Best book gifts for 0-3-year-olds
I love to gift books but (I’m whispering now) I don’t often buy them for my own child, or for myself! That might sound shameful as the EP’s new publishing assistant and a former bookseller, but I’m lucky to have a great local library, so I only really invest in personal copies of children’s books after they’ve been tried and tested and I enjoy reading them myself, too.
With these criteria in mind, I wanted to share with you some of my favourite titles for ages 0-3 (I’ve put them roughly in age order). I hope you might find it handy if you’re looking to buy a special book gift – for others, or for yourself!
1. A Mother Is a House, Aurore Petit. I think you can really tell that Aurore Petit had both parents and children in mind when she put together this series of reflections on the first year of her son’s life. Her charismatic, pop-art style images capture the world through a baby’s eyes, and Daniel Hahn’s rhyming translation is just magical! I found out about this book through the amazing World Kid Lit website, which is packed with book recommendations from around the world for ages 0-18 – my first port of call when looking for book gift ideas. Best gift for: parents to be, new parents, first birthday, children expecting a sibling.
2. One day at the Taiwan Land Bank Dinosaur Museum, Elīna Eihmane. An illustrated poem for adults, this love letter from mother to son is a moving one to read aloud to your little one in the early days, to soothe yourself as much as them. “Now I watch my heart. I check it/every morning and every night so it doesn’t stop/growing with you.” You can read a longer sample and explore the book more here. This would make an especially meaningful gift for anyone who has struggled mentally or physically new parenthood or a traumatic birth.
3. I want a little puppy dog, Ilmārs Šlāpins, illustrated by Dārta Stafecka. This little book has been life-changing for me, as it introduced me to the rest of the Bicki-Books! I bought it because it reminded me of the work of textile artist Alice Kettle, and because my daughter loves dogs – two years on and we never tire of it! Kaija Straumanis’s skill in translating, from Latvian, the rhymes and hint-of-dark humour blows my mind, and the stitch illustrations are beautiful. Buy for: everyone! I’ve gifted this to friends ages 0-65, with and without children, dog-lovers and dog-fearers! At just £4 it’s a lovely little present, or if you’re looking for a special 2nd or 3rd birthday gift, it’s featured in our poetry subscription gift for children.
4. Bedtime, not Playtime! Lawrence Schimel, illustrated by Elīna Brasliņa. A cheery rhyming board book with striking linocut-style illustrations, in the smaller format that little hands prefer! This is one of the few books I’m happy to read at bedtime (which is still a bit of a mission): it’s just the right length, and the image of the exhausted parents collapsing onto the sofa while their toddler is still bright-eyed feels like a reassuring hug that tells me I’m not alone. An especially good gift for: sleep-deprived parents of toddlers, rainbow families – this story features two Dads, if you’re looking for one with two Mums, Early One Morning by the same author & illustrator team is also lovely.
5. Saturday, Oge Mora. Everything about this book is perfect to me. Award-winning artist and author Oge Mora’s collage illustrations are stunning, and the flawlessly paced story of a mother and her daughter’s ability to enjoy their day together despite a series of unexpected hurdles are a warm reminder to keep your chin up when everything goes wrong – “Today will be special! Today will be splendid!” has become our motto. Best gift for: mothers & daughters, working parents. Hachette have also put together a free activity pack you could print and pop inside the book for an extra thoughtful present!
6. Birmingham Boy, Kate Rafiq. We chanced upon this in the lovely Bear Bookshop – just like the little boy featured in the story, my daughter was so excited to recognise Birmingham library on the cover! Aside from enjoying recognising local places, I really appreciate how the rhyme invites you to reflect on poverty by reimagining homelessness from a child’s view (and 10% of the profits from sales go to Homeless One charity). Best gift for: Brummie babes and families, of course!