Monday, January 23, 2017

Best Books for our Little Lovebugs

[Originally written in February 2015. Updated in 2017 with new books and age recommendations.]

Tonight at bedtime, as I sought to get past one of those days that makes me suspect that people are correct when they say that three years old is harder than two, I pulled Toddler X onto my lap for some bedtime reading. Hoping to reconnect and calm him before he fell asleep, I reached for one of our "I Love You books" (a category I explained in my post about Building a Toddler Library).

As I opened up I Love You Through and Through, I saw my mom's writing inside the front cover -- "To my darling [Toddler X], love on your first Valentine's Day, Gramma and Pops." Grandma X's notation made me smile for a whole host of reasons -- maybe the biggest of which is the degree to which she understands me. Want to get my son a present for Valentine's Day? No chocolates, no stuffed animals, no little do-dads are necessary -- get him a book, please, and a sweet one at that!

After reading the book to Toddler X -- and promising that I loved him "yesterday, today and tomorrow too," notwithstanding his current antics -- it struck me that a list of sweet, loving books for toddlers might be a nice addition to the blog. These would be great Valentine's Day gifts (sugar free!), or just snuggle-inducing bedtime reading any time of year. Enjoy!

[Note: I'm updating this list in 2017 to include several books that are either new, or new to us. If you enjoyed the original post two years ago, check out the newest additions towards the end.]

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. If you enjoy this post or blog as a whole, and you choose to buy these books (or anything else sold by Amazon), I'd greatly appreciate you using the links. Thank you!

Our Favorites


You are my I Love You. Oh, how I love this book! I can barely get through it without choking up. The rhymes and images are beautiful and evocative, as the daddy bear perfectly sums up the parent-child relationship on page after page. A total winner. (Recommended for 1 - 3 year olds, though you can definitely pull it out from time to time as they get older.)

Guess How Much I Love You. Toddler X loves this book right now, and I always have. No matter how many times I read it (and I have read it a lot), I still get tears in my eyes at the last line. It's such a perfect wind-down to the day, and as it's usually our last book of the evening, those final words are often among my final words of the day to Toddler X. I like to think they send him off to dreamland feeling pretty confident that he's adored. (Again, recommended for 1 - 3 year olds, though you can definitely pull it out from time to time as they get older.)


I Love You, Stinkyface. Such a cute, clever book. Toddler X loves the creative pictures (especially now, in the "Why?" stage -- "Why are they eating bugs? Why does he need a bigger toothbrush? Why? Why? Why?"), and I love the sweet question and answer format. (One more in the "recommended for 1 - 3 year olds, though you can definitely pull it out from time to time as they get older" camp.)

I Love You Through and Through. Aww. This book makes me smile. It was Grandma X's first Valentine's Day present for Toddler X (and the book that triggered this post), and it's just so darn cute. Toddler X loves following the illustrations of the bear on each page as he reacts to his owner's moods. This is a great one for younger toddlers, as it goes through body parts and moods and builds vocabulary (but still cute to read with the older ones!). (Recommended for infants - 2 year olds. Toddler X really enjoyed this one when he was an actual toddler.)


Snuggle Puppy: This has been one of my favorite books since Toddler X was an infant. I used to sing it very softly and quietly, almost like a lullaby. Now it's more of a boisterous celebration of my love for my (very boisterous) little snuggle puppy, with lots of really long "ooooooooooooohs" and a thorough snuggling. However you sing it, though, it's a fun way to let your little one know you love him or her. (Recommended for infants - 3 year olds, though you can definitely pull it out from time to time as they get older.)

On the Night You Were Born: It's kind of funny to put these two side-by-side, because they couldn't be more different in style -- while Snuggle Puppy is silly and fun, On the Night You Were Born is peaceful and lovely. I've gotten this book for several new moms, as it's so beautiful to read to a newborn, and gains even more meaning as a child grows up. The images stick with you -- the polar bears dancing 'til dawn, the ladybugs not flying away -- and the final words are the perfect ones to leave your little one with as you kiss him or her goodnight. (Recommended for infants -- who won't understand it, but will appreciate the soothing cadence before bedtime -- and up. I loved reading this to Toddler X when he was a baby.)


Hug: Talk about a great book for pre-readers! If your toddler can manage to remember "hug", "mama" and "Bobo", he or she can "read" this sweet book -- which Toddler X loves to do all the time. I love talking to him about how sad Bobo is when he can't find his mommy -- it's a great chance to build some empathy into that little toddler psyche. (A cute board book, recommended for ages 1 - 3.)

(And a cute story: when we were in Disneyland in December, I saw a little boy who had gotten separated from his mom and had started to cry. I handed Toddler X off to my parents and got down on my knees with the little boy to comfort him, while Mr. X looked for the mom or a staffer. The mom, of course, appeared in a matter of moments, scooped him up and all was well, but Toddler X was really upset by the whole thing and kept asking what had happened. I told him that the little boy had gotten separated from his mama and was sad, but that I had helped to make him feel better until his mama could be found. Upon hearing that, Toddler X's eyes lit up, and he said, "Like the elephant in Hug!" Yep, he compared me to an elephant -- but just that once, I took it as a compliment. :))

Two Hands to Love You [2017 Update]: We received this darling book at my baby shower last summer, and I can't bear to tell Toddler X that it wasn't a gift for him because he really likes it -- even at 5 years old, a kid still needs a good "cuddle book" from time to time. In fact, I think the reason Toddler X enjoys it so much is that it traces a child's growth as he ages, with parental love always being a constant -- as much as Toddler X is ready to take on the world these days, it's comforting to know he has that to fall back on. (Heck, it's nice for me to know that I have my parents to fall back on!) The loving repetition of a pledge of never-ending support will have you both smiling and tearing up as you read. I highly recommend this one. (Recommended for infants -- who again, won't understand it, but will enjoy its soothing rhythms and loving tone -- through preschoolers.)


Hedgehugs [2017 Update]: I've always had a thing for cute, prickly hedgehogs, so when I spotted this book, with its cute cover and even cuter title, I had to grab it. It's a sweet, simple story of two hedgehog buddies who want to hug each other, but can't do so because of their quills. As you can imagine, it has a happy ending. The storyline itself is pretty basic, but the illustrations and sentiment are very sweet. (Recommended for 1 - 4 year olds.)

In My Heart [2017 Update]: We received this book as a gift last year, and it's just beautiful, both in its illustrations (including the clever heart motif that goes cover to cover) and its thoughtful consideration of the emotions a child might feel. Toddler X really enjoys this one, and we definitely use it to explore what he's feeling in his heat, and why. The heart theme makes it perfect for a Valentine's Day treat. (Recommended for 3 - 5 year olds.)


Hug Machine. [2017 Update] This is another perfect "I love you" book for any boisterous, affectionate child. (And yes, Toddler X went through a phase when he was definitely a "hug machine".) With maps and checklists, a cute storyline and fun illustrations, this is a delightful book for Valentine's Day. (Recommended for 2 - 4 year olds.)

The Kissing Hand. [2017 update] Sob! This one definitely pulls at the heartstrings, but in a very sweet, kid-friendly way. It's an oldie that I had somehow missed before two years ago, but it's been nice to have as Toddler X gains more and more independence. It's a beautiful and comforting story for any child and parent who have to be separated for any amount of time -- for a few hours at school, for a week-long business trip, whatever. Definitely one to get if you don't have it already. (Recommended for 3 - 6 year olds, maybe a bit older if there is a new separation from mom or dad coming up.)

The Bear's Song. [2017 Update] This is a current favorite of ours, and is a great book for older preschoolers/kindergarteners. It's an amazingly illustrated story of a little bear who sneaks out from his hibernation den to chase a honeybee, and the valiant efforts of his dad to track him down through forest and city. The pages are densely filled with detailed and amusing illustrations, and you can find the baby bear and bee on each page -- a fun, "Where's Waldo?"-esque adventure. The story ends with Papa Bear and cub snuggling together, which is exactly how Toddler X and I enjoy reading this book at bedtime. (Recommended for ages 3 - 6.)

So there you have our favorites, perfect for reading with your little lovebugs on Valentine's Day or any day at all! I hope you enjoy them as much as we have!

Happy Valentine's Day from our family to yours!

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