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At age three, our children are exploring the world in new ways. Their imaginations are active like never before and the landscape of their rooms can transform into an island like that of Max in “Where the Wild Things Are” in the blink of an eye. Their capacity for sharing and kindness is massive, as is their boundless energy (are they asleep yet?) and, let’s face it, they show their threenager side too with erratic behavior we can’t explain.
That’s why if you can get your three-year-old to actually sit and look at a book, you’re already winning! Cultivating a love for reading and an appreciation for books is something we can foster at an early age—as long as we put exciting, fun, age-appropriate literature in their little hands.
How to choose the best books for three-year-olds
There’s no magic formula of what makes a “good” book for a toddler, but you might notice that little kids do have preferences when it comes to reading. Some kids like texture and prefer books that are soft, like the Montessori busy book style. Others do better with the sturdy pages of board books. Also, think about what your child gets excited about. If your three-year-old is an animal-lover or is obsessed with tractors, a book where all the characters live on a farm might be the perfect fit.
Also, look for books that not only peak their interest, but also spark their creativity and imagination while helping them learn. The more fun they have, the more they giggle at silly things characters do, and the more they are inspired when someone does something brave or shows true kindness to someone else, the more invested your three-year-old will be in the magic of reading.
This list of books for toddlers has a number of classic board books, several tried-and-true bedtime tales, and some stories that three-year-olds, in particular, will delight in. We’ve got books full of stories within stories and books you’ll love reading again and again with them (because we promise you, reading the same book with a three-year-old is never exactly the same).
The best books for 3 year olds
A version of this article was published May 6, 2022. It has been updated.