Welcome to our second annual 12 days of Christmas series. Be sure to read all the post from this series on the 12 Days of Christmas page.
One of our favorite holiday traditions is reading together each night at bedtime–especially books themed around the season. The excitement builds as the big day draws near, and the littles fall asleep with visions of sugar plums and holiday magic filling their dreams. Picture books are wonderful tools for teaching children reading skills and helping to start conversations with them. Be sure to spend time discussing the pictures with your child as you read aloud. You are creating wonderful memories!
This list is a sampling of some of the best Christmas books for toddlers and preschoolers. I have read these time and time again with my kids, and they really stand the test of time. These books will certainly help get you in the spirit of the holiday and get your little ones excited about the big day.
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The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett is a wonderful example of using a picture to tell a story. Brett’s story within a story illustrations feature Ukranian motifs inspired by the author’s travels, as Little Teeka attempts to train Santa’s reindeer for their Christmas ride, but things aren’t going too smoothly!
Christmas in the Big Woods is an adaptation from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, artfully rendered for younger children. The story of the Ingalls family’s Christmas in the Big Woods is a classic that highlights the simple joys of the holiday. If you enjoy spending time in the kitchen with your little ones, this book is a fun precursor to an afternoon of Christmas baking.
Max’s Christmas by Rosemary Wells features mischievous Max, a bunny who is always getting into predicaments which his big sister Ruby must manage. Determined to stay awake to see Santa, Max’s responses to Ruby’s questions will leave little ones giggling. At the end, be sure to ask your child why Max stayed up for Christmas!
I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Holly Hobbie is a gorgeously illustrated classic featuring the endearing Toot and Puddle, two pig friends who are stranded apart from each other during a snowstorm on Christmas Eve. This one will make you want to seek out all the books in this series.
Merry Christmas, Mouse! is an adaptation of Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bonds Mouse Cookie books. In this board book, preschoolers can count along as Mouse adds ornaments to the tree one-by-one. Enjoy this romp through numbers, and encourage your little ones to shout them out each time.
Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeline’s Christmas features the girls from Miss Clavel’s school, and they aren’t feeling too well at Christmas. Spend some time in Paris as the girls take a magical journey.
The Little Fir Tree by Margaret Wise Brown is magically illustrated by Jim Lamarche. First published in 1954, it is a timeless story of love, hope, and miracles. A small fir tree sits alone in the forest over the years until it grows big enough to become a Christmas tree. The anticipation of the little boy is captured in both the text and the illustrations as the father brings the tree home and places it in the little boy’s room for Christmas. Read more about this favorite of ours here.
Eve Bunting’s lyrical prose, along with captivating illustrations by Ted Rand, pulls readers into the story from the first page of Night Tree, a nature lover’s must-have picture book for the holiday season. The book portrays a surprising and wonderful Christmas experience as the loving family heads out into the woods with blanket and supplies in hand to find their tree. You will be inspired to go outside and explore nature with your little ones after reading this one. Read more about our love of this book here.
Santa Claus the World’s Number One Toy Expert by Marla Frazee is just plain fun. Imaginations run wild as young readers get a sneak peek inside Santa’s toy shop. How does Santa know the perfect gift to bring each child? With an unexpected ending, this book has several surprises hidden in the pictures that will make you flip back through after you finish it.
The Night Before Christmas is a Christmas classic. I love the nostalgia of this Little Golden Book version, which has been re-printed from the 1949 original. There are some wonderful adaptations of this story available, but this one is my favorite.
Petunia’s Christmas by Roger Duvoisin is another nostalgic favorite, first published in 1952. Petunia is a spunky goose who is determined to save her gander from becoming Christmas dinner. Not for kids who are especially sensitive to knowing where their dinner comes from, but this one does have a happy ending for the geese.
The Cowboy’s Christmas by Joan Walsh Anglund was originally published in 1972, It is the story of a boy and his imaginary friend, Bear, who are preparing for Christmas with lots of imagination. The illustrations feature black and red drawings that show the real and imaginary worlds of the little cowboy. If you have a little boy, this one is a must.
Chris Van Allsburg’s Polar Express has become a classic example of the magic of the Christmas season. The mystery and suspense of this ethereal journey sweeps you away. The movie version is pretty good, but be sure to read the original.
Dream Snow by Eric Carle is a multi-sensory book with a surprise at the end, after a farmer dreams of a snowstorm that will cover him like a blanket. There are animals, numbers, snow, twinkly things, and a fun surprise. What more could you want in a picture book? (Oh, yeah–Eric Carle’s mastery!)
Olive, the Other Reindeer By J.otto Seibold is an irresistibly fun version of Santa’s Christmas Eve voyage, as Olive the dog/reindeer saves the day. Even young kids will get the humor of this twist on the holiday.
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, because Dr. Seuss–and the Grinch. Don’t just settle for the TV special. Read it, too!
Olivia Helps with Christmas is Ian Falconer’s witty story of a confident piglet who is busily at the center of Christmas preparations with her family. I think all of us have an inner Olivia. The black and white illustrations with strategic touches of color capture the imagination and make this book such a unique classic.
Carl’s Christmas features Alexandra Day’s beloved rottweiler Carl in a book with hardly any words, making the story telling come alive through the pictures. Read it over and over again, re-telling it with your child in new ways each time. What adventures will baby and Carl find?
Charlie and the Christmas Kitty (Charlie the Ranch Dog) by Ree Drummond and illustrated by Diane deGroat follows the Pioneer Woman’s beloved dog Charlie as he gets an unexpected new friend for Christmas. Down home fun, holiday spirit, and family will make you smile as you follow Charlie’s adorable life. The pictures tell the story so well in this book, too.
Another engaging selection from Rosemary Wells is Morris’ Disappearing Bag, which is especially relatable for little ones who happen to be the youngest among siblings. When nobody wants to play with Morris’ toy, who ends up getting the last laugh?
Finally, Bob and 6 more Christmas Stories by Sandra Boynton introduces young readers to poetry in an engaging tabbed board book format. Your youngsters will giggle as you read/sing this one aloud!
Anne Campbell is a writer, editor, and homeschool consultant. Homeschooling for 15 years, she recently graduated her first son, who learned at home from K5 to college. Anne enjoys customizing learning experiences to meet the needs of her 3 boys as they embrace the lightbulb moments of discovery every day. She is a VIPKID teacher and teaches homeschool teens through literature study, research paper writing, and living history experiences. Visit Anne’s blog, Learning Table, for help navigating everything homeschool, from early learning to college admission, at http://www.MyLearningTable.com. Follow Learning Table’s adventures on Facebook and Instagram, and Pinterest.