A Feast for the Senses: 12 Baby Books That Keep Eyes, Ears and Fingers Engaged

A Feast for the Senses: 12 Baby Books That Keep Eyes, Ears and Fingers Engaged

By Laura Lambert

When a baby is born, her sense of taste and smell are already in high gear. But the other senses—vision, hearing and touch—are still rapidly developing. Sight, sound and touch are how babies and toddlers come to understand the bright, loud and incredibly tactile world around them. And books that play to those senses can really help them along.

From simple, high-contrast images of familiar objects to realistic, surprising sounds and textures from rough and ridged to supple and soft, each element is an excuse to learn something new and novel about the world. Here are a handful of great books to get baby started.

SIGHT

Baby Faces
Age: up to 2 years

A baby’s vision doesn't fully mature until age 2. But one of the first things they’re able to recognize, starting around 3-4 months, is faces. That’s what makes this board book so great—smiling, sad, silly, sleepy, those universal baby faces, feelings and emotions are all in there. And curious little fingers will discover subtle textures on each of the six spreads as well.

100 First Words
Age: up to 2 years

When baby is ready to move beyond faces, 100 First Words is a great next step. With inspiration direct from the real world, this book helps solidify a toddler’s mental connections between an object and the word that belongs to that object. 100 First Words features the shapes, body parts, clothes, vehicles, animals, pets, food and other everyday objects that babies already know and love, in a bright, colorful and large format.

Pop-Up Peekaboo Farm
Age: up to 3 years

Slightly older kids who have mastered early pre-reading skills like pointing to objects they recognize, turning pages and interacting with books in general will love the pop-up book. Ask your toddler to lift the flap to find the surprise—like which farm animal is hiding behind a bush, next to the three little pigs. (A warning to parents: Get ready to read this one over and over again).

SOUND

Noisy Fire Engine Peekaboo!
Age: up to 3 years

The cover doesn’t lie—this big-sized board book boasts five emergency sounds, each of which is light activated. Fireman-obsessed kids will love the realistic whir of the rescue copter and the blaring sirens we know so well from being out in the world. Photo-realistic images are intermingled with more whimsical illustrations, to keep it all visually interesting, and I’ve yet to meet a toddler who doesn’t love to lift the flaps.

Chug, Chug Tractor
Age: to 3 years

Toddlers who are used to slightly longer sentences and stories will love this exploration of a farm, with lots of opportunities to lift the flaps and answer questions like, “Who’s behind the flowers?” and “Where’s the hooting owl?” The book itself delivers the requisite moos, quacks, beeps and brrms, which should elicit plenty of smiles and laughter.

My Best Pop-Up Construction Site Book
Age: 3 to 5 years

Part of sharing books with babies and toddlers, even from a very young age, is to get them used to how books work—reading right to left, flipping pages one by one, getting to “the end,” and closing with the cover up. This adorable and informative board book keeps the surprises coming, not just with a great repertoire of construction site sounds but because it pops open in unexpected and inconsistent ways. Any child obsessed with backhoes and cranes will get the full picture of how the buildings around us get built—all the way down to the real estate agent.

TOUCH

Baby Touch and Feel Animals
Age: up to 2 years

The two unbearably soft-looking bunnies on the cover say it all—they’re so cute, you’ve got to touch them. Small board books like Baby Touch and Feel Animals strike the right balance for the pre-verbal set—strong, simple images and words plus textures to engage a baby’s senses.

Baby Touch and Feel I Love You
Age: up to 2 years

Baby Touch and Feel I Love You is another adorable bunny-cover book—and a USA Today bestseller to boot. The tactile hearts, cozy red sweaters and plush fur keep it interesting for baby’s little hands, while the kisses, hugs and cuddles in the text make it the perfect way to celebrate how much you love her.

Really Feely Farm
Age: up to 2 years

Really Feely Farm is wonderfully tactile and full of baby’s favorite farm animals. Like other touch-oriented board books, this board book is meant to inspire curiosity and play—all in a larger format, with lots to touch on every page, including the cover. Ask baby to pet the pig’s bristly fur or its squishy snout—and he’ll delight in all the surprises that books have to offer.

Follow the Trail: Baby Dinosaurs
Age: up to 2 years

Get your pointer fingers ready! This large dino-riffic board book has fun finger trails from cover to cover. (Even my 5-year-old was a fan!). In some ways, it’s two books in one—a follow-the-lines activity book to keep grabby hands busy and a dinosaur fact book (with the ever-helpful phonetic pronunciations, so you have a clue how to say tuojiangosaurus).

My First Touch & Feel Picture Cards: Numbers & Counting
Age: up to 3 years

Most children don’t truly understand their numbers until they’re closer to age 4 or 5, but it’s never too early to introduce number sense to a baby. You can count anything around you—including these flash cards, which have bright tactile images on one side, for baby, and prompts on the other—including other languages!—for the parent.

Pick Me Up! Puppy
Age: 2 to 5 years

Take this one to go. Pick Me Up! Puppy stars an adorable golden retriever puppy named Booker and his four puppy friends. The built-in handle, perfect for toddler hands, makes it a great playtime prop or travel buddy, and the slightly more complex scenes and story lines keep older kiddos engaged.

Laura Lambert is a writer, editor and mother of two living in Los Angeles. She blogs for Brightly, a Penguin Random House site that helps parents raise kids who love to read.

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