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Eight essential books for childminders of very young children

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Books are a must have in every childminding and early years setting. I love children’s books and have a vast collection that I picked up over the years, from classic early years books that everyone will recognise through to rare books that are out of publication and on to brand new books which have just hit the shelves in bookshops. I am still discovering beautiful new books all the time and could probably end up filling my whole house. I think it is very important to introduce books to children as soon as possible so my collection also includes lots of books aimed at the very youngest children. However, if I could only have eight books for babies these would be my absolute essentials:

1) An early years classic to carry on traditions:

One of the very special things about reading books to small children is that it creates lovely memories for both the adult and the child. I read about a question an Ofsted Inspector recently asked a childminder: ‘which books have you read to the children so often that they know all the words?’ This possibly does not apply to our youngest children who are not yet speaking so I would ask, ‘which book have you read so often that the children will remember it when they read it to their children?

You may have a book that you remember reading to your own children or one that you were read as a small child. Ask the child’s parents if they have a special book that they would like to share too. For example:

Part of a childminder’s role is to build relationship with the child and their family and sharing a special story in this way is a lovely way to start. When the child leaves your setting a lovely parting gift can be a copy of your ‘special’ book.

2) An interactive book:

Books with sturdy flaps to lift, textures to feel or holes to peep and poke fingers through are always on my must have list for babies and very young children. For example:

Any of the ‘That’s Not My’ books. I have a small collection of these as the favourite depends on what each child is interested in. Currently ‘That’s not My Car’ is a firm favourite and I have expanded my own car related vocabulary reading this book too!

3) A book about people:

Children are born with an instinctive fascination with other people and humans are programmed to recognise faces from birth. Chose books with a variety of different people so that children can see people that look like them and people that are different. For the very youngest children chose books that mainly feature pictures of faces as this is what babies are most interested in. For example:

Babies love looking at other babies so if you have very young children a book like this is a must. If possible, look for books featuring photographs of babies as this will appeal to very young children more than illustrated versions. One good example is ‘Baby Faces’ by the published DK, which shows babies from different backgrounds, pulling a variety of expressions. This has proved very popular in my setting.

4) A book about the wider world:

Keep this simple. For very young children almost everything is ‘the wider world.’ A good place to start is a book about animals. Young children love animals and some of the first words they speak may very well be animals sounds. Try and choose books with a good range of vocabulary. For example, I recently discovered some lift the flap animal books by Jane Ormes that feature farm animal families including Jack and Jenny donkeys!

5) A book that feature the children’s interests:

From a very early age children will start to develop interests. Even before they can say many words a child may be able to spot a ‘trador’ (tractor) from so far away that you are amazed that they can even see it or will point out every car that goes past. Tuning into these interests and providing books that feature them will help children learn that books are fun. If you are clever with your choices, it can also help children learn other things, not necessarily related to their main passion.

For example, I have recently discovered a book which is an absolute favourite in my setting. It is called’ Rosa Loves Cars,’ by Jessica Spanyol. It features a little girl and a wider cast of diverse friends who love cars and has lots of simple car related vocabulary that the little ones love to try and copy. I love the book because it challenges gender stereotypes and promotes diversity; the little ones love the book because it features cars. Everyone is happy!

6) A nursery rhyme book:

Reading anything to children will help with their language development but some books are more specifically aimed at helping young children with this essential skill. Nursery rhyme books fall into this category.

Traditional Tales are too long and complicated for very young children (although they are FABULOUS a little later,) but nursery rhymes are excellent for helping children acquire language skills. Their rhyming and rhythmic structure helps children remember and learn words and tune into the rise and fall patterns of speech.  

There are lots and lots of sturdy board books featuring nursery rhymes, but my favourites are the ‘Child’s Play’ series. These books keep the rhyme nice and short and do not extend the rhyme with additional verses like some other nursery rhyme books. This makes them more suitable for younger children with shorter concentration spans. They also have lovely illustrations showing actions the children can do to accompany the rhyme. You can often pick these books up in charity shops so keep your eyes peeled.

7) A good quality first words book:

There are lots of these about from short board books concentrating on different topics like colours or numbers (you can borrow these sorts of books by the bucket load from your local library) to longer versions with almost every word you could ever want, accompanied by a picture. However, the most popular ones in my setting have always been those with pictures of scenes with lots of things to look at, spot and talk about. For example, in my setting the favourite is, ‘Thomas’s Word Book,’ featuring the famous tank engine. In fact, this book has proved so popular that my original copy wore out and I had to buy a new one!

8) A homemade book:

Children love stories that feature themselves or people that they know. You can buy books that will add a child’s name into the story but making you own books is easier, cheaper and more effective. Making your own books for or with children really gives them ownership over their special book.  Your homemade books do not need to be fancy. For very young children a short book with some photos of themselves and their family members to look at is lovely. Cover some of the photos with flaps over the top to lift to make the book interactive. Make sure you have a few pages to turn so that children can learn about how a book works and your efforts are sure to be rewarded.


Disclaimer: I have not included number books on this list for a particular reason. I am certainly not saying to share number books with young children, but this is an essentials list. Very young children who do not even have a concept of what a number is are not ready to count so books featuring things to count in sequence are not necessarily the best way to introduce very young children to number. Instead make sure to have books which have number words in them such as nursery rhymes with numbers in them. When children are a little older or more developed and understand that you can count things then your numbers books will be much more useful.

Over to you:

I would love to know what your favourite books are to share with your very youngest children. Share your thoughts in the comments.


Do you want more support and ideas for working with your very youngest children?

I noticed that there isn’t as much support or training available for childminders about very young children under the age of two. This is why I introduced a special section in the Childminding Best Practice Club monthly toolkits which is dedicated specifically to this age group. In it you will find loads of ideas to try out with your very littlest ones.

The toolkits also contain a wealth of other ideas and resources including CPD ideas, inspection support and a themed section every month containing things like crafts, invitations to play ideas, resources and colouring sheets. Best Practice Club members also receive a useful. ‘New Members Welcome Pack,’ containing lots of other resources and a 25% discount off other Kids To Go products.


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