Holiday gift guide: Books for babies

Halloween has come and gone, which means Christmas is right around the corner—at least if you’re listening to radio commercials and shopping, um, anywhere. (I swear the Christmas displays were up before I could stalk the aisles for discounted Halloween candy.)

But with all the tasks I’m juggling, I’m a big fan of getting holiday shopping done early. You too? Well, good news: here’s our baby-tested holiday gift guide, books for babies edition.

The 10 best books for babies: This gift guide makes your Christmas shopping list easy for kids in the family! Ten Thousand Hour Mama

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Our favorite children’s books: Books to say “no” to

Pretty much the day Peeper turned two, she rediscovered the word “no”—and all its power (to refuse, to state her opinion, to frustrate her parents…). Nowadays, one of her most used responses is the “no-yes,” an expression unique to toddlers who simultaneously refuse and demand things like popsicles and bunny crackers.

It makes sense, then, that Peeper delights in books that give voice to this milestone. Here, then, are some titles your little one can say “no” to again and again.

Favorite Children's Books to Say No To


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7 animal noises you’ve been messing up

Along with swaddling a squirmy baby, changing a diaper without smearing poop over every surface and operating on practically no sleep, making animal noises is a skill absolutely necessary to parenthood.

Between songs like Old MacDonald and books like Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?, moms and dads become pros at mooing, quacking and cock-a-doodle-dooing. As a child ages, though, the animal sounds parents must make become more complex.

But when was the last time you heard a toucan? And do you go all-in with genuine elephant trumpeting, or do you cop out and say “toot toot”?

In addition to these pressing questions, I am going to bet you’ve been making a handful of animal noises completely wrong.

So let me (and YouTube) enlighten you. Go ahead and click play (though not if your dog is in the room—he might will definitely freak out) to step up your animal noises game. Read more

10 Ways I’m an Awesome Mom

Take a sample of parenting blogs out there and you’ll read a lot of bloopers.

We mothers, especially, are quick to point out our failings and our foibles. Perhaps it’s easier (or more cathartic) to confess the time you melted a Tupperware lid in the dishwasher, causing poisonous fumes to fill the apartment, than it is to reflect on the millions of other times you scrubbed plates clean without incident. After all, washing the dishes without a hitch—or, for that matter, the millions of unremarkable moments of motherhood—aren’t particularly newsy.

But in anticipation of Mother’s Day (coming up this Sunday for anyone who’s forgotten!), I’m stepping out of the self-deprecating, self-questioning rut I sometimes fall into.

I’m celebrating what a wonderful mother I am.

Here, then, are ten aspects of motherhood I totally have down.

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Our favorite children’s books: Books about being afraid

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“Too noisy!”

Peeper’s complaints about noise, and the genuine fear loud sounds inspire in her, continue unabated in these parts, and we’ve learned to adapt. I make cookie dough when she’s asleep. I look ahead to avoid loud things like lawn mowers or steam trains in our path. And we are patient when her conversations repeatedly steer back to the fact that something—a seal, tractor, Jeep—is “too noisy.”

Alas, we haven’t yet found a book that deals with fear of loud sounds, but we like these other books about being afraid. At some point, she might become afraid of the dark, or of getting sucked down the bath drain, or of vampire zombie bats living under the crib. (Who knows? She has a vivid imagination already.)

If your little one is spooked, these books about being afraid might help. At the least, they will say he’s not alone in being afraid.

Read on for a little courage—or at least encouragement!

When your child is scared, books about being afraid can lend a little courage. Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Out favorite children’s books: Zoo books

Ever since we went to Zoo Lights, Peeper has been talking about the zoo.

When I say we’re taking Finn for a walk, she says, “Zoo!” When I buckle her into her car seat, she says, “Zoo!” When we brush our teeth, she points to the picture of the rhino in the bathroom and says, “Zoo!” (Yes, we have a photo of a rhino in the bathroom. Don’t you?)

We’ve hit up the zoo a few times since then, and she continues to talk about the otters, tiger, rhino and fish she saw there. (She’s staying mostly mum on the hippos, though, after the recorded hippo calls the zoo plays completely terrified her.)

Peeper visits the giraffes at the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois during Christmas.
Peeper visits the giraffes at the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois during Christmas.

Luckily, we have a membership, but we just don’t have the time to trot over to see the animals every. single. day. So Peeper gets her zoo fix on my lap in the rocking chair during storytime (which, in our home, is pretty much all the time).

Here, then, are our favorite zoo-centric reads. Read more

Our favorite children’s books: Interactive edition

Ten Thousand Hour Mama Baby and BooksNow that Peeper has added “book” to her repertoire of signs, she asks for one almost as much as she requests milk. And that’s a lot.

We spend a huge portion of play time reading. She has very strong opinions about which story she wants, using her pointing finger to indicate one on the floor—or trying to squirm out of my arms and leap to one on the end table.

Lately, she loves books that do something. If it has flaps, windows, cut-outs, silky fur—or even better, all of the above—she will probably love it.

That means we end up reading some of the same titles a million times in a row. (I’m looking at you, Dog.) I don’t mind, though. Watching her delight in a story gives me all the patience I need. And now that she concentrates hard enough to tug a pull tab and make a piece on the page move, story time is even better.

Here are our favorite interactive children’s books.

CatCat, by Matthew Van Fleet. We just gave this to Peeper for her first birthday. As it was created by the same folks behind the runaway hit Dog, I knew it’d be a blast. Proof: Peeper has already torn several pieces, meaning she’s really into it. It includes humor adults will appreciate, too: When a feline tips over a vase, it’s a catastrophe, naturally!

The Robot BookThe Robot Book, by Heather Brown. In this charming book, kids get to play with all the parts and pieces of a robot: They can twist a bolt and swing the robot’s arm, for example. I was impressed by how intricate it is: You turn a gear to rotate the robot’s mouth. I like to play with it as least as much as Peeper does.



Count 123Count 123. Peeper loves the simple knockout photos, which we practice naming. She also likes lifting the flaps and tracing the numbers, which are recessed into the page. She’s still too little to count, but this would be a terrific book for children learning their numbers. It was a sad day when we had to return this to the library.



Chomp ZooChomp Zoo, by Heather Brown. Ingeniously designed, the same pull tab makes the teeth of a half-dozen animals chomp up and down. Peeper loves moving the teeth and sticking her fingers in the mouths of the creatures. I also love how friendly the animals look. They seem to be barely containing their laughter.



Where's Spot?Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill. I remember the many adventures of Spot from when I was little, and I’d go straight for these books whenever we visited the library. I’m so glad Peeper likes the tan doggy, too! She grins every time I say, “Peekaboo!” when she lifts a flap to find not a hiding Spot but another creature. (A snake in the clock and a lion under the stairs—it’s quite the menagerie in this house.)



On My LeafOn My Leaf, by Sara Gillingham. This book combines cut-out windows and a finger puppet in a sweet story about a ladybug and her family. Peeper grabs the soft felt ladybug and sticks her hands through the windows as she turns the page. There’s an entire series like it that features an owl in a tree, a dolphin in the ocean, a monkey in the jungle and more.



What are your favorite books for curious little ones?