Toddlertime Picture Books

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These toddlertime book recommendations below are examples of what we’ve come to call, at my public library service, “active literacy”. These books lend themselves to whole-bodied engagement, so that toddlers can see meaningfully that your movements match the words, and can copy/embody the words/actions, too. This level of engagement represents the “show” level of “see, show, say”, and is an indispensable method of having serve-and-return “conversations” with toddlers in a group, non-individual program context.For more information about the three Ss (See, Show, Say), download the full 3a Family Guide for Conversational Reading (by Melbourne University and Joseph Sparling).

Visit the Programs Continuum page for more information about how to keep toddlers attentive and engaged based on their developmental capacities, and see the 3a Abecedarian Approach video playlist for the research context.

There are 88 books below. Over four terms of sessions—roughly 42 weeks per year—there are enough excellent, high engagement books on this page to sustain you through two whole years of toddlertimes at one book per session, or one whole year of toddlertimes at two books per session. (Putting aside that you may want to repeat.) Remember, too, that while these books are recommended as ideal for group programs pitched at a toddler’s linguistic stage of development, their interactivity and opportunity for participation through both “show” and “say” make them ideal for storytime, too, as well as the books I have specifically recommended for that older, preschool-aged cohort.

Ed Allen and Sarah Hardy

Book cover: Hokey Pokey Aussie Edition by Ed AllenHokey Pokey: Aussie Edition

Who doesn’t love a book you can sing? The titular familiar tune is given a new spin in this Aussie animal version. Once you, the librarian, provide families with the lead in (“You put your right paw in…”), they’ll be readily able to join in for the rest of the verse, following the song’s predictable structure. Active read-alouds with the Hokey Pokey: Aussie Edition are also a great opportunity to practice lefts and rights—but don’t forget to use your right if you want the kids to use their left! Toddlers will follow you literally and unthinkingly. (Even the older preschoolers—and parents!—will more likely follow what what you do than what you say). Featuring wombats, kookaburras, platypuses, koalas, blue-tongued lizards, echidnas, bilbies, emus, crocodiles and kangaroos, this book invites kids to put their left or right paws, wings, flippers and claws in and out, as well as their tongues, noses, floppy ears, long necks, swishy tails, and whole jumpy selves! If you would like to use this book in an Australian animal-themed session, see also further down this page for Paul Crumble’s If You’re Happy and You Know It: Aussie Edition, plus Matt Shanks Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes and Row, Row, Row Your Boat. (Quite coincidentally, all of these books featuring Australian animals make use of traditional children’s songs. Using them together would culminate in a musical and dynamic high-participation session.) See below also for Snore by Alison Lester and We’re Going On a Croc Hunt by Laine Mitchell (which makes use of another familiar children’s rhyme).

Karen Beaumont; Illustrations by David Catrow

Book cover: I Like Myself by Karen BeaumontI Like Myself

This book is a good example of a subtle active literacy text, and demonstrates how a keen, informed, discerning eye can spot participation opportunities in books that don’t explicitly tell the reader to stand up and get involved. The opening couplet sets the tone for the theme of the book: “I like myself! I’m glad I’m me. / There’s no one else I’d rather be.” The next couplet singles out some parts of “me” that the protagonist is fond of: eyes, ears, nose, fingers, toes. Use these as a cue to dramatically move and engage these parts of the body. Think beyond just pointing to your features—eg, blink your eyes dramatically, roll them, cross them, look up and down, left and right, peak-a-boo them out from behind your hands… The list goes on and on. Do things that will make the kids laugh, sit up and take notice, and best of all, join in the fun! I Like Myself contains word pairs like wild and tame, which provide you with a great imaginative opportunity. How can you express the essential gist of these words as traits, in physical, psychological, theatrical, play-acting ways? Not all of the qualities described in the book are obscure; for example, fast and slow. Activities like running really fast on the spot, as well as in melodramatic slow-motion, are always humorously popular with small kids. And don’t forgot, as I’ve said elsewhere on this site: feel free to leverage the text to suit the age of your audience, or your particular skills/comfort zone as a storyteller. If there are sections of a book that I don’t think are going to work for me, or with my group, but I still like and want to use the rest of the book, I simply paperclip together the pages that I want to skip.

For an identity-themed session, I Like Myself would go nicely with I Love Me (Sally Morgan), Look See, Look At Me (Leonie Norrington), I Could Be, You Could Be (Karen Owen), Who Am I (Jane Wiesner) and Susan Laughs (Jeanne Willis), all described below. (And therefore, for those of you working in early childhood education, these texts all support you to explore the VEYLDF outcome, “children have a strong sense of identity”).

Benjamin Bird

Book cover: A Cat Is Chasing Me Through This BookA Cat Is Chasing Me Through This Book!

It is unusual for a book based on a TV show or movie to be as excellent as this wonderful high-engagement picture book. The premise is simple—and typical of this infamous rivalry: Jerry the mouse is trying to escape Tom the cat. Jerry speaks directly to the reader, asking us to help him flee the cat by flapping, kicking, stomping, wiggling, tiptoeing, clapping, rubbing, blinking, chomping and whistling to navigate various obstacles, before finally waving goodbye to old Tom cat—as he is chased away by the dog we summoned with our whistle! The illustrations for this book are large, bright, bold and simple, meaning that in large crowds, the kids further back can still see detail in the pictures. Furthermore, most of the active literacy books on this page don’t follow a storyline per se, so this one is a rare gem. If you wanted to build a session around this text, it would go nicely with We’re Going on a Croc Hunt by Laine Mitchell, It’s a Tiger by David LaRochelle, and Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas (all described below).

Sandra Boynton

Book cover: Barnyard Dance by Sandra BoyntonBarnyard Dance

At its most basic, this book describes dance moves and animal sounds that you and the kids can make and do, and it will culminate in a lively and fun book encounter. However, there is SO much scope to go beyond the basics with Barnyard Dance, in order to create a book-reading moment that the kids and carers will remember and reminisce about. Play some instrumental line-dancing music while you’re reading it. Make it a real hoedown! Use puppets, toys, or costumes. For big and unwieldy groups like my regular crowds, I usually use props like these only by myself up the front, rather than singling out children to participate. Sometimes it’s not worth risking the upset that comes when all 65+ children can’t have a turn at the prop! When I visit kinders, and branches with smaller cohorts, I love having the opportunity to explore engagement techniques that are out of the question at my home branch—like getting each child to play a part in the pantomime, or to operate a particular prop. If you can’t get kids involved because there are too many of them, or you think it will be too messy and complicated given the nature of what happens in a given book, you can always invite parent volunteers to play particular parts. It’s a great way to wake them up from their spectator passivity, and turn them into active participants. And active participants are the best role-models—not to mention that their kids absolutely love it. Barnyard Dance doesn’t ask anything too scary or challenging of parents. Just to stomp, clap, bow, twirl, bounce, strut, spin, prance, etc. But since the actions have been linked to corresponding barnyard animals (horse = prance, bunny = bounce, etc), it’s just too tempting to add to these actions a silly costume or a puppet.

On a side note, one of my favourite, easy-to-use types of costume for animal books and songs is an animal hat (see pictured), like the ones you often see in $2 shops, or in stalls in the middle of shopping centre walkways. (Click on the image for eBay search results.) Obviously you need to take the necessary precautions to prevent lice spreading when using these with the public!

Another strength of Barnyard Dance is the simple, bold illustration style. It’s another great conversational reading book for babies and toddlers, because children of this age won’t be cognitively overwhelmed by too much visual detail. You can therefore practice the three Ss without confusion, and more clearly link the bold images to vocabulary and discourse.

John Butler

Book cover: Can You Growl Like a Bear? by John Butler
Can You Growl Like a Bear?
If Your Dreams Could Take Off and Fly

Jane Cabrera

If You're Happy and You Know It by Jane Cabrera
If You’re Happy and You Know It

Eric Carle

Book cover; From Head to Toe by Eric Carle
From Head to Toe

Lorina Bryan Cauley

Book cover: Clap Your Hands by Lorina Bryan Cauley
Clap Your Hands

Vicki Churchill

Book cover: Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball by Vicki Churchill
Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball

Lucy Cousins

Book cover: Hooray for Birds by Lucy Cousins
Hooray for Birds
Book cover: Splish, Splash, Ducky by Lucy Cousins
Splish, Splash, Ducky

Kristy Dempsey

A Hop Is Up

Doreen Cronin

Book cover: Bounce by Doreen Cronin
Book cover: Stretch by Doreen Cronin
Book cover: Wiggle by Doreen Cronin

Paul Crumble

If You’re Cheeky and You Know It
If You’re Happy and You Know It: Aussie Edition

Kylie Dunston

Puddles Are For Jumping

Karl Newsom Edwards


Rebecca and Ed Emberley

If You’re a Monster and You Know It

Mariam Gates

Goodnight Yoga

Eric Hill

Hello Spot! A Puppet Play Book

Beth and William Hoos

Animals in the Zoo

Sascha Hutchinson

See Me Move

Steve Jenkins


David LaRochelle

It’s a Tiger

Alison Lester

Growl Like a Tiger
Run Like a Rabbit

Anthony Lewis

Wind the Bobbin Up

Jonathan London

Wiggle, Waggle

Ethan Long

The Croaky Pokey

Margaret Mayo

Stomp, Dinosaur, Stomp

Janet and Andrew McLean

Let’s Go, Baby-o!

Laine Mitchell

We’re Going On a Croc Hunt

Sally Morgan

I Love Me

Ros Moriarty

Splosh for the Billabong
Summer Rain

Mary Murphy

Quick Duck!
Say Hello Like This!

Zita Newcome

Toddlerobics: Animal Fun

Leonie Norrington

Look See, Look At Me

Jan Ormerod

All Together Now! (3 books in one)
Doing the Animal Bop

Join the Zoo Hullabaloo/The Animal Bop Won’t Stop (released under two titles)
The Wheels on the Bus

Karen Owen

I Could Be, You Could Be

Karen Pandell

Animal Action ABC

Ruth Paul


Teresa Anne Power

The ABCs of Yoga for Kids


Five Little Ducks
Shake My Sillies Out
Wheels on the Bus

Alison Reynolds

Baby Talk: Curious
Baby Talk: Happy
Baby Talk: Hungry
Baby Talk: Sleepy

April Pulley Sayre

If You’re Hoppy

Carole Lexa Schaefer

Dragon Dancing

Paul Seden

Kick With My Left Foot

Rufus Butler Seder


Matt Shanks

Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Charles Smith

Dance With Me

Patricia Stockland

Swing, Slither or Swim

Sean Taylor

Tickling Tigers

Jan Thomas

Can You Make a Scary Face?
If Everyone Ready for Fun?

Lauren Thompson

Hop, Hop, Jump!

Anna Walker

I Love to Dance

Rick Walton

How Can You Dance?

Ian Whybrow

Say Hello to the Jungle Animals!

Jane Wiesner

Magic Me: Yoga, A Magical Gift for All Ages
Who Am I?: Yoga for Children of All Ages

Jeanne Willis

Susan Laughs

William B Winburn

Do the Monkey Monkey
Teddy Bears, Teddy Bears

Audrey Wood

Quick As a Cricket

Leah Yardley

Reach, Twirl, Curl Up Small

Jane Yolen

Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters
Romping Monsters, Stomping Monsters

Taeeun Yoo

You Are a Lion and Other Fun Yoga Poses

Dan Zanes

Jump Up!