7 Fun & Interactive Books for Squirmy Toddlers

Not every child takes to books right away. When my daughter Isla was a baby she actually hated me reading to her. I would try and cozy up with my adorable little infant and she would literally cry the entire time and try & kick the book out of my hands until I stopped reading. Eventually she’d humour me for story time but she’d take the book from my hands so she could hold it herself, put her finger on my lips to “shhhhh” me and pretend to read the book alone flipping through the pages. Sounds strange?…ya well welcome to the world of Isla Salazar. Instead of getting upset and listening to every other new parent claim they have a genius child on their hands because their kid is content laying around for hours listening to story after story being read to them…I was gifted a tiny human who was opinionated, oozed independence, energy & full of spunk from the beginning.

Fast forward to about 2 1/2 we finally joined the rest of parents and children into the world of reading. I never pushed it on her but eventually it just happened on it’s own in a fun & natural way. She would finally sit down for me to read to her…that is if the books were fun and really held her attention to sit long enough. Simple readers and rhyming books never really cut it in our house (& who knows…maybe she just didn’t like those baby books even as a baby which is why she used to give me a hard time?) The opinions, energy & sass are as strong as ever with our spicy 3-year-old but story time is now something I enjoy with my daughter because we mix in a variety of fun & clever books to keep her in place and wanting more. We have a cozy corner set-up for reading filled with all kinds of books in both English & Spanish.

Here’s my go-to list of favourite books that have my once upon a time book hating child, now ask for me to read them to her & keep her excitedly sitting through them the entire time…

“The Book With No Pictures” by B.J. Novak

This is one of those books that every family should have. The book is exactly what the title says it is…a book without any pictures! The book is completely all text but super silly and fun. Kids love listening to their parents say a ton of ridiculous words and sounds and honestly can’t get enough of it. I’ve also never seen a child sit still while listening to it (but in a good way) because they’re usually up on their knees or jumping up and down with laughter as the book progresses. When I read it aloud it doesn’t just feel like I’m reading but putting on a bit of an interactive performance because every word requires fun energy. I find the book becomes interactive because Isla excitedly anticipates the next part already giggling or answering some of the questions. We loved the book so much in our house that we bought it in both English & Spanish.






“Welcome to Sesame Street”-Felt Fun

This is one of those perfect rainy day type of books. It comes with 2 stories and the main hard cover portion of the book opens up to a felt play scene with dozens of felt pieces. It’s an interactive type of story book so kids can be kept busy in a hands on way while you read. Each page of the reading book has several parts where your child can visually help tell the story by placing the various Sesame Street characters and items on the play scene following along with what you read. We’ve never even watched Sesame Street but I found this book in the English language books section of a local bookstore here in Cancun and it’s been lots of fun to switch things up and hold her interest on rare long days spent indoors.


“The Monster at the End of this Book” by Jon Stone

This is a book I remember my mom reading to me as a kid so when I recently came across it online I got it for nostalgia purposes. I was pretty excited when Isla fell in love with it as well! In a similar way to The Book With No Pictures it keeps kids bouncing around with excitement & interaction because they understand it’s the type of book they can do that with. Each page is about Grover from Sesame Street trying to prevent the reader from turning the page to get to the end of the book. When I read it aloud to her I have a lot of fun being expressive and getting her to physically turn each page with a huge smile on her face.

“Harold and the Purple Crayon” by Crockett Johnson

This is a great little book that was gifted to Isla at my baby shower before she was born (please excuse the photo of the cover as our book has been well loved! lol). The friend who gave it to me included a note to say it was one of her’s & her son’s favourite books from when he was little. This woman is a super talented & creative television producer so I kept a close eye on that book waiting for Isla to take interest in it and sure enough one day she did. It’s a fun read because the book takes you on a journey in a really clever way as the little boy the story revolves around uses his imagination by drawing out an adventure far from home. The book’s illustrations are all really done in only 2 colours and kept simple…black sketches for the little boy and the rest in purple “crayon” as he draws each leg of his journey. There’s a lot of smart plays on words. Out of all of the books on our shelf this one may have the most longevity as it’s been with us since the start and has travelled with us quite a bit.

“Dora The Explorer-Music Player Storybook”-by Nickelodean

Isla has always been a big Dora fan. Like Dora, Isla speaks Spanglish and this book combines the cuteness of a classic Dora adventure with a mini music player. The book comes with 4 small plastic music discs and my daughter has had a blast arranging the songs for each chapter helping to set the mood. Each page has a small numbered prompt so you know which song to play. The actual story itself is fun and the music is a fun interactive bonus.

“El Perro con Sombrero” by Derek Taylor Kent

Raising our daughter to be bilingual, speaking both English & Spanish, means I’ve tried my best to find books that embrace both languages and in some ways both the Mexican & North American anglo sides of her cultures (I say North American because as a Canadian I’d truly be challenged to find books on being both Mexican & Canadian). I specifically went on the search for a fun bilingual read with a Mexican flavour and found El Perro con Sombrero. It’s a really upbeat story with the text in both English and Spanish on each page and lots of beautifully coloured illustrations. I like to jump back and forth between reading in English & Spanish on every page. Regardless of which language it’s a super cute book we’ve read countless times.

“The Princess in Black” by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale

The Princess in Black series of books are the most recent addition to our bookshelf & have quickly become faves. They’re not interactive but man oh man they have completely captivated my feisty princess loving daughter! We discovered them this summer after checking out some of my 7-year-old niece’s books in Toronto. Even just the cover and name quickly caught my attention as a book we might be interested in. I say “we” because lets face it, if you’re the parent reading a book over and over you want to somewhat enjoy it. As soon as I started to read that first book to my daughter she quickly fell in love with it. There are currently 6 books in the series (#6 just came out so we still have to get it) and although they say they’re geared to kids age 5-8 years old we broke the rules and started reading them at 3. Actually I didn’t know what the ideal age range was…we just liked the books, the message and colourful illustrations to go along with it. They are our first real chapter books but they’re still an easy read. They’re a little longer than her other children’s books yet still a manageable length with content that keeps her interested. Many times we’ve read one of the books in the series from cover to cover in one sitting. She kind of feels like a big girl when we sit down to read one of them and it holds her attention which is amazing. The Princess in Black’s name is now mentioned daily around here as my tutu wearing Isla imagines she’s battling a monster on the beach or park. I feel as if the message in The Princess in Black series is so important, especially for little girls. The book is a little whimsical revolving around princesses, castles & unicorns (often things most little girls love) but shows that even a pink frilly dress wearing princess can be brave & strong.

Of course there are thousands of great books out there and we read tons of different books all of the time having what we like to call “Book Parties”. The above books have become go-to fun books in our home & I imagine these are some of the stand out books that my daughter will one day think about with fond memories about books that were apart of her childhood. I finally get to look forward to our story times together as it’s no longer a struggle or feeling forced. We may have skipped the vast majority of baby books but we’re soaking up every minute of fun toddler books & next level readers.

The following books were mentioned…

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