The early years of a child’s life are full of firsts—first tooth, first word, first steps. And on a child’s first (or second) Christmas or Hanukkah, what a joy to give the perfect present and watch their face light up. Here’s a selection of books and toys that will build your baby’s vocabulary, aid in brain development, and, most importantly, provide hours of fun.
Little Blue Truck, by Alice Schertle, Jill McElmurry (Illustrator)
Nothing can bring down Blue—until he gets stuck in the mud on a country road. Fortunately, Blue has lots of animal pals who are willing to help. Parents and kids will love the vintage vibe of McElmurry’s illustrations, plus the rhyming text and the dialogue that begs to be read in funny voices.
The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats
Warm up with the beloved tale of little bundled-up Peter, who enjoys frolicking in the snow. This classic, Caldecott Medal–winning book is just as relevant and beautiful now as it was in 1962, when it was first published. The sweet story and iconic illustrations capture children’s bliss at the prospect of a snowy day.
Corduroy, by Don Freeman
It’s impossible not to fall in love with Corduroy, everyone’s favorite department store teddy bear. Because he’s missing a button on his overalls, nobody will buy him, so he spends a night in the store exploring the escalator and mattress section, while avoiding the security guard. He shows young readers that it’s okay not to be perfect—we’re still worthy of love. The story ends happily when a little girl chooses Corduroy, bringing him home to fix his overalls.
Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown
“Goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere.” Perhaps the best bedtime story ever, Goodnight Moon belongs in every child’s library. Moving and melodic, it has the unique ability to delight both parents and babies every single time it’s read aloud.
Little Owl’s Night, by Divya Srinivasan
We’re tickled by the cleverness of this bedtime story in reverse. Nocturnal Little Owl absolutely loves the darkness and wonders how on earth the daytime could possibly compete. His Mama tells him what he’s missing, and though he struggles to stay awake, he succumbs to zzzzzzzzs.
Ten Tiny Toes, by Caroline Jayne Church
Church’s playful artwork and rhymes come together to teach toddlers the names for their “mouth, ears, eyes, and nose”—and, of course, their “ten tiny toes.” Kids will love finding their features on their feet, faces, and the page.
Press Here, by Herve Tullet
Press Here might look like the other picture books on your child’s shelf, until you open it up. This creative story starts with a yellow dot and encourages kids to press, shake, and tilt the book, making for a fun, interactive experience every time. As you read and follow the instructions, the dots multiply, grow, and change directions, turning each read into an adventure kids will want to revisit at every bedtime (possibly more than once).
Whistling Pull Along Duck (12 months+)
Duck, duck, YES! Pulling this cheerful little friend along the floor will help your toddler work on her balance and coordination. And if the duck is left unattended for too long, it quacks, which will really keep a child on her toes.
Leap Frog Sing & Play Farm (6 months+)
Few things fascinate a little one like farm animals and the sounds they make. This fun and educational farmhouse is full of things to explore, from animals that move to familiar melodies like “Old MacDonald” and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Big buttons, flippy switches, and keys (every kid’s favorite!) will help your baby build fine motor skills while he plays.
Topanifarm (18 months+)
Little ones will love the bright, cheerful animal graphics on these stackable, nestable blocks, and Mom and Dad will love that they’re sturdy and washable. Each block has its own animal and numbers and can fit together like a puzzle, making for a great matching game for older toddlers.
Bon Bon Activity Cube (9 months+)
If your little smarty pants is already working on in-out play, she’ll love this Activity Cube, which includes three soft pieces that can be pushed through corresponding cutouts. The differently textured fabrics feel interesting to little hands, and the plastic and wooden rings are fun to grab—and chew on.