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Favourite Books for 2-3 Year Olds

I can't begin to count the number of books we've consumed over the past year, but I've manage to narrow down a list of our 35 favourites! From concept books to bedtime stories to books that make us laugh out loud, these are the ones we just can't get enough of.

Bonus, many of these board books are available for less than $10 CAD (or $6 USD), which makes them great for gifts or affordable additions to your home library.

Alphabet Books:

A is for Apricat

By: Mauro Gatti

Alphabet fun that combines animals with fruits and vegetables to create a hilarious cast of characters. Our favourites include 'flamango' and 'yamadillo'. The illustrations and mash-up descriptions are quite clever.

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Eating the Alphabet

By: Lois Ehlert

Introduce your little one to a whole basketful of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables; at least one for every letter of the alphabet. The glossary at the end is also helpful for exploring some of the more exotic varieties.

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Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

By: Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault, Art By: Lois Ehlert

When the letters of the alphabet climb to the top of a coconut tree, will there be enough room for everyone? This has become a modern classic when it comes to alphabet stories. Different from the typical A is for ___ book and with a catchy rhyme, you and your little one will be singing it for days. For more Chicka Chicka Fun, check out our /a/ sound activities where we explore this book and the alphabet theme.

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Number Books:

One, Two, Three!

By: Sandra Boynton

This 1-10 counting book has the whimsical style you expect from Sandra Boynton. The rhymes are fluid and there's and subtle infusion of humour with the animal characters. One, Two, Three! explores activities one might enjoy alone or in a group of up to ten.

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20 Big Trucks in the Middle of the Street

By: Mark Lee, Art By: Kurt Cyrus

When an ice cream truck breaks down in the middle of the street, 20 different vehicles form a traffic jam. If your little one likes trucks, this will be a sure winner! The detailed illustrations are great and you can cheer for the young hero who saves the day.

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Other Concept Books:

Where is the Green Sheep?

By: Mem Fox, Art By: Judy Horacek

As you search for green sheep, meet a flock of wooly friends who are described by their looks and actions. This playful story also introduces some opposites like, "near sheep, far sheep / moon sheep, star sheep".

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Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

By: Bill Martin Jr, Art By: Eric Carle

With rhyme and repetition, Henry quickly learned the pattern of the story and was able to 'read along'. It's a simple and enjoyable book that shows colour words that are used to describe animals.

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Books You Can Sing Along To:

Old MacDonald Had A Truck

By: Steve Goetz, Art By: Eda Kaban

On this farm things are a little different; the sounds you hear are coming from excavators, steam rollers and dump trucks. Find out what the animals are helping to build in this modern take on a classic tune.

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Wheels on the Bus

By: Raffi, Art By: Sylvie Wickstrom

Every toddler seems to love the Wheels on the Bus. It's a great read-aloud and sing-along with fun actions. We're also now enjoying Down By the Bay; another Raffi classic.

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Down By the Station

By: Jennifer Riggs Vetter, Art By: Frank Remkiewicz

New verses have been added to the classic song, bringing the reader down by the work site, airport and racetrack. The book also uses fun sound words, like vroom, clank, whoosh.

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Books That Make You Laugh:

Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas

By: Aaron Blabey

Bring on the giggles! This is a silly book about a piranha named Brian (extra funny for Henry since he has a Papa Brian) who doesn't want to eat feet or legs or bums. Instead he prefers fruits & vegetables and he tries to convince his friends that produce can be just as tasty.

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Vegetables in Underwear

By: Jared Chapman

These goofy vegetables are showing off undergarments of all varieties - big, small, clean, dirty, serious, and funny. This book might look like pure silliness but it's also got rhyme and introduces opposites.

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Dragons Love Tacos

By: Adam Rubin, Art By: Daniel Salmieri

A top pick this year! Henry can't get enough of the fire breathing dragons. It's a humorous story about a taco party that goes terribly wrong when the dragons are accidentally served 'spicy salsa.' I couldn't resist basing the /t/ sound activities around this book.

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Stories about Friendship:

Hooray for Hat

By: Brian Won

What can you do when a friend is feeling grumpy? Cheer them up with a hat! This book may seem simple but it shares a positive message about how we can show empathy for one another.

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Pip and Posy: The New Friend

By: Axel Scheffler

Pip and Posy are two friends that despite the troubles they run into, always find a way to support one another. They model how to make hard choices and react with compassion. We've loved every book from this series.

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By: Don Freeman

The idea of a teddy coming to life seemed to captivate Henry (and presumably tons of other toddlers). Corduroy sets off on a department store adventure in search of a missing button and in the hopes that a friend will want to take him home.

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Books that Celebrate Differences:

It's Okay to Be Different

By: Todd Parr

It's okay to be whoever you are! This book celebrates our differences and brings kid-friendly humour to an important topic. According to Todd Parr, it's even "okay to eat macaroni and cheese in the bathtub." 😁 We enjoy the positivity in all of his books.

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Love Makes a Family

By: Sophie Beer

Diverse families bond through playtime, celebration and everyday activities. It doesn't matter who makes up your family, the key ingredient is... love. I hope books that promote inclusion will help to shape Henry's world view.

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We're Different, We're The Same

By: Bobbi Kates, Art By: Joe Mathieu

Our physical features and feelings may look different, but they serve us the same way. This book reassures little readers in a way that speaks directly to them. Henry loves Sesame Street and the monster characters add even more diversity to the story.

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Bedtime Stories:

I Just Want to Say Goodnight

By: Rachel Isadora

Like most toddlers at bedtime, Lala is stalling. Before going to sleep, she has to say goodnight to everything she can think of, including the cat, goat, chickens, etc. It's a sweet nighttime story and very relatable.

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Goodnight Gorilla

By: Peggy Rathmann

A wordless picture book that tells a big story. Funny and entertaining; it follows the zoo guard who closes down for the night and a mischievous gorilla who follows behind opening things back up.

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Little Owl's Night

By: Divya Srinivasan

Follow little owl through the forest as he visits his nocturnal friends. We enjoy this book's poetic style and bright illustrations (against the dark background). For more nighttime fun, check out our /n/ sound, where we explore this book and the night theme.

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Interactive Books:

Tap the Magic Tree

By: Christie Matheson

Have your child guide the story as a tree moves through the 4 seasons. With the tap of a finger or an exhale of breath, help bring on the changes from spring to winter (and back again). Henry really bought into the magic of this story.

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Poor Little Rabbit

By: Jorg Muhle

A similar concept; this book asks the reader to help mend little rabbit after he scrapes his arm. Can you put a bandage on it and rub rabbit's ears to make him feel better? This story also encourages compassion and empathy.

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By: Matthew Van Fleet

This book is plain fun! Explore animals and their tails with tabs to pull, flaps to lift and textures to feel. Henry often 'reads' this one on his own. It makes a great quiet time book!

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Books that Rhyme:

Is your Mama a Llama?

Story: Deborah Guarino, Art By: Steven Kellogg

The story is cleverly crafted so the reader can guess each animal using rhyming clues. The rhymes go far beyond your typical cat-mat-sat and the story is endearing as little llama asks his friends about their mamas. Also the animal names are pretty adorable - Dave, Clyde, Rhonda - so cute!

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By: Bruce Degan

Full of lyrical and sometimes made up rhymes, this book excites the imagination. The dreamlike story and illustrations follow two friends (a boy and a bear) on a berry picking adventure. We enjoy this book so much, I'm planning to use it for the /j/ sound.

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Fox's Socks

By: Julia Donaldson, Art By: Axel Scheffler

This lift-the-flap book has the reader guessing what articles of clothing might be hiding in fox's house. See if your little one can complete the sentence using the rhyme, before revealing what's under the tab.

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Vocabulary Building Books

(that also happen to be full of rhymes):

Hairy Maclary's Rumpus at the Vet

By: Lynley Dodd

Full of creative rhyme, every book in the Hairy Maclary collection is tons of fun to read. In this story, Hairy Maclary goes to the vet but chaos unfolds when Cassie the cockatoo accidentally tweaks Hairy's tail.

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Bear's New Friend

By: Karma Wilson, Art By: Jane Chapman

Another brilliant series that follows bear and his friends on their many adventures (he snores on, feels sick, wants more). The books read in verse and are full of rhyme, but also offer tons of fresh vocabulary.

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The Pout-Pout Fish

By: Deborah Diesen, Art By: Dan Hanna

This is one of the more challenging books on the list, but Henry enjoys the rhythm of the story and I like introducing him to new words. One of my favourite lines reads: "a kaleidoscope of mope". Find out how this pout-pout fish turns his frown upside down.

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Non-fiction Books:

Hello, World! How Do Apples Grow?

By: Jill McDonald

Fun and informative! We always learn something new from these books that offer simple facts and eye-catching illustrations. There are a variety of topics covered in the Hello, World series including dinosaurs, space, my body, and weather.

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Some Bugs

By: Angela DiTerlizzi, Art By: Brendan Wenzel

I can't tell you how many times we've read this book! Henry loves to find the unique bugs in the pages, then wants to "look it up!" in the picture glossary at the end. It's a great introduction to non-fiction texts and the illustrations are detailed (& from what I know about bugs, highly accurate).

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Peek-a-Flap Zoo

By: Jaye Garnett, Art By: Kasia Nowowiejska

These books are full of interesting facts and the chunky flaps make them even more fun! There are a number of different options in the series, highlighting farm and forest animals, dinosaurs and construction vehicles.

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And Henry's absolute favourite book... Sunset Magazine's Cook Taste Savor. Haha

I can't blame him. Every page is filled with mouthwatering photos. Maybe Henry is an aspiring chef and will make these delicious dishes one day. A mama can dream.

I hope you enjoyed this list and found some new books to explore with your little one. I'm currently keeping a running record of the stories Henry is enjoying now that he's officially a preschooler. I will be sure to keep you posted on our favourites from age 3-4.

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