While reading any book to your kiddo (well, any book within reason) can have a lasting impact on your kiddo’s mental development, certain books aim to teach specific concepts. This is the start of a multi-part review on educational board books.
Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle (author) and Jill McElmurry (illustrator) is an educational board book which tells the story of a “friendly little blue truck” who lives in the country. The rhyming text and slightly stylized illustrations follow Little Blue as he drives a quiet country road and says hello to numerous farm animals. Each animal responds with their noise (moo, baa, cluck, cheep, etc) when they hear Little Blue. A message on the value of kindness comes in when a rude dump truck gets stuck in the mud. The books is a bit text heavy for the under 6 month crowd but as soon as they are interested in animal sounds, they will be sure to enjoy this one too!
Where's Spot? by Eric Hill is an oldie but a goodie. This educational board book is a lift-the-flap book with simple illustrations and very little text. Even the youngest readers will be entranced by seeing what is under the flaps as Sally searches for her puppy Spot. Now, we’re not exactly sure what kind of house this is where you would find a hippo in the piano, a lion under the stairs, and penguins in a steamer trunk (we’ve speculated that it may belong to the zookeeper from Goodnight Gorilla) but kids love it nonetheless. Your kiddo will become familiar with animals (you can add the noises if you want) and various pieces of furniture while also developing fine motor skills to lift the flaps. Re-reading this one can get a bit old but thankfully there are several books in the Spot series to help keep you sane (our kids also particularly like Spot's First Walk).
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I am a Bunny by Ole Risom (author) and Richard Scarry (illustrator) is another oldie but goodie. Now I will admit a little bit of bias on this one: it was my favorite when I was a kid, so much so that it is the only book from my toddler years that I still possess. That said, it is a charming little educational board book with lush illustrations and a good amount of text for even the tiniest readers. The book follows a bunny named Nicholas as he explains his favorite past-times for each season (chasing butterflies, watching leaves falling, etc). Nicholas (the bunny on the cover) is the only animal in the book that is drawn in Scarry’s “Busy World Style”; all the other animals are drawn realistically like one might expect to find in a nature guide. The illustrations are bright with lots of colorful interest to keep infant eyes engaged and older kiddos will enjoy finding frogs and counting birds. This one also ends with the bunny going to bed so it can double as a bedtime board book.
Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton takes a silly approach to teaching animal names and sounds. The brief rhyming text and simple but engaging illustrations make this a favorite for kiddos who are just starting to experiment with words. The book is very short so you can expect to re-read it a lot but as long as you are willing to be silly along with the illustrations, you’ll be fine. An added note: there is a narrated version of this book where the illustrations are interactive!
But Not the Hippopotamus is another Sandra Boynton gem in board book format. With her typical silly charm, Boynton uses a brief rhyming text to explain the activities of different pairs of animals. The trick is that any time animals are doing something together, their names rhyme (cats and rats, moose and a goose, etc). This leaves the poor hippopotamus with no-one to play with. Never fear, there is a happy social message about inclusion that allows the hippo to join her other animal friends. This one is also short so you’ll be reading it a lot, but the repetition helps kiddos learn animal names. Plus, if you need a break from reading, ask your kiddo to explain something on the page! This one also has a great narrated version.
Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson (author) and Jane Chapman (illustrator) is the first of many “Bear” board books and is an adorable story about making friends that also provides opportunities to point out various woodland animals to your kiddo. The story is told in a rhyming text and the illustrations are realistic but cute. The book starts with Bear hibernating in his cave when various small woodland animals sneak in to get out of a storm. The bear sleeps through popping corn, cooking stew, the animals chatting, etc until a pepper flake flies up his nose. The story resolves quickly when the bear wishes he had been able to join the party and the animals offer to make more popcorn and stew. The text is a bit long for the under 9 month crowd but older kids love pointing out the animals and describing what’s going on.