Learning Books for 1-year-olds: Best Picks for Language Development

learning Books for 1-year-olds. The best picks for language development.
Learning Books for 1-year-olds: Best Picks for Language Development 25

This is the third post in our series about the importance of reading and language development. As I mentioned before, as a practicing Speech-Language Pathologist and book reviewer, I’m uniquely qualified to help promote language development through learning books for 1-year-olds and beyond.

This post will look at language development from one to two years and how to incorporate books and reading into your daily routine. We will also be giving you another little library stack of the best learning books for 1-year-olds featuring different types of books to include in a library for toddlers this age.

Books for a 1-year-old and tips for language development
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Language Development for 12-18 months

At this age, your toddler may not sit with you in the same way that they did when they were an infant. That is ok. You can still read to them while they are playing or moving around.

Toddlers are developing so many skills from vocabulary development and imitation to common expressions and turn-taking. The more your child hears language, the more opportunities they have to learn. That’s why it is so important to read to your child at this age.

Learning Books for 1-year-olds Vocabulary Development

Between 12-18 months, children are starting to use their first words. They will have a vocabulary of 4-6 words and will start to answer simple yes and no questions nonverbally. The best books for a new 1-year-old will reinforce familiar vocabulary words and introduce easy-to-learn new words.

DK first words


My First Touch and Feel Cards: First Words

We love these card for so many reasons. Not only are they textured which adds more fun for your little one but, there are questions on the back.

Some of the questions are yes and no- your little one can start to answer these on their own. Feel free to ask the other questions and then answer the questions yourself. These are perfect to throw in a bag and take on the go.

baby Signs

Baby Signs: A Baby-sized Introduction to Speaking Sign Language by Joy Allen

When I first had children, I knew some very basic signs. I started using them with my kids and realized very quickly that many of the signs were easier to use that the words. I have heard some parents worry that if their child uses signs, they will not talk.

Don’t worry! Your child is learning that a thing is represented by a word or action. This is an important step for language development. Adding signs is a way to help your toddler express themselves!

Action Learning Books for 1-year-olds

Between 12-18 months old your toddler will also start to imitate- words and actions. This is the perfect time to introduce books that have some actions in them.

From Head to Toe

From Head to Toe by Eric Carle

This book has Eric Carle’s classic pictures while giving your child the chance to clap, stomp and move around while imitating the animals in this book. Not only can your toddler learn about the animals, but they can move around as well.

clap your hands

Clap Your Hands by Lorinda Bryan Cauley

This book was a favorite in my house and it is now available as a board book. Hooray. I love the illustrations in this book along with the rhymes and silly directions. “Clap your hands, stomp your feet. Shake your arms, then take a seat”. This is the perfect book to get your toddler dancing and moving to a book.

Sound and Expressions Learning Books for 1-year-olds

Between 12-18 months, toddlers begin to use common expressions like oh no or uh-oh. Because toddlers love to imitate, this is the perfect time to read them books that will give them a chance to work on these important skills. It also gives kids a chance to take turns. This is an important skill to learn before they can have a conversation.

Poke-A-Dot and other books for a 1-year-old

Melissa and Doug Poke-a-Dot Old MacDonald’s Farm

Not only does this book give your child a chance to make all the animal noises but there are interactive buttons on each page that make a popping noise. You and your toddler can also practice counting the animals.

Each page has many chances to practice making sounds and expand language and vocabulary. For example, you can say “The cow says moo. Let’s count the cows.”

Baby Faces and other books for a 1-year-old

Baby Faces by Margaret Miller

We mentioned this book in our essential first-year books post because babies love to look at each other. As they get older, they can start to vocalize the faces that the babies are making.

They can also listen to you and make the faces the baby in the picture is making. You can use the book to prompt your baby. For example “That is yucky. Show me yucky.”

Learnings Books for 1-year-olds with Songs

Toddlers will begin to imitate your voice and recite short songs and poems. They may not have the words but may have the tune or the rhythm. I remember my son asking me to sing the song “ee ee i er” to him. I finally figured out that it was “eensy, weensy spider”. Yes, in Canada the arachnid is eensy weensy, not itsy bitsy.

Five Little Monkeys and other books for a 1-year-old

Five Little Monkeys by Cottage Door Press

This adorable finger puppet book is interactive fun that has a lot of repetition. As children get older, they may start babbling along while you read.

If you are happy and you know it

If You’re Happy and You Know it by Anna McQuinn

The illustrations in this book make me happy. The repetition, the actions, and the tune all promote language development. As your baby gets older, you can make the book even more interactive by asking questions about the illustrations.

Books to read to 1-year-old to help promote language development.
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Language Development for 18-24 months

You will find that your child’s vocabulary will start to increase dramatically as they approach 18 months. They will now have a vocabulary of approximately 20 words.

They will not only have more words but they will begin to understand basic categories like food or animals and will be able to recognize and name 1-3 body parts.

The best books for older 1-year-olds will focus on reinforcing these new skills. Consider adding one or two books from each of the categories below to round out your older 1-year-old’s library.

Learning Books for 1-Year-Olds with Animals

Who peek a flap

Who Peek a Flap Book by Jaye Garnett

This adorable lift-the-flap book has illustrations of animals in their habitat. Not only can you talk about animals and what they look like but, you can talk about where the animals live.

Dear Zoo and other books for a 1-year-old

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

This book was an absolute favorite in our house. The descriptions of the animals are so funny, the flaps are fun and the story is so cute. As kids get older, they realize how silly it is to write to the zoo for a pet.

baby Animals

Baby Animals: Indestructibles by Amy Pixton

We love indestructible books. This one features all the beautiful animal illustrations along with unique animal baby names. Learning animal names is a wonderful way to develop language skills.

Color Learning Books for 1-year-olds

Brown Bear and other books for a 1-year-old

Brown Bear by Eric Carle

This 50-year-old book is a classic for good reason. The simple pictures along with the colors are engaging.

my first colors

Tabbed Board Books: My First Colors: Let’s Learn Them All! (My First Tabbed Board Book) by DK

This book has ALL the colors! I love that it includes pink, purple, black, and grey with so many different examples of each color.

Mix it up

Mix it up by Herve Tullet

This book is amazing. Although you can use this book with older kids, the fun of this book is not only learning the colors but beginning to learn how to colors mix together to make new colors. Let your baby try some finger painting to try this for themselves.

Learning Books for 1-year-olds with Vehicles

Freight Train and other books for a 1-year-old

Freight Train by Donald Crews

This is another classic book that has both trains and colors. What could be better? The simplicity of this book adds to the fun. If you have a child that can only sit for a very limited time, this book is a perfect choice.

Things That Go Touch and Feel and other books for a 1-year-old

Touch and Feel Things That Go by DK

Transportation… check, touch and feel….check and check… This board book has everything from cars to hot air balloons and is perfect for little hands.

Goodnight Contruction site

Goodnight Construction Site by Sherry Duskey Ringer

This rhyming board book will have truck lovers delighted. The rhyming text and adorable pictures make this a parent favorite as well. It’s one of our must-own learning books for 1-year-olds.

Things That Go and other books for a 1-year-old

Pop Up Things That Go by Ingela P. Arrhenius

One vehicle is on each page of this totally adorable pop-up book that includes EVERY form of transportation I could ever think of. This super chunky board book is perfect for little hands.

Learning Books for 1-year-olds about Bodies

Baby and other books for a 1-year-old

This is Baby by Jimmy Fallon

I love Jimmy Fallon even more now that I have read this adorable rhyming book all about babies. It tells all about the baby AND has a sweet message at the end.

Where is Baby's Belly Button and other books for a 1-year-old

Where is Baby’s Belly Button by Karen Katz

Sweet pictures and lift-the-flaps make interactive fun in this adorable board book. You can look at the pictures and then play with your baby. “Where is your belly button?”

Hello World

Hello World! My Body by Jill McDonald

Not only does this book teach about your body but it shows how you interact with the world. Eyes blink and see! I love that this book goes one more step to introduce how we interact with the world. It’s one of our must-have learning books for 1-year-olds.

If you like this post on the best learning books for 1-year-olds, we recommend you check out other posts in our reading readiness series.