Best Books For Babies 6-12 months
Quick Things You Need To Know:
- Smash the kyriarchy: Our goal at this age is to normalize diversity and expose babies to new ways of communicating.
- Real photographs of actual people of a wide range of ages, faces, gender presentation, and races.
- Real sign language: Teach your baby real sign language (ESL, ASL, etc. your local dialect). It’s awesome and super helpful for pre-and non-speaking folks. Don’t teach them baby sign language or a bastardization of a Deaf language – that’s infantilizing, ableist, and cultural appropriation. We don’t teach our kids baby Spanish, that would be ridiculous.
- Focus on familiarity over novelty: Ages 6-12 months are still going to love all the same books from the 0-6 month period.
- Put these in storage for a couple months when they lose interest: Hold on to these books through early elementary – you’ll want to pull them out for emerging readers.
- Invest in the good ones: Although these are books that babies enjoy now, they’ll have surprising have lasting power through preschool (with long periods of disinterest in between). If you can afford it, go ahead and invest in used copies of your favorites, since it will be easier than getting the same book out from the library every month for the next 2-4 years.
- Basic Safety
- Paper cuts: Look for rounded corners, and thick, staggered pages, that babies can grab, but won’t give them paper cuts.
- Teething, chewing, drooling: Dishwasher-friendly books (Indestructables, cloth books) are your friend, because these are going to get NASTY when babies start teething and drooling everywhere. Paper ones will warp and disintegrate.
- Meet babies where they are:
- 6-9 months: Babies won’t be able to move hands smoothly until around 6 months. Even then, turning pages in a board book or lifting books up will be challenging for babies under 9 months.
- Keep it simple. If you’re learning to identify items (ex: cup) or properties (ex: red), isolate a single image on each page and look for clean white backgrounds. Busy, complicated, adorable illustrations are overwhelming for infants under 9 months. Parents love them, but they can take years before kids ‘get into’ them and many parents get frustrated.
- Non-linear reading: Don’t expect a kid under 3 to sit still and read a book cover-to-cover. Around 18 months and again at 2.5 years and 3.5 years, your kid will have a big cognitive leap and will be more ready for storybooks with increasingly linear story lines.
- Weak little fingers: There are lots of noisy books with buttons that are too hard for infants to push down and flaps too fragile or hard to pull out. Test them before you enrage your frustrated infant with them.
- Infants under 9 months can only manage Indestructables (dishwasher-safe!) and teeny tiny board books. From months 4 through 9, prevent frustrated screaming and have these on hand in your diaper bag, stroller, car, and in every room of your home. Keep one in your bra, if you wear one.
- Drooly chompy teethers: Expect mouthing and drooling to ramp up around 6 months (teething). NOM ALL THE THINGS!
- Everything will be covered in drool. Grimy library board books are not your friend during flu season. Buy new & disinfect glossy pages with vinegar and a soft cloth. Never leave any infant or toddler alone with a library book.
Quick & Messy Book List:
6+ Months: Sensory Exploration
Fine motor and sensory input develops in the feet before the hands. While your baby is in a bouncer chair (so they can look down and see), hold sensory books for them to rub their toes on.
- Large-patch tactile sensory books are easier for babies who don’t yet have fine motor control. They are hard to find since they’re more expensive to make and most parents can’t tell the difference.
- Fuzzy Fuzzy Fuzzy, Sandra Boynton
- Little Feet Love, Bendon Publishing- or uhhh, turns out this is made of lead? So manye not. Bummer, it was SO loved.
- Have You Ever Tickled A Tiger – smaller patches, but great range of material.
- That’s not my truck/dragon/robot…. series Fiona Watt – Wonderful for kids who need an outlet to shout ‘NO!’ The characters are nonbinary!
- Small-patch sensory books with smell
6+ Months: Social & Emerging Language
I had to hide the Say & Play books from R2 around 2.5 years because he asks for them ALL THE TIME EVERY NIGHT. They love these books so much, I got actively sick of them. BUT! They’re perfect for older siblings to read to younger siblings, since older kids have memorized them by now.
- Baby’s Day, Blake – Deceptively simple, this book is amazing. Selective coloring for new language, normalizing a nonbinary Black baby, recognizing daily routines, and very few (re: not overwhelming) staggered pages in a lightweight book for little fingers. SO GOOD. It’s out of print, but I wish they’d either re-print it or someone would take this idea and run with it for a series.
- Baby Day, Wallace – A little long, but great for daily routines.
- Things That Go, (Say & Play, Sterling Publishing)
- Oink, Moo, Meow (Say & Play, Sterling Publishing) –
- Pantone Colors – Pantone – The variation in color shades gives this book a longer life than basic color books. It also clears up confusion later on (around preschool) when kids realize that you can have a green that looks yellowish, and a yellow that looks greenish, and so on.
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Eric Carle – I can’t stand every other book by Eric Carle, but we all love this book.
- The Sign About Series, Anthony Lewis – (ASL) Most board books teaching sign language to families for use with children are problematic and often contain errors. Check youtube and/or take a class if you can to clarify your signs. This series has multiple signs cluttered on each page, which is not ideal, but my favorite is out of print and I haven’t found a better version.
- Hands & Hearts, Donna Jo Napoli (ASL)
- Will Ladybug Hug? – AAPI maker and early start demonstrating respect for others’ bodily agency. woohoo!
- Kiss By Kiss – van Camp – Bilingual (Plains Cree & English). Good, cute photography (which is rare). Would be redundant if you’re already getting ‘Kiss tickle cuddle hug.’ Since everything is just a kiss, it doesn’t work as well for practicing consent.
- Whose Toes Are Those? / Whose Knees Are These? – Both books cover the same basic idea and are interchangeable. Normalizing Black/brown characters, cuddly and sweet. No story narrows the age range so it loses lustre for older kids. Pretty bland and we never really wanted to read it more than once a year.
- Te Amo Sol, Te Amo Luna (I love you sun, I love you moon) – Lovely as a first earth day book. Bilingual. Book is small (about 5″ square) and lightweight, which makes it easier for little hands, babies can probably start to hold it around 6 months. “I love you, stars. I love you, water. I love you, wolf. I love you, moon. I love you, earth. And you love me.” this was sweet and i like it a lot. Most characters are white, with a few token characters of color thrown in.
- Feminism is For Boys (Rhodes) – Transparency: I got a free review copy of this from the publisher. The title made me nervous, but the book is simple and lovely, if a bit bland (similar to C is for Consent). Clear and to-the-point, it’s an uncluttered board book that manages to fit in an expanded definition of what boys do (some cook, some wear dresses, some like sports), kind of a like a simplified board book version of ‘Some Boys‘ (which i also got for free, from Rabble Books & Games, and isn’t available in the US yet) for babies. Despite the title, the interior pages go on to explain that boys are friends with ‘all genders,’ so the use of ‘boy’ does not erase others on the gender spectrum. Do NOT confuse this with ‘My first book of feminism for boys by Merberg, that one is trash. I have to admit that Merberg’s book really made me wary of feminist board books ‘for boys’ but this book grows on me more and more every time I read it.
6+ Months: Books To Read On The Potty
If you’re doing elimination communication, keep a basket of indestructables and also maybe those junky, noisy books right next to the potty along with a little footstool to use as a table. This is the only time battery-operated junk books are worth it, but make sure the buttons & flaps can be manipulated little fingers, otherwise screaming will happen.
- Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? (Eric Carle) – I hate this book for many reasons, but it’s the only one that entertained the Earthquakes on the potty for long periods of time (ahem), with noise and buttons that even they could push at this age. Worth it.
- Indestructables – Again, are great for the bathroom, particularly if they get dropped in something gross and need to be washed.