As a first time parent, all around you is new, happening very fast and overwhelming. You grow as parent at the same pace as your baby grows, but you are the one responsable for him, so the pressure can be really big sometimes. And you try to go with your instincts, but sometimes it is not enough. Adding the society induced guilt or the feeling you constant have that you are doing it all wrong, it’s not an easy job. The grandmas who did it their way and “look, you are fine now!” don’t help much either. Or the others mums who put pressure or begin every unasked advice with “But listen, why don’t you do….?”
So, after a little sobbing, you put yourself together and start looking for solutions. And you read all it interest you and take online courses and watch youtube presentations and reviews and all the “best of the best” tops you can find.
But lots of them are a little too official or too impersonal. The lady presenting the magic diapers doesn’t have a single child. Or the parenting guru with 3 children raised by nannies or grandmas, is she the best to tell you, a fulltime mama, what is the best approch to everything? Maybe yes or maybe not.
When all of this is not helping either, you look for a more tailored solution. A experienced story from someone who actually lived it before you; or a product tried by a person you know or at least had the same journey you had. And if this won’t help either, at least you have a someone to point your dissapointment at.
I will start this series of tailored experiences from the begging: baby first books. I read to my daughter everything, since she was in my womb. Then, I start researching a lot and making lists and wishlists and go through top best books of all time. I studied about the golden age of illustration, about the most renowed authors and their work. And now, at almost 6yo, my daughter’s library has hundreds of books, from ones of the best authors and illustrators of all times. Some are in English and some in Romanian, our mother tongue language. We still have 90% of all the books I ever bought to her, because she still likes to read them from time to time. Even the baby books 🙂
All the experts say that when is born a baby sees the world around him in black and white. At first he sees only shadows and contours, then is able to see the entire object or the entire person in front of him. To recognised it when appears in front of him.
So, natural and adapted to their development, the first books that we should introduce to them, have to be in the same chromatic and form: black and white, with clear and simple contours of object, people and animals. And then we can move to sensorial and interactive books, with lift the flap options, for the little hands to explore and discover. Books with sound (but attention, not too loud or scary sounds, you risk traumatizing your child!). Books with rimes and repetitive words and sounds.
Board books are a great choice because they are sturdy and the child can chew on them without the risk of choking or shallowing paper or cardboard. And the endurance factor is an important one also, since they are not so easily to break or bent.
My selection of board baby books is not the largest one, but it can be a starting point for your baby first library.
I will start with (who else could I start with?) … the one and only Eric Carle!
Eric Carle was born in 1929 in Syracuse, New York, and for the last 45 years has written and illustrated tens of books for young children. He is best known for one’s of his first books, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”. It is a beautiful book about nature, transformation, friendship, counting, learning numbers and also fruits and food.
The first renewed book he ever illustrated was “Brown bear, brown bear what do you see?” with lyrics by Bill Martin jr.
From his work we also have red “The Grounchy Ladybug”, a book that teaches young children about kindness and giving and the power of friendship. Thewy also can learn the time and things about different animals.
Another great book that he wrote is called “Dream Snow”. Is the story of an old man who loves his animals very much. And in the evening before Christmas he prepares a gift for every one of them and goes out and puts ornaments in the only tree he has in his yard and leaves the presents for all the 5 animals under that tree.
“Papa, please get the moon for me” is a gentle book about a father’s love for his daughter. Who will do anything for her, even bring her the big old moon. And there are many more other great titles by Eric Carle to choose from for you to read with your baby.
The next remarcable author to choose as a first reading to your baby is David A. Carter. He has a lot of funny pop-up books, among wich the “Yellow square” is the most famous. In the same tehnique is the seasons series that contains “Spring”, “Summer”, “Autumn” and “ Winter”. His books are very attractive for the young readers. And are also very interactive, quality that makes them a favourite in any little child library.
I will mention then the book by P.D.Eastman “Go, dog, go!”. I had it on the wishlist for so long, that when time came to actually buy it for my daughter, she was a little too big for it. But she can read it all by herself, so it was a win after all. And, at one page we can also see the little bird from “Are you my mother?”, another lovely book by P.D. Eastman that we still read at almost 6 yo. Another plus is the Netflix series with the “Go, dog go” characters, that is much loved by the kids. Well, mine at least 🙂
Christie Matheson has another beautiful board books series about action and effect, seasons, nature, the changes in nature as the times passes. We have “Tap the magic tree” book and the “Touch the brightest star” by this author. At every page the child is encouraged to do something ( clap his hands, blow, touch an element) and on the next page he gets to see the change, the effect of his previous action.
I think that the next author, Maurice Sendak, needs no introduction. Renewed author and prize winner, his book “Where the wild things are” is an all time bestselling book. “Chicken soup with rice” is a lovely calendar book in rimes for smaller babies, in wich each month is depicted in simple and yet expressive rimes, that the little readers will love to hear over and over again. And, of course, they will learn that the chicken soup with rice is a must in every month of the year.
Ladybird publishing house has a lot of wonderful titles for children of all ages. We have a Peppa pig serie from them and it was one’s of my daughter favorite’s character book for years.
At last I want to talk about Usborne publishing. Their collection of books for the early ages is the most impressive: activity books, baby books, sensorial books, books with sound or wind toys, puzzle books, art books. For ages between 0 to young adult, so you have a very wide range to choose from. Which can be overwhelming, I know, for a first time parent. I bought the first book with sounds from Usborne when I was pregnant with my daughter. It had only 4 sturdy cardbord pages, each with a different sound from an animal or object ( monkey, duck, car, sheep). My daughter was terrified at first by all the noise, but loved the images. I took out the batteries and she would “read” the book daily for an year or so. But she had a more bigger problem with loud sounds at that age, so I wouldn’t blame Usborne for her being scare of the loud sounds. Then, at 2-3 yo, she asks us to put back the batteries so she could listen to the sounds. She also received a very nice sensory book from Usborne, but now, if she were a baby again, I wouldn’t invest much in sensory books. You can offer your baby a lot of sensory stimulation from getting in contact with different materials and textures: wool, felt, fur, wood, grass, moss, beads, rice, flour, etc. Which I totaly recommend, since I saw children age 1-3 with a lot sensory issues.
Here, my daughter is helping me presenting “Night time” a peep-inside book from Usborne.
We also have in our board books collection two books for older kids. One is “The night before Christmas”, by Clement C. Moore and illustration by Roger Duvoisin, the “father” of Petunia, the lovely goose all children loves. The text is a bit too long for a toddler patience, but you can at first show them the picture and talk a little about some of the ideas in the book.
The second one is “Leaf Jumpers” by Carole Gerber and illustrated by Leslie Evans. Is a funny book about autumn and all the sorts and shapes of leaves. And the fun the little ones have jumping in leaves piles…
As a conclusion to a long and comprehensive text: read to your baby anything, anytime, any book. He will love the sound of your voice and the intimacy between you two. For baby books, the board boks are more likely to resist and not to hurm the baby ( cuts in the paper, chewing on it, etc).
You don’t have to invest a lot at first. For start, buy a small selection and see his reaction. You can also buy them preowned, are easily to desinfect since the cardboard is sturdy and not affected if you weap it clean with an antibacterial napkin. When the baby is older and doesn’t show interest in the books, you can give them to other babies ( we did that with the books my daughter didn’t want tot read anymore) or sell them to buy new books for your children. Or donate them to a local kindergarden or library.