Best Books for Toddler Boys and Girls Who Are Wiggly During Story Time

Books for Toddler BoysWhen my children were babies and early toddlers, we’d read piles of board books every morning after breakfast. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Little Owl’s Night, and I Am a Bunny were just a few of the best board books for toddlers. My kiddos would pull book after book off the shelf and hand them to me to read. Sometimes they’d look through the books themselves.

I was so pleased with my book-lovers.

Then my son turned two and became a nonstop force of motion. He had no interest in sitting still to read books for 45-minute stretches of time after breakfast. We could barely wrangle him for a book at bed-time and before nap.

So I went on searches for new books, scouring the library and bookstore for the best books for toddlers ages 2-3.

Since he played with trains all day, train books would often capture his attention, especially books about Thomas the Train. I also found some of the best books for toddlers were ones with rhymes and rhythms, especially when we read them with enthusiasm.

If you reach a similar stage with your toddlers, here’s what worked for us:

  • Books that relate to toys or characters they like (For us, it was Thomas the Train
  • Books that rhyme
  • Books with a rhythm or song
  • Books with flaps, tabs, and more

Here are the six books my wiggly toddler would sit still for:

Cover of Stop, Train, Stop!

  • Stop, Train, Stop! a Thoms the Tank Engine Story by Wilbert Awdry
    • A Thomas the Tank Engine book for train lovers. This book about Thomas deciding to zoom past all his tops has cows mooing, food spilling, and people bouncing about—and some nice rhyming phrases we like to repeat with excitement.

Cover of Noisy Farm Board Book

  • Noisy Farm by Little Tiger Press
    • A short but noisy book with textures and photographs of farm animals. What toddler doesn’t love mooing like a cow and neighing like a horse?

Cover of The Pout Pout Fish Board Book

  • Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen
    • A fun story with a distinct rhythm and rhyme, lots of “bluuubs,” and it ends with smooches!

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Board Book

  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr., and John Archambault
    • We like to emphasize the rhythm of this one, reading it to a beat but slowing down to point out all the letters. I also challenge my son to say the tounge-twisting parts like, “Skit skat skoodle doot!”

Cover of A Trip to Busy Town

  • A Trip to Busy Town by Sally Hopgood
    • With tabs to pull on every page and plenty of vehicles and animals to name, this was a favorite bedtime story for a while. My son also liked to pull out the tabs and drive a train across the pages of this book.

Cover of My Best Ever abc Alphabet Book

  • My Best Ever ABC Alphabet Book by Make Believe Ideas Ltd.
    • Textures, tabs, flaps, and all kinds of doodles make this one of the best board books for toddlers. This is a great one to read together and for kids to explore on their own.

What books engaged your busy toddlers?

Connect with me on Goodreads to see what else we love to read at my house.

Books, Reading

‘Stripped Down’ Screen Time Is the Best Kind of Screen Time

We’ve all been told about the importance of reading to children and we’ve all been warned against screen time for babies. We probably all know the American Academy of Pediatrics screen time recommendations—no screen time for babies and no more than two hours per day for older children.

Of course, we have also all been on an airplane or a long car ride or simply stuck in the house on a rainy day or with a sick child; and then comes the dreaded screen time we worry is rotting our children’s brains.

A recent study actually looked at children’s brain activity to determine the difference between reading, listening, and watching a story. The study revealed just why reading aloud to children is so important and why screen time isn’t always ideal.

The study authored by Dr. John Hutton and reported on by NPR identified a “Goldilocks effect” in storytelling for children.

Audio stories were “too cold.” Animated stories were “too hot.” Illustrated picture books were “just right.”


Children’s Brains on Audio

When listening to audio with no accompanying images, children tended to strain to understand what they heard.


Children’s Brains on Animation

Somewhat surprisingly, children’s comprehension was lowest when they watched an animation of a story. The researchers detected activity in both the audio and visual perception networks in the brain, but there was little connectivity occurring. In fact, according to Hutton, the language centers in the brain were struggling to keep pace with the visual centers.


Children’s Brains on Story Books

While the children in the study were shown still illustrations with audio—rather than only audio or a moving animation—there was more connectivity among various parts of the brain, including visual, imagery, language, and default mode.


The Takeaway

“For 3- to 5-year-olds, the imagery and default mode networks mature late, and take practice to integrate with the rest of the brain,” Hutton said, according to NPR. “With animation you may be missing an opportunity to develop them.”

The more children are exposed to picture books, they more practice they have in connecting words and images and “bringing images to life in their minds.”

“Overwhelmed by the demands of processing language, without enough practice, they may also be less skilled at forming mental pictures based on what they read, much less reflecting on the content of the story,” according to NPR.

There’s a takeaway here that’s more than just banish screen time completely though—which let’s face it, isn’t going to happen in most homes.

Instead, NPR suggested, “when parents do turn to electronic devices for young children, they should gravitate toward the most stripped-down version of a narrated, illustrated ebook, as opposed to either audio-only or animation.”


Screen Time Suggestions for Young Children:

So for those moments, when you need to rely on some screen time, here are a few “stripped-down” versions you can find on YouTube:


Grandma’s House

This channel has several read-aloud videos of popular children’s books. She reads the book, and the pages of the book are displayed in full spreads on the screen. There are no moving images.


Story Time with Ms. Becky

Ms. Becky starts each video sitting in a chair with a stuffed bear. She offers a little conversational intro to the book and then begins to read. The screen displays the pages of the book, and a small video image of Ms. Becky reading in the corner. At the end the video goes back to Ms. Becky for a short reflection about the story.


Storyline Online

This wonderful channel was created by the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, which has a literacy website called Storyline Online. The channel is full of videos of celebrities reading children’s books. While young children may not be familiar with all the famous names and faces, these award-winning actors are naturally great storytellers, reading expressively and putting on fun character voices. The screen alternates between showing the reader reading the book and images from the book that are enhanced with slight animation. At the end the reader talks to us about why he or she chose the particular book and usually reflects on the message the book delivers.

Education, Parenting and Personal Musings

Are They Sponges? Do Children Learn Languages Faster Than Adults?

Children's Handwriting in Catalan

When we moved to Barcelona, we had a big decision to make about our children’s education. They could go to an English-speaking school where they would speak primarily English and learn some Spanish; or they could go to a school where the primary language is Catalan, and they would have some instruction in Spanish and English.

We chose to go for the Catalan school. First, our children speak English and will continue to master the language because we speak it and read in it at home. Second, we weren’t sure exactly how long we’d live in Barcelona, but with no current plans to leave, we wanted to settle in, learn the local languages, and be part of the community rather than living on the edge of it. Third, we wanted to take advantage of the valuable opportunity for our children to master new languages learning from native speakers, which isn’t easy to come by in U.S. schools. Continue reading “Are They Sponges? Do Children Learn Languages Faster Than Adults?”

Art and All Its Benefits

Great Drawing Prompts for Kids

Drawing Prompts for Kids, Kids Art Activities

In my last post, I talked about coloring books. Some adults feel that coloring books offer benefits, such as enhancing fine motor skills; but others feel that they inhibit creativity and confidence in children’s own drawing abilities.

Whether you keep a few coloring books around the house or not, drawing prompts are a great way to encourage children to use their imaginations, practice their drawing skills, and just have fun.

I’ve pulled together a few of my favorite free drawing prompts from some really great blogs. These creative drawing ideas for kids are great for rainy days, long car rides, and lazy summer afternoons. Continue reading “Great Drawing Prompts for Kids”

Art and All Its Benefits

Are Coloring Books Bad? The Coloring Book Controversy

Coloring Books for Kids

Who knew something so mundane and commonplace could be so controversial?

The Coloring Book.

They’re practically everywhere, and for the past several years, adults have taken up this childhood pastime as well. So are coloring books bad for children? Do coloring books stifle creativity.  Continue reading “Are Coloring Books Bad? The Coloring Book Controversy”

Education, Reading

The Benefits of Reading to Children and the Importance Putting the Book Down

Children's books

The most powerful part of reading often happens when you put down the book,” Erin Clabough, Ph.D., says.


The benefits of reading to children are immeasurable, and they have been studied and cited countless times. Articles on the importance of reading to children explain that doing so helps develop children’s communication skills, increases their vocabulary, enhances their creativity, and can deepen the bond between the child and the parent or caregiver. There’s a great post about the benefits of reading aloud to children on Ragamuffin Books.

As it turns out though, how you read to your children also makes a difference. Continue reading “The Benefits of Reading to Children and the Importance Putting the Book Down”

Parenting and Personal Musings

Best Things To Do in Barcelona with Kids


When we moved to Barcelona, we didn’t just have kids; we had little kids—as in tears on the sidewalk, “carry-me-I’m-tired,” “can-we-go-home-now” little. After we arrived, everyone wanted to hear about our adventure and where to travel with kids in Europe. The truth is we were just trying to survive the walk to the grocery store with our small children who were used to riding in the car.

While I know we would never have ventured on a European vacation with our three- and four-year-old, I also know some of you parents out there are much braver than we. So for those of you who are ready to explore Barcelona with kids, here are a few of the gems where our kiddos smiled more than they whined. Continue reading “Best Things To Do in Barcelona with Kids”