The Best Baby Gift I Received — I Send It to All My Pregnant Friends Now!
For some, nesting during pregnancy is a true joy, but for me, it was often the thing I felt I should be excited about, while having absolutely no time to actually do it. Luckily, my friends and family showered our little girl with tons of wonderful and necessary goods, some of which are still around to this day.
But the very best gift I received? A box of hand-me-down board books from a dear friend from across the country. This was especially welcome, because even though I’m an avid reader myself, I didn’t know which books were must-haves for newborns. There were the classics, of course, but I was also eager for books that could give my baby a fun, new take on the world; books that were inclusive, modern, and a delight for me to read during those blurry baby years. Not only did my friend gather those recommendations in a list, she provided a bunch of them in a package that could go straight on my baby’s shelf. Most were ones I hadn’t even heard of, but quickly became our family’s favorites.
Now, my daughter is past the board book and early picture book phase, so I get the distinct pleasure of passing our books down to friends who are pregnant with their first child. I also created a Google doc full of my best recommendations for books, such as the ones below.
You can send secondhand books or new ones; you can send just one special one, or a few of your favorites. You can create a registry or a simple Google doc like I did with links to your favorite titles. Add a cozy little blanket or stuffie, and you now have a meaningful but simple gift that is always very appreciated and never gets old.
Here are the books that are always at the top of my list for babies:
All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon
The rhyme and imagery in this little book are so memorable. Even now, I find myself thinking about the story about a family’s day near the coast, from the smallest moments of finding a seashell to a dinner gathered around a pot of soup. This Caldecott Honor award book quietly tells a lesson about the power of community.
Buy it here: All the World
Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers
This board book is a true delight to read, with sing-songy rhymes and cute photos of babies all around the world, doing common baby things. Even the littlest of kids will see themselves represented in the sweet illustrations and everyday habits of babies.
Buy it here: Everywhere Babies
Baby’s First Words by Stella Blackstone
The bright illustrations in this book are memorable, and the basic words are all ones babies are just discovering. It’s a learning tool, with a very sweet packaging.
Buy it here: Baby’s First Words
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by John Archambault
This is a classic, but holds up so well. It’s fun to read, with geometric illustrations that are bold and striking. And babies start learning about all the letters of the alphabet, many of whom are very mischievous in this little book!
Buy it here: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
Moo, Baa, La La La! by Sandra Boynton
Boynton is a forever-favorite when it comes to board books! These silly little animals dance on the page, teaching kids about sounds and different ways of communicating.
Buy it here: Moo, Baa, La La La!
Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
In this book, a sneaky gorilla grabs the keys of the kingdom from an unwitting zookeeper, only to wreak gentle havoc in the zoo they call their home. It’s sure to prompt some giggles for little ones.
Buy it here: Good Night, Gorilla
Little Blue Truck Board Book by Alice Schertle
The indomitable little blue truck (it’s a series!) gets stuck in the countryside — but luckily, with the help of his farm animal friends, he’s able to chug along on his way again. This is another subtle book about the power of friendship and community, especially during times of hardship.
Buy it here: Little Blue Truck Board Book
Peek-A Who? by Nina Laden
A fun introduction to peek-a-boo, this book has animal-shaped cutouts, making it more interactive for little hands. Hint — there’s a surprise ending that my daughter loved every time!
Buy it here: Peek-A Who?
Where Is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox
Follow along as the narrator tries to find the missing green sheep among his kin. This playful hide-and-seek book has great rhyming, and simple illustrations to keep kids engaged.
Buy it here: Where Is the Green Sheep?
Jamberry Board Book by Bruce Degen
Years later, I think I could still recite this book from memory. It’s a beautifully illustrated classic about a boy’s oversized love of berries, and the ridiculous bear who accompanies him on all his adventures. Imaginative, striking, and long-lasting: we love to see it.
Buy it here: Jamberry Board Book
Dear Zoo: A Lift-The-Flap Book by Rod Campbell
In this interactive book, a kid writes the zoo to ask for a very specific kind of pet — but the zoo doesn’t quite get it right, sending everything from a lion down to a slithery snake. This funny story lets kids imagine themselves in outlandish situations.
Buy it here: Dear Zoo: A Lift-The-Flap Book
More More More, Said the Baby Board Book by Vera B. Williams
Three vignettes tie together into a book about babies who can’t get enough of interacting with their families. The gorgeous, layered illustrations portray the many shapes of families — and the many ways we can all connect.
Buy it here: More More More, Said the Baby
Peek-A-Bruce by Ryan Higgins
Bruce is the grumpiest bear in the forest, but somehow, he’s become mother-in-training to a group of rambunctious, clingy goslings. It’s the best of situational comedy, with a fun peek-a-book seek-and-find twist. (Plus, it’s a series that can absolutely grow with kids!)
Buy it here: Peek-A-Bruce
Belly Button Book! by Sandra Boynton
Hippos who are not only confident, but outrageously proud of their cute little belly buttons? Sign me up! Boynton’s signature rhymes are as compelling as ever, but what I love is the message of body positivity woven throughout this incredibly sweet and funny book.
Buy it here: Belly Button Book!
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox
The babies in this book are beautiful, delightful, and diverse. Each illustration is special, portraying a baby in a different part of the world, from the cold reaches of the North to sprawling deserts.
Buy it here: Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes
Feminist Baby by Loryn Brantz
Feminist Baby is a boundless joy of a child, full of energy and independence that we love to see. The illustrations are unexpected, and full of visual interest. And Feminist Baby helps kids celebrate all the many possibilities of their lives, before society imposes any roles on them.
Buy it here: Feminist Baby
Counting on Community by Innosanto Nagara
A counting book, but with an interesting new angle. Nagara describes situations in a thriving, vibrant community with love and gorgeous details: Potlucks full of delicious food, working on community gardens together, peacefully protesting together, and more. This is a really special book that we couldn’t bear to give away just yet.
Buy it here: Counting on Community