Looking for some fun books for toddlers? These are 10 of the best books for 3 year olds to read.
Three year olds are great fun to be around! At this age, their imaginations are bubbling over, their vocabulary is expanding, and their world is growing wider, with the introduction of pre-school or nursery for many kids at this age.
It can also be a challenging stage of development, especially for busy families. Luckily, books can provide a moment of reconnection at the end of a long day, and there are so many beautiful, funny, poignant books for 3 year olds to fall in love with.
Any of these books would make a great gift for a three year old in your life, whether that’s your own child, a niece or nephew, or your child’s best friend.
They’re beautifully illustrated and, most importantly, fun to read out loud (which is vital from the adult’s point of view).
10 of the Best Books for 3 Year Olds
The Lion Inside is a stunningly illustrated book about a small mouse with big dreams. Mouse is fed up with being small and meek; he wants to learn how to be tough instead and thinks the best way to do this is to find out how to roar like a lion.
He sets off to Lion’s rock, only to find that Lion himself isn’t as brave as everyone thinks …
It’s a gorgeous book with a lovely message, the perfect book for three year olds about to start a new adventure of their own. It would make a great ‘good luck at preschool’ gift for a little person who may need some encouragement to find their own bravery.
Mouse finds out that he is brave in his own right, and children will be able to see themselves in this lovely and inspiring story.
The Day The Crayons Quit is a modern classic for children. Duncan’s crayons are overworked and underappreciated, and they decide enough is enough.
One by one, they write letters of grievance to Duncan, explaining their woes and campaigning for better treatment.
What follows is a charming and hilarious story about crayons at the end of their rope.
It’s a sweet story that manages to capture something very innocent and lovely. It’s a lovely nostalgic tale for parents and children to enjoy, and it’s a very funny one to read out loud at bedtime.
Just be warned: if you buy this for a child, chances are they’ll become very protective of their crayons afterwards (I know this from experience!).
The illustrations by Oliver Jeffers are, as always, quirky and beautiful.
This is a surprisingly noisy little book! Written by Tom Fletcher and gorgeously illustrated by Greg Abbott, it’s delightful from the first page.
Children will open the book to find a dragon, but the more they try to interact with it, the more chaos occurs.
They’ll need to use certain actions, like tipping the book to one side, shouting, and blowing on the pages, in order to make things right again.
The dragon itself is adorable, and the story is very sweet. It’s the kind of silliness that children love to return to again and again, and if they get on well with it, you could pick up There’s A Monster In Your Book, too.
We can’t talk about the best books for 3 year olds without mentioning The Gruffalo! Beloved by children across the world, over 13.5 million copies of this book have been sold to date, which is an incredible achievement.
It’s not hard to see why!
A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark woods, only to come across some creatures who are very interested in eating him. To fend them off, he invents a big, bad creature called the Gruffalo. But is he imaginary, or is he real?
Donaldson’s lyrical words combined with Scheffler’s iconic style make The Gruffalo a must-have for every child. Parents and carers will enjoy reading this to their kids, which is good, as chances are they’ll have to read it a lot.
These are funny, bright and modern stories for toddlers with a good sense of humour. If you want to start from the beginning, try Oi Frog!, the original (and in my opinion, the best).
Cat tells Frog that he must sit on a log because those are the rules of rhyme. But what about all the other animals? What do they have to sit on?
Frog is a cheeky and funny character, and kids will enjoy the increasingly silly illustrations (cheetahs on fajitas, gnus on canoes, elephants on smelly pants).
Plus, there are tons of other books in the series, so you can switch things up a bit if you get tired of the first one.
These include activity and sticker books, which are good for keeping kids occupied at restaurants or on long drives.
This is a sweet little story about subverting stereotypes and following your dreams. A little girl has an adorable dog, but the dog has a secret: he absolutely loves ballet.
The dog would love nothing more than to be allowed to do ballet, but unfortunately, society says that he isn’t allowed.
When the girl goes to a ballet show with her dad, and disaster strikes, the dog is there to save the day. He gives the performance of his life, complete with a frilly tutu: but will he be accepted by the audience?
It’s a lovely children’s book, and it sends a great message to kids, especially those who are passionate about their hobbies. If you’re looking for a book for a creative child, this is the one to go for.
Mr Big is a surprisingly moving story about a gorilla with a passion for music. Mr Big has a little problem in that he is, well, quite large.
This makes him intimidating to the other animals, who steer well away from him when they see him coming.
Lonely and sad, Mr Big spots a piano in a shop window and decides it looks lonely, just like him. He brings it home and pours his heart out into music.
What happens next is magical. Children love witnessing Mr Big discover his own worth and find a tribe of other animals that accept him for exactly who he is.
It’s a celebration of music and individuality, and it’s the perfect gift for any kid that has ever felt different from everyone else.
Now onto a sillier story. I Want My Hat Back is beloved by both children and adults across the world. A quirky book with a strong sense of humour, it’s a great one for parents who are bored of reading nursery rhymes and fairy tales.
Bear has lost his hat, and he wants to find it. But where could it be? He asks all the other animals, one by one, until it suddenly hits him: he has seen his hat after all.
What follows is a story of revenge, with a surprisingly funny ending that feels silly enough for kids to giggle at, but sharp enough for adults to laugh at, too.
You Choose isn’t so much of a story as it is a conversation starter.
Illustrated by the talented Nick Sharratt, it presents children (and their grown-ups) with choices: if you could pick one of these places to visit, which one would you pick?
If you could get there using any means of transport, which would you choose? What friends would you like? What hat would you wear?
The questions go on, and there are a lot of images for children to pick from.
This is a useful tool for parents and carers. It opens up communication and strengthens bonds, which is perfect for busy parents looking for a moment of reconnection after a day of being apart from their children.
Plus, it encourages imagination, and importantly, gives kids the power. So much of a three year old’s life is decided for them, and this book gives them the opportunity to imagine what would happen if they could call the shots.
I can’t recommend it enough!
This is a beautiful book celebrating families of all kinds. Representation in children’s literature is incredibly important, and I’d recommend this book for all children to read.
For one thing, it’s useful for children to see that all families are different, and more importantly, it’s incredible for kids to see their own family setup represented.
It’s a simple tale of family life: families going to school and work, families looking after each other in emergencies, and families having fun days out.
The illustrations are what make this book special. If you’re looking for a gift or you just want to expand your own child’s library, it’s a lovely choice.
I hope this has helped you to find a new book for the little kid in your life! I’ve read, and loved, all of these books with my own children, so I can personally recommend them for three year olds.
Any one of them would make a great birthday gift, or a special treat to brighten up a dull day.
Megan is a freelance writer based in Somerset, England. When she’s not writing about books, video games, and pop culture, she’s running around after her two kids and trying to squeeze in the occasional walk in the countryside.