Books for Toddlers to Encourage Cognitive Development

Books introduce toddlers to important cognitive topics such as the direction words flow in a book and that front covers open from right to left. Selecting books from a variety of categories allows your child to explore the diversity offered by a collection, but making careful title selections in a few categories also helps your toddler develop early cognitive skills, including image recognition, the role of words in language and the concept that books typically offer an overall theme or idea.


Interactive books with sturdy and movable parts, peek-a-boo windows or overlays for pages to change the image attract toddler interest. These book features offer your child a variety of activities using the same book and introduce the simple, but important, ideas such as before and after and up and down. Your child learns the concepts by watching adults model the interactive features and then mimics the same movements. Select sturdy books that stand up to repeated use. After your child masters the basic ideas, he'll want to show the actions to everyone.

Simple Text and Images

Books with large, colorful images attract and keep your child's attention. Select books with simple, but interesting, photographs or drawings. The Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center and federal Head Start office recommend choosing books in sizes that allow your toddler to easily hold and carry them without any adult assistance 2. Toddlers enjoy looking at pictures, but selecting a book that introduces a single letter or simple word on each page also helps your toddler learn the alphabet and match words to images. The concept of linking a word to an object is an important cognitive feature for your toddler. Books that integrate more than one sense, such as fuzzy letters made from fur, add an important tactile element critical to cognitive development, says the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families 13.

Favorite Characters

Books featuring your toddler's favorite characters from television or film help your child understand the basic story lines in books borrowed from other media. Your child knows that Goldilocks meets up with the bears and anticipates this plot development in a book based on the famous literary event. Browse books for your toddler that build on the basic plots and themes your child understands to help develop the rudimentary intellectual skills of telling a story and describing characters.


Toddlers enjoy looking at photos of other toddlers and also identify with books that feature topics and images from their personal world. The National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families recommends allowing children to self select books to find a text that matches your toddler's stage of development and temperament 134. Reading the books before adding the text to your child's library helps you address potential questions your child may ask and deal with any emotions the book elicits from your toddler.