Menu

Well-read baby: The 5 books you need for baby’s first year

The 5 books you need for baby’s first year—and beyond. 

best books for babies 6 to 12 months

Reading to baby doesn't come naturally for every parent, especially when your little one is too young to truly interact during reading time. But with every page turned, you're stimulating cognitive development and helping to establish a love of reading that will last long past the toddler years.

If you are looking for a few perfect books to add to your child's collection, we have the scoop on the best types of books to promote cognitive development and a lifelong passion for reading.


"These early rituals, even before a baby knows what a book is, set up reading as a loving and nurturing interaction with you that your child equates with books as they grow up," explains Tovah P. Klein, PhD, director of Barnard College Center for Toddler Development and author of How Toddlers Thrive: What Parents Can Do Today for Children Ages 2-5 to Plant the Seeds of Lifelong Success.


1. Newborn (0-3 months): a high-contrast book

If you want to stimulate your newborn's senses, think high contrast.

Research indicates that high-contrast colors like black and white register most strongly in a baby's brain and help the optic nerve to grow.

Read your newborn books featuring high-contrast images and graphics (we love Art-Baby's Spots and Dots by Chez Picthall and Hello, Bugs! by Smriti Prasadam and Emily Bolam) and watch their little eyes dance.

"No need to read every word or comment on every picture," Klein said. "The important piece is that books are part of your routines and loving time together."

2. Infant (4-6 months): a tactile book

Odds are, your little one won't start turning the pages (or even paying much attention to them) until he's a few months old. Until then, maximize their interest by capitalizing on their love of touching everything around them.

Tactile books that let your baby shake, grab and stroke are the perfect solution, like Old Macdonald: A Hand-Puppet Board Book from Little Scholastic. Lean toward sturdy books made of vinyl or cloth that will stand up to a few chews. Switch to board books around 6 months to encourage little fingers to start turning pages.

Pro tip:

"Scaffold your child's attempts at turning pages by separating pages when you are finished reading each page. This will give your child a cue that it is time to move to the next page and will help to develop fine motor skills. If your little one has trouble turning pages independently, don't worry: Many children won't master this skill for a couple more years!" notes Dr. Holly Ruhl, PhD.

3. Your 6- to 12-month-old: a rhyming book

When it comes to what you're reading with your child, it's rhyme time.

Rhyming books create a nurturing environment for kids by using simple patterns they can learn to predict (key to establishing a lifelong love of reading). Plus, they help babies learn how vowels and consonants sound and come together to form words. Rhymes also help children to easily memorize and recall content from beloved books by establishing patterns and sequences, increasing their impact on a child's cognitive development.

We love Hush Little Polar Bear and other classic rhyming books like Go, Dog Go!

4. Older babies + toddlers: a classic that mama loves, too

As your child gets older, adjust what you're reading accordingly.

Children's versions of classic books can be just as entertaining for you, mama, which will make you more likely to stick with a reading routine. We love the BabyLit collection of children's books based on classics, like Dracula and Alice in Wonderland.

Regardless of what you and your little one choose to read, the most effective way to promote a love of reading is to start a daily reading routine as soon as possible. "And no, beginning during pregnancy is not too early, mama. Babies begin listening to you around week 16 and can even remember words and stories after they are born!" explains Ruhl.

Don't worry if it doesn't seem like your baby actually gets reading—spending time each day curled up with a book will give your child positive associations with reading, creating a lifelong habit before they can even read a word.

In fact, according to the Children's Reading Foundation, the simple act of reading with your child for at least 20 minutes each day may be one of the most important things you can do to promote socio-emotional development as well as necessary pre-literacy skills.

5. All babies + toddlers: a bedtime story

Read to your baby from day one. There's no sweeter way to do that than by introducing a bedtime story—even one you bring to the hospital with you!

We recommend choosing books focused on sleep or bedtime to help baby wind down in the evening. Have a stash of "bedtime books" within easy reach for baby to choose from, like A Book of Sleep or The Going-to-Bed Book. You're establishing routines that can even help baby to get her zzz's. That's good for you—and for baby.

Here are 3 tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics for creating lifelong readers from an early age:

1. Create a comforting environment.

Make reading an integral part of your bedtime routine. Wind down from your day by cuddling up in cozy jammies and snuggling with baby as you turn a few pages.

Pro tip: Active children can lose interest in a book after only a couple of minutes (okay, seconds!). That's why it is so important to make whatever limited time you can dedicate to reading as focused as possible. That means turning off the TV and cell phone. We know that's a tricky one! ?

"Sitting with a book, turning pages, pointing to pictures and being together provides a quiet and fun way to spend time with your little one," Klein says. "It's not about getting through the whole book or making your child stay still. What they will take from it is the time with mommy."

2. Make reading come to life.

A newborn may not know how to read, but she knows she prefers the sound of her mother's voice—even as early as two days after being born! Capitalize on that natural preference for your voice by reading books with emotion and over-the-top expressions to keep things interesting.

3. Ask questions to bring the story into the real world.

As your child gets older, reading can be a safe time to talk about feelings. Start when your child is young by asking ancillary questions about books, such as, "What does the cow say?" or "Where is the yellow flower?" to broaden their vocabulary. As your tot advances, use characters in books to discuss emotions or to motivate your child to think about abstract or imaginative situations.

Pro tip: "Make associations between a book and your baby or toddler's experience: 'Remember when we saw a dog at the park? It's like the dog in this book,'" Klein suggests. "This builds vocabulary and helps your child move between books and the broader world in ways that have direct meaning to them."

If you are looking for a few perfect books to add to your child's collection, we have the scoop on the best types of books to promote cognitive development and a lifelong passion for reading.

1. Newborn (0-3 months): a high-contrast book

If you want to stimulate your newborn's senses, think high contrast.

Research indicates that high-contrast colors like black and white register most strongly in a baby's brain and help the optic nerve to grow.

Read your newborn books featuring high-contrast images and graphics (we love Art-Baby's Spots and Dots by Chez Picthall and Hello, Bugs! by Smriti Prasadam and Emily Bolam) and watch their little eyes dance.

“No need to read every word or comment on every picture," Klein said. “The important piece is that books are part of your routines and loving time together."

2. Infant (4-6 months): a tactile book

Odds are, your little one won't start turning the pages (or even paying much attention to them) until he's a few months old. Until then, maximize their interest by capitalizing on their love of touching everything around them.

Tactile books that let your baby shake, grab and stroke are the perfect solution, like Old Macdonald: A Hand-Puppet Board Book from Little Scholastic. Lean toward sturdy books made of vinyl or cloth that will stand up to a few chews. Switch to board books around 6 months to encourage little fingers to start turning pages.

Pro tip:

“Scaffold your child's attempts at turning pages by separating pages when you are finished reading each page. This will give your child a cue that it is time to move to the next page and will help to develop fine motor skills. If your little one has trouble turning pages independently, don't worry: Many children won't master this skill for a couple more years!" notes Dr. Holly Ruhl, PhD.

3. Your 6- to 12-month-old: a rhyming book

When it comes to what you're reading with your child, it's rhyme time.

Rhyming books create a nurturing environment for kids by using simple patterns they can learn to predict (key to establishing a lifelong love of reading). Plus, they help babies learn how vowels and consonants sound and come together to form words. Rhymes also help children to easily memorize and recall content from beloved books by establishing patterns and sequences, increasing their impact on a child's cognitive development.

We love Hush Little Polar Bear and other classic rhyming books like Go, Dog Go!

4. Older babies + toddlers: a classic that mama loves, too

As your child gets older, adjust what you're reading accordingly.

Children's versions of classic books can be just as entertaining for you, mama, which will make you more likely to stick with a reading routine. We love the BabyLit collection of children's books based on classics, like Dracula and Alice in Wonderland.

Regardless of what you and your little one choose to read, the most effective way to promote a love of reading is to start a daily reading routine as soon as possible. “And no, beginning during pregnancy is not too early, mama. Babies begin listening to you around week 16 and can even remember words and stories after they are born!" explains Ruhl.

Don't worry if it doesn't seem like your baby actually gets reading—spending time each day curled up with a book will give your child positive associations with reading, creating a lifelong habit before they can even read a word.

In fact, according to the Children's Reading Foundation, the simple act of reading with your child for at least 20 minutes each day may be one of the most important things you can do to promote socio-emotional development as well as necessary pre-literacy skills.

5. All babies + toddlers: a bedtime story

Read to your baby from day one. There's no sweeter way to do that than by introducing a bedtime story—even one you bring to the hospital with you!

We recommend choosing books focused on sleep or bedtime to help baby wind down in the evening. Have a stash of “bedtime books" within easy reach for baby to choose from, like A Book of Sleep or The Going-to-Bed Book. You're establishing routines that can even help baby to get her zzz's. That's good for you—and for baby.

Here are 3 tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics for creating lifelong readers from an early age:

1. Create a comforting environment.

Make reading an integral part of your bedtime routine. Wind down from your day by cuddling up in cozy jammies and snuggling with baby as you turn a few pages.

Pro tip: Active children can lose interest in a book after only a couple of minutes (okay, seconds!). That's why it is so important to make whatever limited time you can dedicate to reading as focused as possible. That means turning off the TV and cell phone. We know that's a tricky one! ?

“Sitting with a book, turning pages, pointing to pictures and being together provides a quiet and fun way to spend time with your little one," Klein says. “It's not about getting through the whole book or making your child stay still. What they will take from it is the time with mommy."

2. Make reading come to life.

A newborn may not know how to read, but she knows she prefers the sound of her mother's voice—even as early as two days after being born! Capitalize on that natural preference for your voice by reading books with emotion and over-the-top expressions to keep things interesting.

3. Ask questions to bring the story into the real world.

As your child gets older, reading can be a safe time to talk about feelings. Start when your child is young by asking ancillary questions about books, such as, “What does the cow say?" or “Where is the yellow flower?" to broaden their vocabulary. As your tot advances, use characters in books to discuss emotions or to motivate your child to think about abstract or imaginative situations.

Pro tip: “Make associations between a book and your baby or toddler's experience: 'Remember when we saw a dog at the park? It's like the dog in this book,'" Klein suggests. “This builds vocabulary and helps your child move between books and the broader world in ways that have direct meaning to them."


We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!


A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.

$239.99

A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.

$219.99

A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.

$379.99

A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.

$29.99

A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.

$99.99

A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.

$15.99

A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.

$79.99

A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.

$99.99

An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.

$24.99

A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.

$59.99

And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

These kids dishes don’t look like kids dishes

And that's exactly why my toddler loves them. ❤️

My 4.5-year-old is, let's say, spirited in his opinions. He very clearly knows what he wants and doesn't want (oh to have the confidence of a stubborn preschooler!). And what he doesn't want right now is anything that looks too babyish. "That's for babies," he'll say if I give him anything with primary colors or looks too miniature. He doesn't want the baby fork and spoon, he wants what grown-ups use. He doesn't want the baby plastic cups and plates, he wants the glass and ceramic ones.

Well, you can see where this is going.

I had to find something that would satisfy his "not a baby" opinions but still not shatter to pieces if he accidentally drops it on the floor. I had to find him something that's made for kids but doesn't feel made for kids.

Keep reading Show less
Shop

What went viral this week: Pregnant Disney Princesses + an airline nightmare

Now, more than ever, we need to hear those good news stories.

Vanessa Firme/Instagram

Last week was a week.

We lost a legal and cultural icon with the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and deadly wildfires continue to blaze on the West Coast. Now, more than ever, we need to see creativity, kindness and compassion in our world—we need to hear those "good news" stories, but we also need to see the headlines that show us how and why the world needs to change .

And right now both kinds of stories are going viral.

Here are the viral stories you need to read right now:

Keep reading Show less
News