As any new parent knows, there are a million things to take care of before your little one arrives. The novelty of stocking up on nappies and finding the perfect pram may soon wear off, but designing your ideal nursery and filling it with fun books to read together is perhaps the most enjoyable job to look forward to!
Being read to by parents is a huge part of every baby’s development, helping them build up memory and language skills. Reading to your baby also provides a great opportunity to bond, and will encourage your little one to continue reading as they grow older, associating books with the love and affection of their parents.
What makes a great baby book?
All baby books share many of the same characteristics; they’re simple and colourful, with an easy-to-follow story that is structured in a way to help young minds make sense of the world around them. What sets a great baby book apart from a good one is largely down to how it helps develop language skills, and listed below are a few of the very best on the market:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle
It’s hard to believe that this classic children’s book is almost 50 years old, but it’s easy to see why it’s still so popular. Eric Carle’s masterpiece combines big, bright colours with basic educational elements like counting, types of fruit and days of the week, all written in an easy-to-follow repetitive structure. The holes that the eponymous caterpillar chews through also provide a nice tactile element to help develop an infant’s co-ordination, and the unique collage-style illustrations are eye-catchingly charming.
In the Tall, Tall Grass – Denise Fleming
A classic tale that continues the creepy-crawly theme, In the Tall, Tall Grass tells the story of yet another adventurous caterpillar (children love caterpillars, apparently) and the fascinating creatures it encounters on its journey through the undergrowth.
The illustrations are bright and bold, easy for youngsters to focus on, and the rhyming, alliterative descriptions (such as, ‘Zip, zap, tongues snap!’) are easy for infants to latch on to.
Because babies don’t yet understand language, they’re listening to the cadence and pitch of our voices, rather than the meanings of words. That’s why simple, sing-song phrases are a great way to develop your child’s language skills, and why this book is so great for babies!
Goodnight Moon – Margaret Wise Brown
Pre-bedtime reading is a great way to keep to a regular reading schedule, which in turn will be beneficial to your baby’s development. Goodnight Moon is a perfect fit for this time of day: Margaret Wise Brown’s gentle story of a young rabbit trying to put off going to sleep by wishing goodbye to everything he can see is repetitive, expressive and teaches little ones to associate different sounds with different everyday objects.
Now that you’ve got an idea of what books to fill your baby’s bookshelf with (if you can limit yourself to just one bookshelf!), you’ll need to know where best to get them. Most books are readily available online, in both new and used condition, and many local libraries also provide a handy selection of baby books if you’re in need of variation.
Because most babies like to explore the world around them by sticking anything and everything in their mouth, you’re likely find that your little one tries to chew on their beautiful brand new books! Luckily, most publishers offer baby-friendly versions of their releases, complete with special non-toxic coatings and tough construction. You can even find books made entirely of fabric for use in the bath, or with knobbly plastic corners – specifically designed for chomping on!
Rob Waring is Head of Children’s and Nursery Furniture at Oak Furniture Land.