books for 2 year olds

The Best Books for 2 Year Olds, as Chosen by Max

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Last month, with the help of some of IKEA’s trusty picture rails, we created a little reading nook in the corner of Max’s room:

books for two years olds, and how to create a reading nook for your toddler

It didn’t turn out quite as picturesque as some of the bookshelves I’d found on Pinterest – mostly because Max would never forgive me if I insisted that all of his books had to fit a particular colour scheme – but it has at least fulfilled its purpose, which was to make it easier for him to see all of his books at a glance, and decide for himself which ones he wants us to read (No, he obviously can’t reach the ones on the higher shelves, but he can at least tell us which one he wants, so we can get it for him…). 

At two, he’s still at an age where books have to strike exactly the right balance between words and pictures for them to sustain his interest: anything too long or wordy will bore him after a while (He’d LOVE my blog then, obviously…), while, at the same time, some of the books he loved when he was younger are now just too simple to hold his attention. We have, however, hit on a few favourites – for now, at least – which he returns to again and again, so I figured it was time I followed up last year’s post on the best books for 1 year olds, with a list of the best books for 2 year  olds: according to Max, anyway! 

Here’s what he’s been enjoying lately…

The Best Books for 2 Year Olds

IKEA picture rails used as bookshelves in a toddler's bedroom


Positing a question I’m sure we’ve all asked  – What would happen if a tiger came to tea? – and proving once and for all why you should never answer the door if you’re not expecting someone, this is the story of how Sophie and her mummy found themselves entertaining a very hungry tiger one afternoon. We’ve all been there, right? 

Max, who is what Terry’s mum would euphemistically describe as, “A good eater,” very much enjoys hearing about everything the tiger manages to eat. I, meanwhile, really appreciate the ending of this one, in which Sophie’s daddy comes home, takes one look at the house that’s just been totally ransacked by the tiger, and is just like, “Screw this, let’s just go out to eat!” We should all be more Sophie’s Dad, no? [Buy it]


Another classic (And another animal who likes to eat a lot: I’m sensing a theme starting to develop here…), I’m sure you all know what becomes of the Very Hungry Caterpillar (Spoiler alert: he turns into a butterfly…), but Max never fails to be amazed by the ending of this one, which is why it’s on his ‘repeat read’ list.

There was a point earlier this year where he would continually try to insist that the caterpillar didn’t WANT to be a butterfly, and was perfectly happy as he was – an alternate reading which definitely makes you think, doesn’t it? – but I’m relieved to say he’s now accepted the caterpillar’s fate, and is more interested in the fact that, on Saturday, he eats ALL THE THINGS. Yes.  [BUY IT]


This was one of many books we originally borrowed from either the library or the little book club that Max’s playgroup used to run, back in pre-Covid times, and I ended up having to buy a copy of, because Max was so upset when we had to give it back. It’s a nicely-written rhyming story, in which the eponymous protagonist – Hairy Maclary. From Donaldson’s Dairy. – goes for a walk with a selection of his canine friends. (Oh, Hairy Maclary is a dog, by the way: just in case you were thinking that was a bit of an odd name for a person…) Again, I really like the illustrations in this one, and have borrowed a couple of the other titles in the series, too: so far none have been quite as good as the original, but I find them more fun to read over and over again than some of the other books for 2 year olds we’ve tried, and am hoping to one day take my dramatic performance of ‘Hairy Maclary’ out on tour. Or, you know, maybe not. [BUY IT]


This is one of the personalised books we were gifted by Wonderbly earlier this year, and it’s a nice, easy bedtime read, which I always hope will help lull Max off to sleep, but which, sadly, never does. As well as adding his name, we were also able to personalise the little boy in the illustrations, so he looks as much like Max as possible: a nice touch, which would also make one of these a nice gift.  [BUY IT]


Speaking of books I don’t mind reading over and over again, Room on the Broom definitely falls into that category: it’s actually a really fun read, and perfect for this time of year, too. I think I’ve mentioned that Max is currently obsessed with all things spooky, so although this one is a little longer than some of the other books for 2 year olds on this list, it’s probably his favourite for now: so much so, in fact, that the first thing he did when I went into his room this morning was ask me to read it to him! [BUY IT]


Before he got interested in ghosts and ghouls, Max’s previous obsession was with the solar system, so this board book made a nice little introduction to the 8 little planets, with colourful illustrations, and an easy-to-read rhyming structure. As a result of this book (And, OK, the Storybots episode about the planets…), Max was able to impress his nursery teachers by being able to name off all of the planets when he was just over two: and, well, I learned quite a few things too, tbh… [BUY IT]


My parents bought Max a set of Miffy books before he was even born: I’d loved them myself as a child, so I was ridiculously pleased to find that he loves them too, and only slightly surprised to read the Miffy ‘genesis’ story, and realise that Miffy is basically Jesus:

Miffy genesis story

(After Mrs Bunny has this surprise visitation, Miffy duly turns up, and is visited by all the animals. MIND. BLOWN.)

Jesus or not, Max really likes these books, and they’re nicely nostalgic for me, too. The set we have came complete with its own bag, plus a little Miffy toy, but you can buy them seperatley, too, and, if you do, Max would probably recommend ‘Queen Miffy‘, in which Miffy daydreams about being a queen, and gets to live in a palace. Which is haunted, obviously.


As you can see from the photos of Max’s shelves, he has tons of other books, which I haven’t mentioned or I’ll be here all day. We’re always on the lookout for more, though, so if you have a child Max’s age, or thereabouts, I’d love to hear what you’ve found to be the best books for 2 year olds!

book recommendations for toddlers: the best books for 2 years olds - as chosen by one!

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  • Alice


    My daughter has outgrown the very hungry caterpillar now (she is 4) but when she was younger she used to cry because the caterpillar had tummy ache and her mother wasn’t there…….

    I’d never seen it as a tragedy until then!

    October 8, 2020
  • Laura


    8 planets, ah – when I were a lass, Pluto was a planet! *sigh*

    October 8, 2020
  • Selina


    Both my kids loved Hairy McClary, we read it so often that even though they are now 25 and 21 I can still recite it from memory. It is indelibly etched into my brain.

    October 8, 2020
  • Miss Kitty


    Try the Wonky Donkey. Also Google the Scottish grandma reading it to her grandchild, it’s hilarious! ????

    October 8, 2020
  • Fi


    My sister and I were obsessed with Hand Hand Fingers Thumb when we were little. It’s about drumming monkeys and we called it Dum Ditty because that is a lot of what the words in the book are.
    We also liked The Cat in the Hat but mainly because it annoyed my dad and we liked making him read it to us!

    October 9, 2020