From potting training to learning how to express emotions, there’s a lot that goes on in the life of a 3-year-old. While every child is different, one common thread among toddlers is their enjoyment of storytime. Not only is storytime a way for kids to bond with their parents or caregiver, but storytime also provides ample learning opportunities. Plus, some kid’s books are just darn funny. So, what should you be reading to the 3-year-old in your life?
When deciding on a book to gift a 3-year-old, it’s okay to stray slightly outside the suggested age range. Some children enjoy books geared at kids that are slightly older, while others prefer simple board books. In many cases and depending on a child’s mood, they’ll appreciate both. Just like adults enjoy watching reruns of their favorite show, 3-year-olds may find comfort in books they recognize from their younger years. Or months.
Scholastic recommends books for 3-year-olds that reflect a child’s life since understanding fantasy comes in later stages, but that doesn’t mean each character has to look just like your child. Books are a great way to explain concepts that may be foreign, like moving or starting a new school, so that when they do pop up, kids have a reference for their new reality.
By the age of 3, many children can name familiar things, have some understanding of empathy, and can show several emotions. Books can be a great way to help further their understanding of the world around them, whether it’s reflecting situations they’ve been in and explaining constructive ways to deal with feelings or preparing your child for new situations.
Like toys or shows, not all books for 3-year-olds will be a hit with your child, but we bet there are some on our list that will quickly become their favorite. Check out our top picks for the best books for 3-year-olds. Happy reading!
1. The Duckling Gets A Cookie?!
Mo Willems has won multiple awards with his pigeon series and for good reason — they’re funny books that both kids and adults will enjoy. It’s tough to pick our favorite title from a series that focuses on a pigeon with a bad attitude — which is exactly how we picture pigeons — but The Duckling Gets A Cookie?! is great because it emphasizes the importance of asking POLITELY. That’s how you get a cookie.
The Duckling Gets A Cookie?!
2. A Gold Star For Zog
Author Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler have created a wonderful world of flying doctors and dragons with a heart of gold. The creators of the Gruffalo have another hit with A Gold Star For Zog, which tells the tale of a dragon who just wants to do his best and a princess who would rather help others as a doctor than dance at parties.
A Gold Star For Zog
3. Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type
FOR ANIMAL LOVERS
A pseudo-early Charlotte’s Web, Click, Clack, Moo follows Farmer Brown, who begins to receive demands from his farm animals when the cows get a hold of a typewriter. This silly and funny book for 3-year-olds will be enjoyed by parents and kids, who can also check out more mischievous farm animals in Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin’s other titles.
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type
4. Bunnies On The Bus
Not only does Bunnies on the Bus tell the hilarious story of a group of bunnies who wreak havoc on a local bus route, but it also displays beautiful illustrations that will have kids playing ‘I spy’ every time they read the bunny, we mean funny, tale. Between some light criminal activity to a lion who gets an unplanned haircut, the details in the illustrations on Bunnies on the Bus are as great as the story itself.
Bunnies On The Bus
5. Old Macdonald’s Farm Poke-A-Dot
Melissa & Doug have cornered the children’s market on all-things toys and that includes interactive books for 3-year-olds. The company has a Poke-A-Dot series that covers everything from classics, like Old Macdonald, to holidays, nature, pets, and more. Each page has ‘dots’ that kids can poke to practice their counting, with the dots creating a bubble-wrap-like experience. Parents are going to want to get in on the popping as well.
Old Macdonald's Farm Poke-A-Dot
6. What are Germs?
BEST FOR EXPLAINING HEALTHY HABITS
Usborne has a series of Very First Lift and Flap Books that do a great job of explaining everyday concepts in a way that makes them interesting and entertaining for kids. The lift and flap portion of the books for 3-year-olds makes them interactive for young readers and taking on concepts like germs, sleep, potty training, the moon, poop, and more helps parents with the never-ending barrage of ‘whys.’ So many whys.
What are Germs?
7. Don’t Touch My Hair!
Whether you have a child that is often receiving unwanted attention for their hair or your child needs a lesson in why they should always ask before touching someone else’s hair, Sharee Miller’s colorful picture book is a great way to explain consent. Little Aria has to escape her town in order for people to stop touching her hair, but eventually returns and learns how to state her preferences and teach those around her to ask before touching her beautiful curls.
Don't Touch My Hair!
8. My First Book of Feminism
GREAT CONVERSATION STARTER
There’s been a new trend in books aimed at young activists that we love in theory but typically miss the mark in delivery. The concepts and language are often too advances for young readers, who end up tuning out the books. My First Book of Feminism uses a gentle rhyming scheme and clear illustrations to explain feminism in a way young boys and girls can grasp.
My First Book of Feminism
9. The Heart and the Bottle
HELPS EXPLAIN GRIEF
We’re big fans of Oliver Jeffers books (A Little Bit Stuck genuinely made us lol), but the Irish author and illustrator is at his best when telling a beautiful story about loss and finding one’s sense of wonder to explain death. Without being heavy-handed, The Heart and the Bottle opens up a dialogue with parents and children about grief and healing.
The Heart and the Bottle
10. The Colors of Us
In Karen Katz’s The Color of Us, a young girl learns that everyone in her life has their own unique and beautiful skin color. By using her mother’s paints and descriptive language, she sees that everyone she encounters, including herself, has their own color that is unlike anyone else.
The Colors of Us
11. Grumpy Monkey
HELPS DEAL WITH FEELINGS
Helping kids understand and experience their feelings in a positive way is an ongoing process and books for 3-year-olds that can explain why we feel the way we feel can be a big help. The Grumpy Monkey is a hugely popular title about a monkey that is having a bad day — and that’s okay. It’s easy to forget kids are tiny humans and sometimes deserve to have a bad day just like adults.
12. Little Miss, Big Sis
FOR NEW BIG BROTHERS OR SISTERS
Explaining a new baby to a soon-to-be older sibling can be difficult. Heck, explaining it to adults is difficult. So, there’s just a person? In your belly? Help big brothers and sisters to-be prepare for their new roommate, who is admittedly quite boring in the beginning, but will get more fun! We promise!
Little Miss, Big Sis
13. I Miss You, Stinky Face
FOR PARENTS WHO TRAVEL
Whether you have to be away from your child for work or due to a separation, Lisa McCourt’s I Miss You, Stinky Face is a beautiful ode to the lengths parents will go to in order to get back to their child. The whimsical illustrations and consistent answers of how to navigate changes in travel plans (we always forget about pesky pirates) will reiterate to little ones that their parents will be back soon.
I Miss You, Stinky Face
14. P is for Potty!
BEST POTTY TRAINING BOOK
Around age 3 is when many children have either finished potty training, at least during waking hours, or are working on all things potty-related. There’s no shortage of books for both kids and parents to help get through this transitional phase, but one of the best is P is for Potty!. The Sesame Street book features characters kids likely already know and includes flaps for added interaction. It goes step by step of what to do once you’re in the bathroom and also reminds kids that accidents are okay.
P is for Potty!
15. Little Owl’s Night
FOR KIDS WHO ARE SCARED OF THE DARK
Around age 3 is often when kids who otherwise were fine with blackout curtains and dark bedrooms suddenly become fearful about the dark. There are several books for 3-year-olds that help kids deal with monsters under the bed or in closets, but sometimes these can end up giving little ones more scary ideas to think about at night. Little Owl’s Night is a sweet and soothing book about an owl who flies around the forest at night and says hi to all his animal friends. The book shows that nighttime can be a time to feel safe and that wonderful, non-scary things can happen in the dark.