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The Best (Strategist-Approved) Kids’ Books to Give

Photo: Courtesy of the vendors

After speaking with tons of parents and child-development experts, we noticed some trends in the advice they gave about shopping for kids. Whether they were talking about the best gifts for 6-month-olds or 6-year-olds, our expert sources warned that any gift you give to a child is also a gift you’re giving to their parents. So while popular toys that play Baby Shark on repeat might be met with cheers from a toddler or an elementary schooler, they may not be as appreciated by mom and dad. However, if the child you’re buying for unwraps a beautifully designed (and age-appropriate) book, both kid and adults will likely begin to think of you as their favorite. To help you find the best kids’ board books, picture books, chapter books, and even cookbooks to give this holiday season, we sifted through everything we’ve written about before. Below, 26 children’s books that would also make great gifts for all the kids (and, in turn, parents) in your life.

For babies

Baby Faces (Look Baby! Books)

According to the child development experts we spoke to about the best gifts for 6-month-olds, babies at that age really love looking at pictures of other babies. “They are starting to be more inclined to pay attention to a book and they’re starting to notice other babies’ faces,” says Sarah MacLaughlin, senior writer and training specialist of Zero to Three. This board book will both stand up to drool and mesmerize your little one.

Clap Hands (Oxenbury Board Books)

Patricia Cantor, a professor of early-childhood education at Plymouth State University, likes that this board book encourages language-enhancing interaction between babies and caregivers. “Babies really learn language when you use a word while matching it to an action or an object. So if you’re reading the book Clap Hands while actually clapping your hands, they’re gonna pick up that language much faster,” Cantor says.

"Black & White" by Tana Hoban

When writing about the best board books for babies, Strategist writer Lauren Ro learned that newborn babies are still developing their eyesight and see the world in black and white. For that reason, this highly graphic book — which unfolds accordion-style so babies can stare at it during tummy time — is another great one for infants.

"You Are Light" by Aaron Becker

This die-cut board book, which came recommended by Brooklyn Public Library’s Rachel Payne, is kind of like an interactive work of art that’s designed to introduce your little one to colors. Hold it up to a window or a lamp and explore how the light changes through each translucent circle.

CRASH! BOOM! A Math Tale, by Robie H. Harris

For parents who think it’s never too early to encourage mathematical thinking, this book about a little elephant and his building blocks is just the ticket. Plus, it features repetition and rhythmic cadence that will hold 1-year-old babies’ attention, according to MacLaughlin.

For toddlers

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Board book

We have included Eric Carle’s gorgeous and charming story about a caterpillar who eats its way through an entire picnic in several gift guides before, including one with the best gifts for 2-year-olds. It encourages curiosity about science and nature, has cutouts that kids can put their fingers through, and the story is simple enough that children and parents can improvise as they read together.

Press Here Board Book

Press Here, which was also included in our gift guide for 2-year-olds, teaches toddlers cause and effect. Each page has a new proposition for interactive play.

"My Friends" by Taro Gomi

In this sweet board book by Japanese author Taro Gomi, the main character learns to run, jump, and swim from her friends the horse, the monkey, and the fish. It has a repetitive sentence structure that makes it great for reading aloud to toddlers.

Birds & Other Animals with Pablo Picasso

This board book of Picasso’s animal line drawings showed up on writer Stephanie LaCava’s spectactular list of children’s books by artists.

"Cityblock" by Christopher Franceschelli (Author), Peskimo (Illustrator)

There’s lots to look at and study in this metropolitan-themed board book. “Each page is cut into the shape of a letter of the alphabet, creating a sort of peek-through guessing game around the letter form itself,” says Vina Castillo, a co-owner of Kew & Willow Books.

For 4- and 5-year-olds

Tacos!: An Interactive Recipe Book

Whether they’re helping to make actual or pretend tacos, 4- and 5-year-olds will love flipping the flaps on each page of this interactive cookbook.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Sendak’s classic is a foolproof choice for 4-year-olds, according to George Sachs, a clinical child psychologist and the founder of the Sachs Center, whom we spoke to for our gift guide for that age.

Maddi’s Fridge

When we asked parents about their and their kids’ favorite books, Neel Premkumar, a father of twin daughters and the founder and CEO of Forto Coffee, mentioned Maddi’s Fridge. The book is a story about friendship that Premkumar says “teaches kids to realize that not everyone may be as fortunate as them and to think about and care for other people.”

The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak

B.J. Novak’s bestseller has popped up on a few of our lists, including the best gifts for 4-year-olds. It’s a kid favorite that uses onomatopoeia to hilarious results, like getting adults to say goofy, silly stuff.

Sharks (Usborne Beginners)

Nonfiction kids’ books are often wildly underrated. But this visually arresting book about sharks made its way onto our list of best gifts for 5-year-olds because of the way it stokes kids’ curiosity.

For 6- to 9-year-olds

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems

Several librarians we spoke to for our roundup of the best children’s books for 6-year-olds told us they can’t keep books by Mo Willems on their shelves. This one, which won the Caldecott, is about a cheeky pigeon who won’t take no for an answer.

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

This picture book shines a light on girls in STEM and encourages young readers to stay curious. Ada Twist is a second grader who loves to ask questions and investigate things. This book tells the story of how she uses the scientific method to find the source of a strange smell.

We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

Over the course of this funny picture book, Penelope Rex eventually learns not to eat her classmates. Recommended by Mollie Welsh Kruger, a professor at the Bank Street College of Education, for our list of books for 6-year-olds, it’s a perfect book for kids who struggle with boundaries.

Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

This book about a boy named Julian who loves mermaids also came recommended by several experts for our list of books for 6-year-olds. Lindsy Serrano, a librarian at St. Francis School in Kentucky, told us she uses it during story time because of the way it “defies male expectations and stereotypes.”

Dog Man: The Epic Collection #1-3 Boxed Set by Dav Pilkey

This series of graphic novels from the author of Captain Underpants has a big-kid feel and subversive humor that fascinates 6-year-olds.