Mother and Baby

The best books to buy for three year olds

Mum reading to son on a bench with a dog

Reading to your three-your-old has so many benefits, from helping you bond to showing them that you're interested in spending time with them. But it also provides you with the time to teach them important literacy skills, as well as the opportunities to develop their social skills and knowledge.

‘There are so many benefits to sharing books with your youngster,’ says Samantha Cleaver, co-author of Read With Me: Engaging Your Young Child in Active Reading and a mum of three.‘It builds empathy by introducing children to ways in which other people see the world – and being able to see things from somebody else’s point of view is a key part of making and keeping friends.’ Stories also introduce children to situations that they may not yet have experienced in their daily lives, such as going to the doctors, losing a toy or gaining a sibling. ‘Reading about those events beforehand helps youngsters to understand them, which makes them feel more confident about dealing with those situations when they do occur,’ says Samantha.

Top tips for encouraging your three-year-old to read

Go on a picture walk

When you do a ‘picture walk’ through a book, you don’t even glance at the text. You look at the illustrations, and you talk about what you see and about what the story might be. 'For older children aged two plus, doing this will get them talking about the details they notice in the pictures, which boosts their observational skills as well as their oral skills.’ says Samantha.

Ask simple questions such as, ‘Who’s standing by the rock?’ or ‘What colour is the fox?’ That’ll get her thinking, even if she can’t articulate those thoughts quite yet, so pause after your question before you answer. Ask open-ended questions, too, like, ‘What do you see on this page?’ as even a young tot can point at what grabs her interest. Encourage her to think about emotions, too, by asking, ‘What do you think the mouse is feeling now?’ And chat through your thoughts. Questions that start to get your child looking for clues in the pictures and using them to work out information about the story are great for older toddlers, too: questioning ‘What season is it?’ or ‘Why is the fox running?’ will really get him interested in what’s going on. ‘You’re getting your child to think and engage with the clues in the pictures,’ says Samantha. ‘You’re asking for his ideas and that will get him interested in what he sees.’

Try this!

Going on a picture walk through a book your toddler is already super-familiar with is very different to wandering through a brand-new book together. If your tot already knows the story off by heart, going on a picture walk will prompt his memory and deepen his understanding of the story. But encourage him to go off-piste, too. You’ll find all sorts of objects in the illustrations that you’ve never noticed before – what’s their story?

Young girl reading book

Encourage sound and action

One reason why it’s great to read the same book a gazillion times is because your tot will start to memorise it. And once he knows a story that well, he can start to join in. ‘Youngsters love this,’ says Samantha. ‘It gives them a chance to show what they can do, which delivers a real boost to their self-esteem.’ By three, your tot will be reciting whole chunks of text, but don’t wait till then to encourage some participation from your mini-me.

With an older toddler, you can be even more creative. For example, a three-year-old will be able to shout ‘Down’, every time the witch in Julia Donaldson’s Room On The Broom needs to pick up something she’s dropped.

To help your little one and support them in the early stages of education, choose a variety of books for them to read, from easy rhyming books that they can help repeat the words, to ones with deeper meanings such as love and friendship. Check out our pic of books that are perfect for three-year-old children.

A lovely book with fun rhymes, and children will love following Bear on his unexpected adventure! It's a great book to introduce children to the idea of school.

Two bears introduce new and familiar names to your little one by grouped subjects, themes and setting! It's a lovely read to help your little one to put words into context.

Danny and Dinosaur are off on a space-adventure, but when the Dinosaur gets hungry, he eats everything in sight! Join in on the funny rhymes to find out how Danny and the Dinosaur get back home.

This uplifting story will help develop your childs self-esteem and self-love, as Lana herself goes on a journey of self-discovery.

Can the caped superhero potato divert the Evil Pea? Or will he need some help?

From clever to brave, this book expresses everything you love about your little one, and they'll love snuggling up to hear it! 

Little ones can sometimes worry at night about monsters under their bed, and when Bobby is worried to sleep, his mum explains all the fun the bedtime monsters to get up at night, so that he can sleep peacefully.

A little monster can dress himself, brush his fur, ride a tricycle, put away his toys, and get ready for bed. Let the little monster show your little one that they can do it too! 

This book is a whimsical celebration of movement that your little one will love! Jump, twirl and dance through the pages. 


£3.55 - RRP: £6.99

Pants are very funny and little children ALWAYS giggle whenever pants are mentioned. Enjoy a giggle as you meet different animals, people and objects wearing pants of every kind. 


£6.54 - RRP: £7.99

Share this classic story of Dave and his favourite toy, Dogger, with your little one. Will he get Dogger back after losing him?

When something terrible happens, Taylor doesn't know where to turn, so the animals try to tell Taylor how to process his sadness. But what does the rabbit do different? A beautiful story that shows children the importance of being kind and listening.

Where is Pim?

£5.90 - RRP: £6.99

Pom is playing with Pim, until suddenly Pim goes missing! Pom and the dog look everywhere. But where is Pim?

You can download this on to your Kindle but it’s just not the same as reading with your toddler and seeing all the holes in the pages. Another absolute classic that deserves its place on every toddler’s bookshelf.

Each Peach Pear Plum is a timeless picture book classic from the best-selling illustrator/author team of Janet and Allan Ahlberg. Each beautifully illustrated page encourages young children to interact with the picture to find the next fairy tale and nursery rhyme character. This board book edition is perfect for little hands.

Read next for more book inspiration:

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  • Author: Samantha Ball Samantha Ball
  • Job Title: Freelance writer

Samantha is a mum of one, in a house full of boys. Her hobbies are long hikes, coffee tasting, and being a bit of an *obsessive* cleaner.

She also runs a blog Student Mum Diaries about what it’s like to be a student mum. 


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