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Best Books For Every Baby Stage

Readers are leaders, so get these age-appropriate books into your kids’ hands asap.

Best Books For Every Baby Stage

In our house, reading reigns supreme. A book is my solution to everything, from something to do when you’re bored to the perfect design aesthetic (I keep my library color-coordinated). But most importantly, I remember what books were to me when I was young, what they have continued to be for me, even into adulthood, and I want that for my daughters. Reading is something that we can have in common--something I love, something my kids love, and something that benefits us all.

I think it’s really important to use books as a challenge; but there is also something to be said for focusing on what’s age-appropriate. That way, books are working with your child’s development, not against it.

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These are some of the books that we read to our girls at various ages and why I loved them for that phase.

0-6 months: Hello, Animals by Smriti Prasadam

Board books, contrasting in black and white, are perfect for freshly born eyes. It is a way to engage baby in focus, early vocabulary, and the precious quiet time spent in your lap, listening to your voice.

6 months-1 year: Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

Maybe it’s a generic selection, but there’s a reason this book is so classic for babies. I love the rhythm. It’s peaceful. I remember rocking my babies to sleep, reciting the poem from memory even, and how it’s something they grew up knowing. Even now, I sometimes still say these words as I tuck them in, and it’s amazing to watch them lulled into that sleepy state. Plus, the illustrations are the best combination of contrasting primary colors, great for baby’s eyes.

1 year: Five Little Monkeys by Eileen Christelow

By one year, your baby is probably into books. And by into them, I mean, he or she will want personal access to books, mainly to bring them to you to read over and over (and over and over). For us, age one was the year of chants and nursery rhymes. The repetition is good for baby’s vocabulary, and the bounce is good for hand motions or a little dance.

(Other great authors for age one: Sandra Boyton, Bill Martin, Jr.)

2 years: Animal Masquerade by Marianne Dubuc

At two, your little probably knows his or her animals, and so this book is funny--the animals are dressed up as other animals. We stumbled upon this book at the library, after storytime one day; but it became my two-year-old’s favorite (once she “got” it). What I love about the humor component is that it’s confusing--it opened up new avenues for reading books but also talking about what they mean.

(Other great authors for age two: Eric Carle, Laura Numeroff)

3 years: Bad Frogs by Thacher Hurd

I know everyone talks about “terrible twos,” but I always found three to be the difficult age. Your toddler has all the tools for striking out on his or her own, making her opinions known; but there’s still a hint of baby there. Bad Frogs was written by Thacher Hurd, son of Clement Hurd (who illustrated Goodnight, Moon), and it’s just a silly book. There are some funny phrases, and it’s a little bit naughty. Whenever we had a hard day, we would tease our girls that they were like the Bad Frogs, and, for us, that always diffused a tough situation and brought us back to some common ground.

(Other great authors for age three: Mo Willems, James Dean)

4 years: Curious George by H.A. Rey

By four, my daughters were both very invested in characters they loved. Like a lot of moms, I tried to shy away from their affinity to mainstream characters and introduce classics instead. My girls always loved Curious George, and I think these stories are a good transition into more advanced storytelling. We meet George, find him in a certain environment, watch the environment morph into a tricky situation, then see the solution and resolution. By this age, your kiddos can process a plot line and also talk about the lessons gleaned from it.

(Other great authors for age four: Maurice Sendak, Dr. Seuss)

Challenge

By age four, probably because they were used to being read to, my girls could sit for longer stories, and we began experimenting with chapter books, reading a little each night. It takes a little practice, and you certainly have to find the right books; but for me, tackling this challenge demonstrated exactly why books are great--we came together around a love for characters every night, and it gave us a means to discuss some bigger, harder issues.

The first chapter books we read were Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (great for talking about selflessness, where our food comes from, and death); Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (great for conversations about poverty, dreams, and imagination); and Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (perfect for creative thinking and watching good prevail over evil). Sometimes I would have to edit content mid-read for what I knew my girls could handle. And a lot of these concepts go over their heads, but I hope both daughters will revisit these stories again as they are older, finding the books on their shelves and knowing it’s something we shared in their early years.

Photography by Jonica Moore for Well Rounded.

In This Article

    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

    I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

    I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

    My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

    The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

    2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

    We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

    3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

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

    Our Partners

    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

    $120

    Detective set

    Plan Toys detective set

    This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

    $40

    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

    $30

    Water play set

    Plan Toys water play set

    Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

    $100

    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

    $40

    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

    $121

    Wooden rocking pegasus

    plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

    Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

    $100

    Croquet set

    Plan Toys croquet set

    The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

    $45

    Wooden digital camera

    fathers factory wooden digital camera

    Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

    $179

    Wooden bulldozer toy

    plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

    $100

    Pull-along hippo

    janod toys pull along hippo toy

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

    $33

    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

    $88

    Balance board

    Plan Toys balance board

    Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

    $75

    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

    $30

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    Mama, all I see is you

    A love letter from your baby.

    Mama,

    I can't see past you right now, I'm so small and everything's a little blurry.

    All I see is you.

    When you feel alone, like the walls are closing in, remember I'm here too. I know your world has changed and the days feel a little lonely. But they aren't lonely for me.

    You are my everything.

    When you feel like you don't know what you're doing, you're making it look easy to me. Even though we're still getting to know each other, you know me better than anyone.

    I trust you.

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