Inside: Books to help your toddler understand their feelings, encourage positive behavior, and create good habits. The best toddler behavior book series!
These are the books all parents of toddlers should have on their bookshelf. A great book can make an abstract emotion, a problem, or situation concrete, real, and most importantly, solvable.
I talk more about how to use books to change your child’s behavior in this post, which also has links to positive book series for children of different ages. Below is a list of our favorites for kids aged 2 to 4.
7 Picture Books Series That Encourage Good Behavior in Toddlers
The Growing Hearts Series
This is a sweet series of pictures books by Jo Witek, that illustrate emotions, finding joy, independent play and imagination and finding courage.
I love the illustrations and the fact that these are easy, lyrical, before bedtime books with a positive message. I hope this author writes more in this series!
The Rookie Toddler Series
I am not sure if my son would have ever brushed his teeth as a toddler without Brush, Brush, Brush. Some of these have a purely educational tone, but some also deal with behaviors.
Many of these are set to songs so you can sing the text (and gain your toddler’s cooperation) when brushing teeth, washing hands, getting ready for bed, and so on, without the physical book in hand.
Wash, Wash, Wash! (Rookie Toddler)Brush, Brush, Brush! (Rookie Toddler)How Do You Feel? (Rookie Toddler)Loud Lion, Quiet Mouse (Rookie Toddler)I’m Not Tired!: A Bedtime Routine Book (Rookie Toddler)I’m Not Ready!: A Morning Routine Book (Rookie Toddler)KLear
The Learning about Me and You Series
This is a brand new series that looks promising. The books are designed to help the development of self-awareness and social awareness in toddlers and young preschoolers.
What a great introduction to social skills for young children — themes like feelings, sharing, belonging, and helping are perfect for young children.
There is additional information and tips for expanding on the message with your child in the back of each book.
I Feel: A book about recognizing and understanding emotionsI Belong: A book about being part of a family and a groupI Share: A book about being kind and generousI Play: A book about discovery and cooperation
The Best Behavior Series
The “Best Behavior Series” by Elizabeth Verdick is my favorite series for younger kids because it is realistic, yet has a gentle delivery.
The message is simple — “Hands are not for hitting. What are hands for? Saying Hello. Drawing. Building.” For younger children this kind of message is great, it is simple, direct, concrete, and focused on what to do instead of what not to do.
Included in the back two pages of the book are tips and strategies for parents. For example, in the Hands are Not for Hitting book, there are suggestions for redirecting frustrated energy, quick tips for reducing anger, and an example of how to intervene when a toddler hits.
Hands Are Not for Hitting (Board Book) (Best Behavior Series)Teeth Are Not for Biting (Board Book) (Best Behavior Series)Feet Are Not for Kicking (Board Book) (Best Behavior Series)Words Are Not for Hurting (Board Book) (Best Behavior Series)Tails Are Not for Pulling (Board Book) (Best Behavior Series)Voices Are Not for Yelling (Best Behavior)Diapers Are Not Forever (Board Book) (Best Behavior Series)Germs Are Not for Sharing (Board Book) (Best Behavior Series)
The Toddler Tools Series
This next series, “Toddler Tools,” also by Elizabeth Verdick promotes positive behaviors in general — like listening, calming down, getting out the door, and naptime. Included in the back of the book are great tips.
I got the Naptime book when my son started resisting his nap at age two — but yet, he still really needed his nap. It was great to have an objective book to turn to and we started using the language on a daily basis, I would ask him “Do you remember why we rest?”, which is a line from the book and he would answer something to the effect of what the book says: “I take a break from play to have a better day. I need a little rest so I can feel my best.”
Another favorite of mine is On-the Go Time helpful for getting young kids out the door! Included on the back two pages of these books are additional tips for parents and teachers.
The Little Dinos Series
This next series by Michael Dahl is colorfully illustrated, short, and positive. In other words, just long enough to make the point but keep your toddler’s attention.
These do give alternative behaviors but aren’t as instructive as the two series above. For example, in Little Dinos Don’t Push the text goes like this: “Don’t push your sister! Push a swing! Don’t push your Brother! Push your toy cars!”
While I prefer saying “hands are not for hitting” instead of “don’t hit,” I do think this series can be good for starting a conversation about these topics with younger toddlers who don’t have the attention span for the “Best Behavior Series” above or for toddlers who thrive on books which are a little more silly.
The Daniel Tiger Series
The above series are great, but they don’t necessarily give concrete instructions on emotion regulation (the exception being Calm-Down Time). I LOVE the emotion-regulation strategies from Daniel Tiger.
The writers consult with child psychologists and there is some scientific evidence that watching this show promotes prosocial behavior.
There is a good list of the learning goals for each show and related activities you can do with your child here.
These I’m Feeling books build off the show’s learning goals and are a great addition to any young child’s library. I love all of these and I hope they come out with more!
I’m feeling Silly is a favorite because it helps kids regulate excitement — a common issue, but as a positive emotion, one we are not well-equipped to teach our children how to handle (and now there is even an app for parents that you can use to cue up the song and the learning goal in any situation!
Those are my favorite toddler behavior book series for 2 to 4-year-olds. For more suggestions for older children, see below. In the meantime happy reading!
Read more about parenting your 2-year-old here: The Secret to Your 2-Year-Old’s Heart (and gaining their cooperation) and here Toddler Defiance and the Brain.