10 best books for 2 year olds

10 best books for 2 year olds

Your 2 year old is getting bored of ‘That’s not my…’ books and is looking for something a bit more challenging. Or maybe you’re looking for stories for kids that won’t drive the adult reading them insane.

All the other lists I’ve seen have books that are far too complex for a two year old – I’ve seen things like the ‘Mr Men’ books listed. There’s no way my 2 1/2 year old could concentrate through all those words!
So here’s my list of the top children’s books that are genuinely fun and interesting to 2 year olds (these ones were a lifesaver on our 12 hour flight to Thailand with kids).

1. One Ted Falls Out of Bed, Julia Donaldson and Anna Currey

This is a lovely, gentle, poetic book with well written, lyrical text and beautiful illustrations. The text is what really makes this book, as you’d expect from Julia Donaldson. It’s about a teddy bear falling out of bed and having an adventure with all the other toys in the room. He meets three mice along the way, and they go for a ride in ‘four fast cars’, then gaze out of the window at ‘five bright stars’. The story goes on like this, effortlessly weaving numbers into a beautiful bedtime story. Finally he is picked up and brought back into bed.

It’s full of things that small children will enjoy like mice, stars, tea parties, trolls, building blocks (there are certain things all stories for kids should include, right?). Sometimes it takes a while for Jack, my two year old, to get into new books. This one was an instant hit and has remained a firm favourite. I love reading it to him too.

2. The Enormous Crocodile (abridged) by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake

The Enormous Crocodile is a great story with brilliant illustrations. The repetition (‘now for cunning trick no. 2’) and great characters (who doesn’t love the hero of the day, Trunky the elephant) make it an absolute classic. My 2 year old could see it on the bookshelf and kept begging to read it. He loves crocodiles, so wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Eventually I started reading it to him and figured out that it was quite easy to cut the text down enough to make it interesting for him. I tried to stay as true to the original as possible, keeping as much of the original wording as I could so I can keep adding in words and letting it ‘grow’ with him.

How to abridge ‘The Enormous Crocodile’ for 2 year olds

3. One mole digging a hole by Julia Donaldson and Nick Sharratt

Another classic from Julia Donaldson. The words are simple, but there’s loads in there to keep small children interested. My son likes to point out the worm poking out of one of the pears the bears are picking.

Rhyming, counting, animals, bright colours, great illustrations. What more could you want?

4. The Game of Finger Worms by Herve Tullett

This is a very silly, rhyming book about ‘Finger worms’. They’ve been around since the time of the dinosaurs right through the ages (‘Are they hiding in your egg? Or in your slice of cake? Maybe they are swimming at the bottom of the lake’). There’s a hole in the book, so you can poke your fingers through to make the Fingerworms.

It’s a little more ‘designer’ than some of the classical children’s books, so great if you need a break from endless Spot the dog books. It’s a board book too, so works from an early age.

Herve Tullet has written a few other stories for kids and they all contain great illustrations. So if you’re sick of some of bland drawing’s you get in some children’s books then these are a good buy.

5. Peep inside the farm (usborne)


This is one of my favourite lift the flap books. It’s got lots of detail of all sorts of things you’d find on a farm – animals, eggs, barns, tractors, veg, the farm shop. Depending on what my son’s interested in on any particular day he’ll find different things to talk about with this book.

6. The Foggy Foggy Forest by Nick Sharratt

 

I honestly wish more stories for kids were like this. I discovered this one by accident, but it’s entertained Jack for literally hours. And it’s so beautifully illustrated and well written that I still love reading it to him. Each page starts with a scene in silhouette in a dark, foggy forest. The book asks ‘What can this be in the foggy, foggy forest?’ You then turn the page, and the character is shown in colour.

The repetition and rhyme make the book great fun to read (for adults and kids). The illustrations are lovely – the contrast of the dark forest and the colourful characters is brilliant for kids. I think it’s the excitement of turning the page and finding out what the character is that really makes the book though. Lots of books try to do suspense – this one nails it.

7. The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle


Written by the author of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’, this book is another one that just seems to work for kids. Incidentally, if you haven’t already come across ‘Brown Bear Brown Bear’ then I’d highly recommend that too.

You follow the story of a spider who spins a web and catches a fly. Along the way various animals try to distract her, but she’s always ‘very busy spinning her web’.

The web is slightly raised, so there’s a bit of touch and feel to this book. The main things that draw you in, though, are the repetition and the animals.

As with some of the other authors here, Eric Carle’s written loads more stories for kids than just ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ – it’s well worth checking out his other books.

8. Giraffes can’t Dance

When I first saw this book I thought ‘that’s far too complicated for Jack’. However, I gave it a go because so many parents swear by it.

Jack loves it. The images are beautiful and he immediately started interacting with them, asking where the monkeys were, pointing out the cricket’s violin etc.

The story is about a giraffe who can’t dance with the other animals because he looks silly and they laugh at him. He goes off by himself and meets a cricket, who tells him that he just has to find the right tune. It’s a lovely story that tugs on the emotional heart strings and resonates with children. Jack always points out where the giraffe is sad, and then turns the page and tells me ‘he’s not sad anymore’.

It probably is a bit too old for a just-turned-2-year-old, but by the time they’re 2 1/2 it’s definitely one to have on your bookshelf.

9. Walking through the jungle by Stella Blackstone, Debbie Harter and Fred Penner


This is a wonderful, imaginative book about a little child who goes exploring through the jungle and meets various animals. There’s a song to go with it – you can buy either the book by itself or the book plus the DVD. You can find the song on YouTube, here.

There’s lots of repetition, animal sounds, bright colours, great illustrations. Jack pretty much read it non stop for months after we first discovered it!

10. Clip clop by Nicola Smee


This is a story about 4 animals that want to go for a ride on the horse. Eventually they fall of into hay and want to go again. It’s simple but effective.

A note though: This book’s all about the delivery. My husband was about to bin it, when I decided to try it with my son. I put him on my lap and read the book bouncing him up and down on the ‘clip clops’, rocking back when the horse stops and saying the words in a sing song voice (e.g. ‘Plop, plop, ploppity, plop’ when the animals fall in the hay).

If you don’t put your all into book reading then this one’s not for you. If you do, then order it right now – you won’t regret it.

Articles on entertaining kids whilst travelling

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Why you shouldn’t bring your kid’s favourite toy on trips

Long haul flight with toddler and baby

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