The best kids books… in our opinion

If there’s one thing that I definitely don’t plan on going minimal on, it’s books for our girls. I feature us reading, them reading alone and to each other a lot and I always get asked about the books that we own… and while I’m definitely no expert, I thought that I would compile a (rather extensive) list of the best kids books that we own.

In all honesty, I’m not a bookworm at all, I can’t remember the last time I read a book while Dan is the complete opposite and basically devours books. Who knows who the girls will take after later on in life but for now, I know how important it is for us to read to them as often as we can. Some advantages of making reading part of your daily activities include:

  • It’s quality time together with no distractions, building and nurturing the bond between you and your child
  • Grows your child’s curiosity, imagination and memory
  • Encourage and teach sound and letter recognition
  • Increase and develop your child’s vocabulary
  • Encourage listening and therefore develop your child’s listening skills
  • Sparks the connection between the written and spoken word
  • It’s a safe way for children to explore their emotions

We started reading to our girls from a very early age, probably around 10 weeks or so and we haven’t stopped. Some days we read and read and read, and other days, we only go through one book together, but there is reading involved in our day, everyday.

The books on this list are the ones my kids ask us to read over and over again, and the ones that Dan and I don’t mind reading either. I’ll link all the books that I can so that if you’d like to, you can purchase them easily online.

Melissa and Doug Book Tower: This set of 10 chunky books is perfect for little hands. Each book covers a different theme such as animals, shapes, colours, family, etc. I just love that the books as well as the packaging are made from recycled material. This would make a wonderful baby shower or first birthday gift.

Dogs by Emily Gravett: Another hardcover book full of beautiful illustrations of different dogs; dalmations and terriors, scotties and bassets, your child will definitley find one that they love! Emily Gravett explores opposites using all the different dogs and gives a little twist in the tale at the end.

Mouse’s Big Day by Lydia Monks: I love using books to help emotionally prepare my kids for something and Mouse’s Big Day is perfect to read to your child before the start school for the first time or before going back after the holiday. It tells the tale of little Mouse who very clearly does not want to go to school. But once she’s there and susses everything out, she starts to realise how much fun it can be and all the friends she can make. It’s a quick and easy read with lovely and colourful illustrations that is perfect for before bedtime.

Fairy Tales for Little Children by Lorena Alvarez and Susanna Davidson: This is one of Aria’s favourite books, she absolutely loves the classic fairy tales. This compilation includes Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella and The Princess and the Pea. Each of the stories are only a few pages long and Susanna Davidson has retold them very closely to the original stories. The illustrations by Lorena Alvarez are really pretty with bright colours and lots of detail. If you have a little one that likes fairy tales, this book should absolutely be on your list.

What the Ladybird Heard series by Julia Donaldson: We are big Julia Donaldson fans so it’s definitely no easy task to pick our favourites, but the Ladybird series is definitely one of them. Made up of 4 books, the clever little ladybird plays detective and problem solver to help her friends. From the seaside to the zoo and a few places in between, follow the rhyming adventures of the ladybird as she comes up with with cunning plans to stop Hefy Hue and Lanky Len.

How Many Ways Can You Say Hello by Refiloe Moahloli: This is another book about the first day at school, but this time it explores our rainbow nation, and more specifically, our 11 official languages. When Sara arrives for her first day at school, she realises that there is more than one way to say “hello” and so she sets off on a journey to find out what they are. This book is wonderfully inclusive and also comes with a CD so if you aren’t 100% sure how to pronounce some of the words, you can learn with your child by listening to Refiloe herself narate the story.

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury: This sweet rhyming take by Mem Fox is an absolute classic which I’m sure many of you already have in your childs bookshelf, but if you don’t, definitely consider getting it! This is a perfect read-aloud book with lots of repetition (but not in an annoying way) that celebrates the utter joy that babies bring. This is another book that is inclusive (something that we have definitely become more aware of when purchasing books) and really gives you all the warm and fuzzies when reading it.

A Parade of Animals by Roger Priddy: We love this board book that concentrates on counting using all sorts of different creatures, big and small. The board book has cut outs giving texture to the pages that little hands will love to explore. The illustrations are also bold and bright which we’ve come to love from Priddy Books. Well worth popping into your online trolley.

Dinoblock by Christopher Franceschelli: For a solid year, Aria was absolutely obsessed with Dinosaurs, and to a degree she still is. We received this book at the height of her obsession and within a week she had leant all the dinosaurs off by heart. We couldn’t believe it! There are 24 dinosaurs in total that you will be introduced to each of which are compared to a familiar animal’s characteristic, for example ” I have short front legs like a kangaroo… I am a ceratosaurus. If you’re anything like me and have zero idea on how to pronounce half of the dinosaurs names, they are all written out phonetically as well… phew!

The Very Hungry Catepillar by Eric Carle: This is another classic that a lot of you will be familiar with, and for good reason! With classic illustrations and an emphasis on counting and the lifecycle of a butterfly, kids love this book and ask for it to be read over and over again.

Little Red Reading Hood by Lucy Rowland and Ben Mantle: I absolutely adore this twist on the classic tale; the story starts off in a similar way but has an inspiring new ending, celebrating the absolute magic of reading and stories. The illustrations by Ben Mantle are absolutely gorgeous; detailed and so interesting and I love that Lucy Rowland wrote the whole story in rhyming verse without compromising on the story as sometimes happens. If you have a little reader in your home, they will love this book!

My Big Book of South African Animals by Roger Priddy: This book should come as no suprise, both Aria and Maia love it and it comes with us whenever we go to a game farm. While it definitely doesn’t have all of the South African animals in it, it definitely has a good amount including some that you wouldn’t normally think to include. The creatures in the book also range from big bush animals and insects, to birds and marine life; a really wide variety. Both of my girls love being able to identify the animals and of course its even more exciting when we see one in the wild.

Be Brave Little Penguin by Giles Andreae: The first very important thing to know about this book is that the cover has glitter on it, so your kids will immediatly love it! The story is all about Pip-Pip, a little penguin who is terribly afraid of water and so he can never join in on all the fun that his friends have and ends up playing alone. One day with some gentle encouragement from his mom, Pip-Pip decides to try to overcome his fear, will he be able to do it? I just love how this story tackles an issue that our kids face quite often, showing that they can overcome their fears with the support from those that love them. A wonderful story to read to your little ones when they’re having a bit of a tough time.

The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson: You didn’t think we would forget this favourite did you? From the time that she could form words Maia would come to us saying “Whale, whale whale!”, it is absolutely her favourite book, and I don’t blame her! An unlikely friendship forms when a snail who longs for adventure, hitches a ride on a humpback whales tail. They set off and see all kinds of wonderful sights… until the whale swims too close to the shore and gets beached in the bay. It’s up to the courageous little snail to come up with a plan and save the whale. As usual, the partnership between Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler is pure magic, add this book to your collection quickly if you haven’t already.

The girls favourite books chop and change weekly so really I could go on about books for ages but I thought these books were a good place to start as they’re the ones that Dan and I are asked to read over and over again.

What books are top shelf residents in your child’s bookcase? I’m always on the lookout for new ones so definitely excited to create a list from the ones you tell me about in the comments!

Photos: Ruby Bear


South African Influencer Sarah Booyens

I’m Sarah, shameless coffee addict, brazen beauty fiend, mid-size style gal and the heart behind parentingbeauty and lifestyle blog, Mascara & Mimosas.



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