Looking for Christmas books for the littlest member of your family?
You’ve probably noticed that there are lots of Christmas books for babies and young children in the shops at this time of year. Some of the books on offer are fun and some, well … let’s be honest, some are pretty silly and probably not worth bothering with.
And then there are the other books; the really wonderful, worthwhile Christmas books for babies that they’ll reach for again and again. These are the books you’ll actually enjoy reading and the ones your baby will push towards you in that unmistakeable way little people do when they’re asking you to read a book to them.
So how do you choose? How do you find the really good Christmas books your baby will love?
I’ve been reading Christmas books written for babies and young children ever since my twin sons were babies. That’s many years ago now (more than I want to remember!) and, over the years, I’ve put together many different lists of Christmas books. Today I’d like to share with you my list of 5 great Christmas books for babies.
The list is intentionally short to cut through the overwhelm. I love extensive book lists but sometimes I just want a short list so I can read it quickly and go on to order the books or request them at my local library without having to wade through a lot of different titles.
But first, a little bit about why reading Christmas books to babies and young children matters and how the kinds of books we choose can make a difference.
Why read Christmas books with babies?
Sharing books about Christmas with our little ones is great fun and it’s a lovely way of including the smallest member of the family in all the excitement and fun in the lead-up to Christmas Day.
And, of course, reading Christmas books aloud brings all the benefits that reading aloud brings at other times of the year and with other books:
⦁ helps stimulate the development of phonological awareness, a brain-based skill that’s important for early literacy;
⦁ exposes your baby to rich vocabulary experiences which are important for oral language development;
⦁ strengthens the synapses in the brain which supports learning and other cognitive and emotional functions;
But much, much more important is the fact that reading aloud is a lovely way of connecting with your baby and tuning in to this unique little person. Reading aloud together lets you enjoy lovely, snuggly one-on-one times where you’re both focused on the story and on enjoying one another’s company. It can be hard to find the time – and sometimes the patience! – to do this but it’s so very worthwhile when we can.
So, what does all this mean when it comes to reading Christmas books with babies?
Well, you’ve probably noticed that your baby is always observing what’s going on around her. She’s constantly soaking up new sights and sounds and her clever brain is working hard to try to figure out what they all mean.
So, when your baby sees your Christmas tree with the wrapped gifts beneath it and then you read a book to her which shows illustrations of these same things, neural connections are being formed and strengthened in her brain. And, when you read a Christmas book together and your little one later hears the words or sees the things she’s first heard and seen in the book, still more neural connections are formed and strengthened as she begins to make sense of all this new information.
Choosing quality Christmas books for babies
What makes one Christmas book a better book to share with your baby?
Here are my thoughts.
Try to choose books that align with your baby’s development. Babies love different sensations so two of the books on my list involve tactile experiences. Older babies – from perhaps 8 months on – really love books which enable them to do something so one of the books I’ve chosen is a lift-the-flap book.
Look for rhyming books which have a pleasing rhythm when read aloud. I mentioned earlier that phonological awareness is a really important early literacy skill. Rhyming books are great stimulators of phonological awareness so I’ve chosen to include two books which are wonderful stories told in rhyme. One thing to be aware of is that not all rhyming books are good rhyming books. If you read a bit of the book aloud you’ll be able to pick up any clunky, try-hard rhymes and rhythms.
Choose books that appeal to you and that you think you would enjoy reading aloud. Illustrations matter here, too. I’m not keen on the cartoon-like illustrations I see in many Christmas books, although I know that’s just a matter of personal taste. I love Lynley Dodd’s gorgeous pictures of mischievous Slinky Malinki. Flick through the book before buying it, if possible.
Board books are always a great choice for babies – of course! They can cope with regular handling and even chewing which is important because little ones need to be able to look at their own books whenever they like.
So here’s my list of really good Christmas book for babies and young children. I hope you and your little ones enjoy them.
1. Baby’s very first touchy-feely Christmas book
Young babies learn a lot about the world through touch. Their brains are primed to pay close attention to new textures so they love touch-and-feel books and this one’s really cute. It’s a smaller format book and feels lovely to hold so it’s perfect for little hands.
The book contains pictures of some of the things we typically associate with Christmas celebrations, each described with an adjective. There’s a prickly Christmas tree, a sparkly star and a velvety hat for Father Christmas, along with the words for each one underneath. And each picture is textured so babies can explore different materials.
This is a great first Christmas book for babies and for toddlers who’ll enjoy learning the adjectives to describe what they feel.
2. That’s not my Santa …
This is my second touch-and-feel book. Like Baby’s very first touchy-feely Christmas book, it’s colourful and appealing and is a great way to introduce or reinforce some of the vocabulary babies will hear around traditional Christmas celebrations.
If you’re familiar with this series, you’ll know that each double-page spread begins with the words That’s not my … and each picture has a new texture for babies to explore.
That’s not my Santa. His sleigh is too sparkly.
That’s not my Santa. His sack is too rough.
That’s not my Santa. His gloves are too fuzzy.
That’s not my Santa. His boots are too squashy
That’s my Santa! His beard is so fluffy.
There’s also another Christmas book in the That’s not my … series: look out for That’s not my reindeer …
3. Spot’s First Christmas
Older babies are all about acting on the world to make things happen. From about six months on, they love opening and closing things, playing with switches and, of course, dropping things! They love doing things so books that fill this need are perfect for this age group.
Spot’s First Christmas is a lift-the-flap book which is especially engaging for babies from about eight months on. Spot is always popular and this cute lift-the-flap book has been a huge hit with every small person with whom I’ve shared it. With lots of flaps for little hands to open, your older baby or toddler will love opening and closing the flaps to find out what Christmassy things are happening behind them.
4. Slinky Malinki’s Christmas Crackers
Rhyming books are brilliant to read aloud to babies because rhythm and rhyme are wonderful stimulators of phonological awareness, a critical pre-reading skill that starts developing in infancy. Interestingly, babies’ brains seem to be wired to pay attention to rhyme and rhythm and they love listening to us read these stories.
This story about Slinky Malinki, a mischievous friend of Hairy Maclary (of Donaldson’s Dairy fame), is a joy to read aloud and probably my absolute favourite of all the Christmas books for babies I know. The illustrations are gorgeous, Slinky Malinki is hilarious and the rhyming text is a delight to read aloud:
Christmas was coming. Out came the tree,
dressed up in finery, splendid to see.
Trinkets and tinsel with baubles and bows,
a mouse with a hat and a very red nose.
5. The Night Before Christmas
Finally, if you grew up celebrating Christmas in the traditional way, you probably know Clement C Moore’s well-known story-poem ‘twas the Night Before Christmas. Originally published in 1823, It’s been published many times in many different formats and reading it together on Christmas Eve is now a much-loved Christmas tradition in many families. While this isn’t a book specifically for babies, little ones will enjoy listening to the rhythm and rhyme of the story as you read and this board book version is a perfect one for them to grow up with.
Reading Christmas books with babies includes them in the fun and gets their clever little brains making connections between what they see and hear as you read and all the preparations they’re seeing around them.
So why not start a Christmas library for your baby? Grab a basket, fill it with Christmas books and put it in your little one’s play area. Read the books aloud and then leave them for your baby to explore on his own. Grow your Christmas library by adding new books every year as your child grows.
I hope you find these suggestions helpful. If you’re looking for book recommendations or just love chatting about children’s books, please come and say hi on Instagram @thebookbasketco. You may also like to check out my book gift baskets for little ones at www.bookbaskets.com.au.