20 Best Books for 2 Year Olds (2020)

Welcome to Elephant Notes . . . our periodic take on some of the ideas, issues, and news impacting parents, children, and reading.

July 2020

Searching for some great books to read with your two year-old? Look no further. We have compiled a list of the 20 best books for two-year olds. From helping learn colors to having a laugh before bed, each of these books have something amazing to offer to any young reader.

Searching for great books for an older child? Check out our selections of the best children’s books by age. 

Elephant Books

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Best for Learning Numbers

Ten Little Dinosaurs
Mike Brownlow
Book Type: Board

Join ten little dinosaurs on an adventure. Find out what happens when they meet a grumpy triceratops, a storming diplodocus, and a very, very hungry T-Rex. Learn to count to ten and back with this action-packed board book.

This book is great to help introduce and learn numbers. Not only does it feature a traditional counting rhyme, but it also holds a storyline and an unforgettable journey. The adorable illustrations and all the action are sure to get your child roped into this amazing board book. Published by Waterstone, this book is perfect for reading together with your little one.

1, 2, 3, Animals!: A First Counting Book for Toddlers
Bethany Lake
Book Type: Board

Learn to count to ten alongside adorable animals. From lions to toucans to seals to hippos, this book features all your child’s favorite animal friends. With a rhythmic rhyming scheme and bright illustrations, this is the perfect book for toddlers who are just learning their numbers.

This educational book has such a light and happy feeling to it, making reading and learning numbers extra fun. It also has a rhyming narrative and striking pictures that will capture your child’s interest as you move through the book. Great for any child that loves animals, it is also very educational and teaches your child to count to ten–and then back!

1, 2, 3, to the Zoo
Eric Carle
Book Type: Board

A group of animals are on their way to the zoo. Count along with elephants and hippos and lions who can’t wait to meet their new home. With Eric Carle’s signature illustration style, this book is sure to grab the attention of any young reader.

We love this book because it is simple and straightforward, yet highly educational and entertaining. With no text, this book encourages your child to focus on the numbers on each page and the illustrations that help to visualize their counting. It is a great, quick read to pull out whenever and wherever.

Counting Collection: Counting Cars
Roger Priddy
Book Type: Board

Count all different kinds of cars in this lovely, educational board book. Explore all different kinds of vehicles, from race cars to motorbikes to family cars. Organized into themed collections, these pages are packed with different vehicles to find and count.

We love this book because it has so much opportunity for learning. Of course, you can use it to help learn numbers with your child. But you can also talk about the different colors of the cars or their different shapes to incorporate other modes of learning. You can also use this book to play “iSpy” as you search for specific shapes, colors, or types of car.

Babies Love Numbers
Cottage Door Press
Book Type: Board

Introduce your baby or toddler to the wonderful world of numbers with this sturdy board bood. Count from 1 to 10 with the help of cute little animals like ducklings, baby foxes, cows, piglets, puppies, and bear cubs! With liftable flaps, a rhyming scheme, and snuggly animals, this is the perfect book to introduce your child to numbers.

This book is a great place to start when introducing your child to numbers. It is a sturdy board book with different liftable flaps, allowing your child to explore the book and discover all kinds of new things. The text itself features a rhyming scheme that will help your child want to keep reading and learning. The illustrations, too, allow you to explore more than just numbers, but also colors, animal sounds, and shapes.

Best for Learning Colors

Wow! Said the Owl
Tim Hopgood
Book Type: Picture

A curious little owl decides that she wants to see what the world looks like during the day time. Her world is always pretty dark, so what she sees during the day is pretty amazing. From red butterflies to orange flowers to green leaves, she discovers a whole new world full of color.

We love this book because it has such a wholesome storyline. Not only does it allow your child to explore and learn more about colors, but it also offers them a story about the magic of being curious and discovering new things. It is sure to open their eyes to the amazing world around them and all the colors it holds.

Freight Train
Donald Crews
Book Type: Board

Join a rainbow-colored train as it passes along its route. A red caboose, orange tank car, green cattle car, purple box car, black tender, and a black steam engine make up the freight train. Discover all its colors as it travels during the day and at night, through tunnels and around cities.

This book, written in the 1990s, is a classic. It features amazing illustrations that won this book the Caldecott Honor award. It is a great way to subtly talk about color, while also exploring the different pieces and routes of trains.

Color Zoo
Lois Ehlert
Book Type: Board

There are dozens of shapes and colors to be found at the zoo. Between heads and ears, beaks and snouts, there is so much to discover. Learn about shapes and colors in this classic board book.

This Caldecott Honor Book features a fun, bouncy rhyming pattern that will pull even the most reluctant of readers in. But the most special thing about this book is the way that it introduces colors and shapes. The illustrations are very geometrical and use high contrast to draw attention to the different colors and shapes. Even though it is a wonderful book for a read aloud, it is also a great book to just explore the pictures and discover something new.

Edible Colors
Jennifer Vogel Bass
Book Type: Board

Not all fruits and vegetables look the same. Sometimes, bananas can be red, broccoli can be purple, and cherries can be yellow. Through this book, explore this idea that foods sometimes come in different colors.

We think this is a great Montessori-style book. It encourages children to learn about color through by more non-traditional methods, and it teaches them about different topics, too. With this book, you could discuss farming, cooking, and photography, and so much more. Your child will also be exposed to new vocabulary and be encouraged to think with an open mind about the world around them.

John J. Reiss
Book Type: Board

Learn the colors of the rainbow with illustrations that jump off the page. From red lobsters and yellow baby chicks to brown puppy-dog tails, this book is filled with opportunities to learn and explore. This board book is perfect for two-year olds who are just starting to learn their colors.

We like this book because it introduces color by using common, everyday objects. Children learn much more easily when they can relate new information to things that they already know. So, learning about the color yellow through objects they already know about, like bananas or baby chickens, will help this information stick a little easier.

Best for Bedtime Stories

If Animals Kissed Good Night
Anna Whitford Paul
Book Type: Board

What if animals did what humans did? What what their goodnight kisses look like? Giraffes would stretch their necks high, wolves would kiss and then howl at the moon, and sloths and their babies would move very, very slowly. All across the animal kingdom, every creature would express their love in their own special way.

This book is so sweet. Reading it with your child allows you to share how much you love them and how important they are to you. This book will also help you explore different animals, allowing this adorable bedtime story to not only be a perfect bonding experience, but also an opportunity to learn more about the world at the same time.

My New Baby
Rachel Fuller
Book Type: Board

There is so much to discover when a baby is born. A new addition to any family is exciting, but the experience can be worrying and confusing for siblings. They might have questions about what the baby will smell like, when it will walk, when it will sleep, and what it will like to eat. This book helps address these questions and assure siblings that having a new baby around is one of the most magical things in this world.

We think this is one of the best books about a new baby for older siblings. It addresses real questions and concerns that children often have about having a new baby around the house. Not only that, but it also encourages further conversation about this transition.

Press Here
Herve Tullet
Book Type: Board

Press the button! Now shake it up. Tilt the book! This funny board book gives its readers instructions and what happens next is always a surprise.

This book is a classic, and there is no wonder why. It is funny, interactive, and educational all at the same time. Children can quickly learn colors, directions, shapes, and new vocabulary, all while having a really incredible bonding moment with you. We think this book is a great option for a bedtime story that isn’t so traditional and calming.

God Bless You and Good Night
Hannah Hall
Book Type: Board

Sleepy little animals are reminded how much they are loved and how blessed they are. After they put on their pajamas, brush their teeth, and say goodnight prayers, these animals snuggle up with their parents and get ready to go to sleep. This heartwarming book is the perfect moment to share your incredible love with your child.

This is a great bedtime book with a spiritual theme. It encourages children to give thanks for everything they have and the unconditional love they receive. The book has a great rhyming scheme, making it the perfect book to get calm and sleepy before bedtime. It also features touch-and-feel elements that make the story even more interesting and interactive.

Sandra J. Howatt
Book Type: Board

The sun is set, and all the sleepyheads are tucked in and ready for bed. Rabbit is snoring away in the grass, Duck is snuggled up in the reeds, and Bear is snug in his cave. But there is one little animal who is not in his bed. Where could he be?

Sleepyheads is a great soothing, sleepy story. Its illustrations are so sweet and use calming colors and sleepy little animals to signal that it’s time for bed. The rhyming pattern is also very clever and introduces some new and unique vocabulary to your child. This is the perfect book to snuggle up with before you head to bed.

Best for Learning about Nature

I Spy Animals
Jean Marzollo
Book Type: Picture

Can you spot the animals that begin with D? How about the animals that start with D? In this activity book, each puzzle focuses on a different letter of the alphabet. The reader is asked to identify the animal in the picture that starts with that letter, making this a perfect book for little learners!

This is such a great activity book to help your child begin learning the alphabet. Not only that, but they will also learn new vocabulary, shapes, and colors along the way. It is a great break from a traditional story book while also helping to build essential literacy skills and strategies.

Little Raindrop
Book Type: Board

What happens to a raindrop when it falls from the sky? Will it end up in the ocean, in a pond, or even in your backyard? Learn about the water cycle and weather in this wholesome and educational board book.

This book is great because it offers information about the water cycle through a narrative storyline. It is very creative and uses raindrops and clouds as characters to illustrate what happens when raindrops fall. The illustrations also match the story well and are adorable and captivating all at the same time.

Babies in the Forest
Ginger Swift
Book Type: Board

Come meet all the animals of the forest! Say hello to foxes, deer, bears, beavers and more! With lift-a-flap cutouts, there is always something new to discover about our forest friends.

We love this book because it is highly interactive and educational, while still being really fun and engaging. The lift-a-flap features allow your child to explore the book on their own, offering independence and inspiring their love for reading. The simple sentences introduce new vocabulary and help your child learn how language is structured. Overall, this is a wonderful book to share together to explore nature.

Dear Zoo
Rod Campbell
Book Type: Board

In this book, the narrator goes in search of a pet. They write to the zoo, but they send him pets that are too big (like elephants) and pets that are too tall (like giraffes). Will they find their perfect pet?

This book is such a fun one to read with your child. It has a simple rhyming pattern and a lot of anticipation and drama as the narrator reveals what kind of pets he gets. It will allow your child to explore different animals and their characteristics, all while having a good laugh.

Hello, Garden Bugs
Duopress Labs
Book Type: Board

Greet different garden animals in this high-contrast board book. Say “hello” to bumblebees and “Good to see you” to dragonflies. Explore the world just outside your front door!

This book is great for younger two-year olds. Books with high-contrast illustrations, which are all in black-and-white and have dramatic and well-defined shapes, have been proven to aid development by encouraging better shape recognition and helping with development in the eyes. We like this book, in particular, because it also helps your child to explore nature and the world around them, as they discover new shapes and new animals.

Best from Our List

At Elephant Books, we strive to select the best books for our packages. We look for captivating illustrations, exciting storylines, and important messages. In selecting our board books, in particular, we also look closely at how these books aid young children’s development and learning. Here are some of the fantastic books for two year-olds we have sent out in our packages.

Mrs. Peanuckle’s Tree Alphabet
Mrs. Peanuckle
Book Type: Board

Learn the alphabet with this exciting board book featuring all different kinds of trees. Whether they’re short or tall, pruny or small, full of berries of flowers or nuts, the 26 trees featured in this book will captivate and delight young readers and their parents alike. With easy-to-learn facts about each tree, this book is perfect for curious readers who love learning.

We love this book because it is educational in so many ways. Not only will your child be encouraged to learn their A-B-C’s, but they will also learn a lot about nature along the way. We also chose this book because the illustration style is very unique and very modern, making it fun and interesting to look at. We think this is such a special book to help get your child thinking about their letters.

Under the Sea
Little Hippo Books
Book Type: Board

Welcome to the ocean! Discover lots of fun and friendly sea creatures in this tactile book. Find out if they are scaly, squidgy, bobbly, or stretchy through though-and-feel elements.

We selected this book because it is highly interactive. All of the different textures and patterns and colors will help young toddlers learn more about the world around them. Being able to interact with the book will give them a sense of independence and freedom that young children often crave.

But First, We Nap
David W. Miles
Book Type: Board

Sloth is super tired and just wants to take a nap. But Rabbit has different ideas and tries out different antics to get Sloth to change his mind. Each time, however, Sloth repeats, “But first, we nap.”

This is the perfect book for nap time, especially for little ones who have trouble slowing down. It not only features lovable and relatable characters, but it also encourages children to appreciate nap time and take a moment to rest. Not only that, but this book is also highly entertaining and funny, making it great fun to dive into.

Nom Nom: Colors
Forrest Everett
Book Type: Board

What better way to learn about colors than through ice cream! Learn about red and orange and yellow and blue through different ice cream flavors and topics. Nom Nom Colors makes for great food for thought.

We love this book because it is such a fun and whimsical way to introduce colors to your child. It does a great job of balancing out education and fun. We also love that it introduces so much new vocabulary to your child and that the illustrations are kind of like a comic, with the characters peaking in word bubbles.

What’s Up, Tiger? Food
Book Type: Board

What are all these silly animals up to? Use the pictures to figure out and then lift the flap to see if you are right! You might just catch a tiger cooking up something special.

We love this book because it is so interactive and fun. It is structured as a guessing game, which makes it so engaging. It also is amazing for building skills like making predictions, drawing on prior knowledge, and using your imagination. This is a perfect read for anyone looking for a playful book.


Can two year-olds read?

At two years-old, children are not yet able to read. They might have begun learning the alphabet song, but it is unlikely that they are able to identify letters quite yet. You can help your child along, though, by using reading strategies like following along with your finger, sounding out difficult words, and pointing out different letters on the page.

Do two year-olds know their colors?

Most children’s eyes at this age have developed enough to be able to recognize the difference between colors. In other words, they can recognize that blue is a different color from yellow. It is unlikely, however, that they are able to name these colors. That being said, development moves so quickly at this age that an older two year-old might be able to identify a color or two, while a younger two-year old will not yet be that far along.

How long should I be reading to my two-year old?

Every child is different. Some children love reading and can sit and read a book for an hour, while others remain interested for only a few minutes. Do what works best for your child and your family, but make it a point to try to read at least one book a day.

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