I’ve been getting some requests to share my favorite parenting books with reviews of each one. I’m definitely still in the “thick of it” when it comes to toddler parenting, so I’m sure I may add some books to this list over time. But, for now, I wanted to at least cover the ones I’ve liked so far!
Why read parenting books?
I feel like reading parenting books can be taboo. A lot of people think “why do I need to read a book to raise my kids?” Personally, I look at it differently. Being a parent is the hardest and most important job you’ll ever have. What other job are you ever expected to do without some training or education?
Now, when I read parenting books I look at them as guides and resources – NOT a Holy Grail. I take away little nuggets of wisdom of pieces of insight that jive with my personal parenting style. So, my gentle reminder as you read parenting books to remember that you’re NOT failing as a parent if you use a technique suggested in a book and doesn’t work. Every child and family dynamic is different. It would be utterly impossible for one book to answer every child’s needs. That’s why I encourage you to read books for the information inside them and then adapt them to your needs. YOU are that child’s parent and no one knows better what they need than you.
Baby Parenting Books
If I could only recommend ONE baby book it would be this one. Now, I’m not one of those people who gets all caught up in hot parenting trends or finds some celebrity motivational speaker and believes everything they say. Even that being said…Dr. Harvey Karp is a near-genius with the stuff he shares in this book. I used his words pretty much as a baby bible.
You can read a lot of Dr. Harvey Karp’s stuff online, he’s kinda a baby guru. His “Five 5’s” is used everywhere. But I still HIGHLY recommend the book because it goes into a lot of the science behind why these things work (which I think really helped me to understand and better execute it). He also just has a very soft and understanding way of writing, it’s not preachy at all. He gets what it’s like to have a newborn.
This book was recommended to me by a friend. It has some similar thought processes to Dr. Harvey Karp, but it’s just in a much more bite-size version. It doesn’t go into as much of the science behind development as Dr. Harvey Karp does, but it’s a much quicker read. It’s super quick, I think I read it in maybe 2 nights. Perfect if you just want something quick.
*Honorable Mention: This isn’t exactly a book, but it’s an online course with an ebook and that’s the Taking Cara Babies Newborn class. I honestly think every new parent should take this class. It was SO insanely helpful for me in the first 3 months of being a new mom. Not only did it give helpful insights and tips for newborn sleep, but it also goes SO FAR beyond that. She talks about practical ways these would apply to your everyday life as a mom with a newborn. So, it’s not just the tips but also real-life application in a way that reallllllly makes logical sense in daily life.
Toddler Parenting Books
I loved Happiest Baby on the Block so I had to try out the toddler version. Now, I will say this book is really ideal for 18 months+ but I started it early in hopes I could lay a foundation. He DOES talk about things that will work for 12 months, but just a note that it may not apply if you’re reading this book and your child just turned one.
So, I haven’t loved this book AS MUCH as Happiest Baby. I definitely don’t follow it quite like a bible like I did with the baby version. But, I do think it’s well worth it because there are some really good nuggets in it. I actually find it pairs really well with The Whole Brain Child (mentioned below) because it’s all about helping our kids to acknowledge their emotions so they can learn to understand their emotions, instead of distracting them away from it. I’ve used tactics shared in this book and adapted the basic theories shared in this book to different methods I use to help Miles.
I love love love this book. It’s really less of a parenting book in the sense that it’s not all about “here’s the bad behavior here’s how to fix it.” It’s more about how to bring Montessori theories into your home.
Ok, so back up. What’s “Montessori”? It’s a teaching method that’s all about self-directed, hands-on-learning. It’s about giving kids real-life activities and setting up classrooms that allow the children to drive the learning. Obviously, it’s more than just that but that’s my best quick overview.
So, the Montessori Toddler is sort of about how you can bring some of those principles into your home. It’s about setting your home up for them to be able to be independent, setting up experiences for them to be helpful members of the household, and how to turn everyday things into learning experiences, etc. So, like I said, I loved this book. I did have some experience in Montessori (I did some student teaching in a Montessori classroom) but I think it’s super accessible even if you don’t have background knowledge on it.
I bought this book because I was looking for something that could really talk about some of the science behind the development of toddlers. I have found that by understanding what Miles is going through developmentally helps me feel more like I’m his advocate instead of feeling like it’s me against him.
Now, I will say some of this book feels a little preachy in the sense of how they claim this science of how a child’s brain is wired is the gospel. BUT, it does still contain some really REALLY helpful insights and sets you up to look at yourself as your child’s advocate instead of looking at yourself as their prison guard.
While, like I said, I wouldn’t accept it as the Holy Grail of toddlers’ brains, I think reading it is still very beneficial to get some insights into why the heck it is that our toddlers do some of the things that seem so infuriating to us. I also think it’s good that is really focuses on helping our children develop their emotional intelligence, which I think is sometimes something we can forget about as we focus on teaching them their words and numbers and alphabet.
Again, like Happiest Toddler on the Block, this book definitely skews older, I’d say it’s really more ideal for 2 years+ which is why I put it last.
HONORABLE MENTION: Making Faces
Ok, so this is not a book for you, but for your little one. Miles was very into the different emotions that characters seemed to have in books we read, so I picked up this book just thinking maybe he’d like reading it. But, it’s turned out to be so much more than that. Inside the book is just 5 pages of different emotions (happy, sad, angry, surprised, and silly.) Miles and I would read the book together, he was so interested in studying the different faces. I would act out each emotion when we read it and also did the baby sign for them (you can just Google “baby sign happy” or “baby sign mad.”) After a few times, these really started to click for Miles. He LOVED this book. He started acting out the feelings on each page with me.
Ok, so how I did use this for “parenting”? Ok, well in some of the books I mentioned above I said it was about helping our kids acknowledge their emotions instead of just trying to distract them away. So, now if Miles is really upset I will grab this book and open to the page of the emotion he’s having (either angry or sad.) I point to it and tell him “Miles is sad.” I’ll sign the emotion. I’m telling you, it typically clicks right with him. It’s no miracle cure by any means, but I find it really helps him calm down quicker. I think he feels like “yea! that is how I feel!”