanks to its rollicking rhymes), but it also shares an adorable tale of friendship and helping others, especially during a storm that is creating some racket. We are sure this book will leave a smile on you and your child's face. Plus, the whimsical illustrations are enjoyable and inviting. If your child is a fan of Little Blue Truck, there are plenty more books to read, like Little Blue Truck Leads the Way, available as a hardcover and board book. Or, if your tot lights up with engines, wheels, and "beep!" sounds, check out Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site.

Besides being a hardcover book, which can be more fragile than board books, we don't see any significant drawbacks. If you're looking to change up and add a popular book to your bedtime routine, we suggest giving this one a go.

Credit: Abriah Wofford

7

Best Quick Read


Blue Hat, Green Hat


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

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

Although the book is a quick read, the story will keep you smiling. If you seek humor, this amusing book is perfect for younger audiences, and it is one we often reach for during storytime.

Blue Hat, Green Hat is a quick read, yet funny.
Blue Hat, Green Hat is a quick read, yet funny.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

8

Best Book About Individuality


Giraffes Can't Dance


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

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 we 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...
Giraffes Can't Dance offers a positive message with lyrical text, making it fun to read.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

9

Best British Classic Book


Each Peach Pear Plum


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

Each Peach Pear Plum is a pure delight and a 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 book is a must-have. Also, the hide-and-seek concept is fabulous and 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. Who knows, it may make you giggle. We recommend this book to all ages and believe it is undoubtedly bookshelf worthy.

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

10

Best for Folktale


The Mitten


Format: Hardcover Book | Author: Jan Brett
Detailed illustrations
No rhyming

The Mitten is a Ukrainian folktale retold and illustrated by Jan Brett. The story unfolds as a little boy named Nicki accidentally drops one of his white mittens in the snow. Curious animals of all sizes come to check out the mitten, but will Nicki find his mitten again? The beautiful illustrations overflow with details, and the reader can see Nicki in each page's borders, walking around the woods unaware of what is going on.

If you appreciate stories with rhyming words, this may not be the book for you. But, the story is a delight to read. We recommend this book to children who will enjoy a classic folktale.

Take a close look at the pages' border for clues to guess what will...
Take a close look at the pages' border for clues to guess what will happen next in the story.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

11

Good Pop-Up Book


The Wide-Mouthed Frog


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 educational 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.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Tip: If your toddler's attention span is short, don't worry. Toddlers like to move. Instead of finishing each book, create positive experiences. Start by frequently reading books that are short and simple in text, 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.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Why You Should Trust Us


BabyGearLab has been testing various baby products over the past decade. We've developed extensive testing methods to rate and rank baby gear, and we believe the combination of our experiences and knowledge has made us experts. Leading our review is Molly Bradac, Senior Review Editor, Nanny, and previously an Early Learning Specialist for AmeriCorps where she created and promoted school readiness within preschool and kindergarten classrooms. It is safe to say, Molly has read countless children's books to babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children, and she can effortlessly recommend top-notch books that are enjoyable for various audiences to read. Since there's a good chance your child will ask you to read a favorite book over and over again, it's essential to make sure it's a good one. For this review, BabyGearLab purchased each book and completed hands-on testing (lots and lots of reading and page-turning) to evaluate performance.

Make reading fun with a variety of books.

Analysis and Test Results


To rank our lineup, we read each book to multiple toddler testers. We assessed each one for exciting features and stories that may appeal to younger audiences, along with book format, so you can consider what works best for your needs.

Books with flaps are fun and entertaining for younger children.
Books with flaps are fun and entertaining for younger children.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Features


Make reading a positive experience for your child by building a library with various books and features. Since babies explore books using their senses, incorporate books with sensory stimulation. For instance, Where's Spot? with liftable flaps is an exciting feature for younger audiences as it keeps little hands busy. Honestly, if your baby sits and plays with the flaps over and over again, which may not seem like reading, this activity is fun for them and encourages reading. Also, babies like pictures of people and everyday objects, especially those with bright and bold colors, and we think the First 100 Box Set is perfect for pre-literate babies. The only book in our lineup that offers pop-up illustrations is The Wide-Mouthed Frog, which can be thrilling for little ones to experience. Books in our lineup that offer rhythmic lines include The Pout-Pout Fish, Good Night, Little Blue Truck, and Giraffes Can't Dance, and, if your child wants to read these books on repeat, have no fret, they are fun for parents to read.

If you seek humor (a big selling point for babies and toddlers), we suggest Blue Hat, Green Hat. Also, for toddlers who enjoy "I-spy" books, the Each Peach Pear Plum is an excellent match for this age group. It offers illustrations of beloved characters, with some playing a game of hide-and-seek - see if you can find them. The most interactive book in our lineup is Press Here, hands-down a fun book as it requires your tot to follow a sequence of requests.

Regardless of which books you choose, we recommend offering a diverse selection of books with exciting features, plus follow your child's interest to get them engaged. In our opinion, nurturing a love of books and reading starts early.

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

Book Format


Children's books come in many formats, including board books, hardcover books, and paperback books. Since younger children don't always handle items with care, we suggest offering durable and sturdy books, such as board books. These books can be slightly smaller (more suitable for little hands to hold) and have thicker pages that will not easily bend or damage. Once your little one develops fine motor coordination, you'll notice that they can more easily turn the pages of these books themselves. Be warned that your little one may mouth, teeth, and drool on their board books, and you may notice some wear and tear. But, we believe that all well-loved books should show use.

Hardcover books combine a hardcover with standard pages, which are more delicate than board books, and can increase the chance of them ripping or creasing when in younger children's hands. 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. In our review, all of the books are board books, except for The Wide-Mouthed Frog, The Mitten, and Good Night, Little Blue Truck.

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 significantly impacts their development. It creates neural connections, and those brain connections strengthen, link, and build over time, which set 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...
As your child grows, slowly increase the length and complexity of books.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Conclusion


Books are magical, and we think you'll enjoy creating and building your child's library. With many children's books to choose from, we believe our lineup includes top-notch books that will help kick off your child's collection. Children who enjoy shared book reading often become lifelong readers, so snuggle up with your little one and read away.

Molly Bradac