The 12 best books for two-year-olds, as recommended by parents
24 March 2021
These top books for two-year-olds are perfect for early learning. But, most importantly, they're also great for snuggling up and enjoying together.
1. Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees
Gerald the tall giraffe would love to join in with the other animals at the Jungle Dance, but everyone knows that giraffes can't dance… or can they? A family favourite for over 15 years, Giraffes Can't Dance is a funny and touching story about a giraffe who finds his own tune and confidence, with brilliant illustrations that complement the joyful spirit of the book.
“We love this book for the story, the rhymes, the pictures and the message that even clumsy creatures can be graceful. If you can, get the audio version narrated by Hugh Laurie – it's wonderful.”
2. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
If there’s a story that’s sure to bring a joyful tear to the eye of Mumsnetters, it’s the simple, yet moving, Guess How Much I Love You. This beautiful tale follows Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare as they explore different units of measurement in order to express how much they love one another. With sweet illustrations as well as heartfelt prose, this book is a wonderful way to let your little one know how loved they are (just make sure you've got tissues on hand).
“Guess How Much I Love You seems to have a magic effect on my daughter and calms her down, even if she wakes up crying during the night.”
“I can never get to the end of Guess How Much I Love You unless I have waterproof eyeliner on!”
3. Where Are You, Blue Kangaroo? by Emma Chichester Clark
Lily loves Blue Kangaroo, but she often loses him and sometimes Blue Kangaroo wonders if he’ll ever see her again. Luckily, Lily always seems to find him, but what if one day she doesn’t? A heartwarming story featuring Lily and her much-loved toy, this book can also help young children talk about different emotions.
“Good story and vibrant illustrations. DD (19 months) likes it so much she wouldn't even let me near it at first until she'd read it a couple of times herself.”
“My DDs love the Blue Kangaroo books, especially shouting 'Where are you' at the top of their voices!”
4. We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
Follow and join in the family's excitement as they wade through the grass, splash through the river and squelch through the mud in search of a bear. What a surprise awaits them in the cave on the other side of the dark forest… This is a timeless classic that is fun to read aloud and beautiful to look at.
“A must buy! All my children love this and we regularly go on our own hunts in the woods. Sometimes the children even break into the rhyme independently.”
5. Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy by Lynley Dodd
Hairy Maclary goes off for a walk with a few of his friends – and comes up against a nasty surprise in the shape of Scarface Claw, the toughest tomcat in town! The story is told through a fun, rhyming text and terrific pictures that are sure to appeal to toddlers.
“My daughter adores this book. After a couple of reads she was joining in with the rhymes. An added bonus is that I rather like this one too!”
“Both my boys have always been huge fans of the Hairy McLairy books.”
6. Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett
As a little girl and her toy monkey swing through the pages, this playful book invites children to guess what animal they are pretending to be, before revealing the real creatures. Beautifully illustrated and a great interactive read, Monkey and Me is always a hit with young children.
“A brilliant book and an absolute favourite with my son. He loves the repetition and rhythm of the language. The text is very simple, but there are lots of layers – great for encouraging toddlers to recognise animals and spot clues in the pictures. I love it too!”
7. Five Minutes' Peace by Jill Murphy
Family life is beautifully captured in this warm and funny modern classic from Jill Murphy. This is the story of Mrs Large the elephant – who just needs five minutes of peace and quiet away from her boisterous children. So, taking refuge in the bathroom, she fills herself a hot, foamy bubble bath. But there's never a dull moment with the Larges, and it soon becomes clear that mum's quiet time is to be very short-lived (sound familiar?).
“Five Minutes' Peace was one of our absolute favourites when my children were small. I'm reading the same dog-eared copy to my four beautiful grandchildren.”
8. A Bit Lost by Chris Haughton
This is the heart-warming story of Little Owl – who must be more careful when he is sleeping… because uh-oh! He has fallen from his nest, and with a bump he lands on the ground. Where is his mummy? With the earnest assistance of his new friend Squirrel, Little Owl sets off in search of her, and meets a sequence of other animals. Charting the journey of a little lost owl, this is a sweet, reassuring story to share with your toddler.
“Especially good for helping to deal with separation. It's about a little lost owl, and when he finds his mummy my son cheers and claps.”
9. I Want My Potty by Tony Ross
“Nappies are YUUECH!” said the Little Princess. “There must be something better!” At first, the Little Princess thinks the royal potty is even worse, but she soon learns to love it… even if it isn't always there when she needs it! This hilarious account of royal potty training is sure to amuse children and can help parents introduce them to the concept.
“This is a brilliant book for potty training! Our daughter loves the Little Princess series and thought the pictures of her using the potty were hilarious! Great for introducing the idea of the potty to your child – I would really recommend this book.”
10. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
In a great green room a little bunny is tucked up snugly and safely in bed and is getting ready to say goodnight to all the familiar things in his room, one by one. This gentle story, loved by generations of children, is the perfect book to read to your toddler at bedtime (and hopefully lull them to sleep too).
“The best lullaby-type book is Goodnight Moon – my two and a half year old daughter can recite it off by heart and reads it to her teddy after we have leave her to go to sleep. It is a wonderful discovery, clever, sweet and just the thing before bedtime.”
11. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
The Very Hungry Caterpillar has become one of the most read children's books in Britain – for a very good reason. It's a simple, hopeful tale that makes an ideal bedtime read, and its die-cut pages and finger-sized holes allow your child to play while they follow the story.
“This is a brilliant book … so simple but so effective. Counting, colours and words – it's all in there. A definite classic.”
12. Peepo! by Janet and Allen Ahlberg
Peepo! has become a classic for babies and toddlers. As it follows a baby through the day, it includes a series of holes peeping through to the next page that gives children a hint of what's to come. The rhythm of the story is great for little listening ears and the interactive nature of this book is sure to keep your toddler entertained.
“My child loved the rhymes and pictures, and I loved it for the pure nostalgia of a bygone age. There's a lot going on in the pictures, so as well as the rhymes we enjoyed spotting various things and talking about them. A classic book for very small children.”
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