Entertaining kids on babysitting jobs can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. I find kids books are the perfect companion when babysitting, particularly when meeting children for the first time.
So, what are the best kids books for babysitters? The best books to take on babysitting jobs are the ones that both YOU (the babysitter) and the kids can get excited about, and that either teaches kids something or makes them laugh. It also helps to have games planned that naturally follow after a story ends.
So why books? Don’t kids have their own toys?
Every parent can tell you that anything you bring is something special because it’s new and different for their kids. They most likely have a huge bin, box, or room full of toys but once those toys have sat in their view and reach for about a week, they are no longer as fascinating as whatever you bring.
Books by nature, use much more imagination and open up more dialogue, adventures, and activities.
Books can break the ice
At around 9 months, babies develop what is commonly known as “Stranger Danger” and many kids stay shy and hesitant around new people for years. Having something to distract them from their shyness and redirect their focus onto something new, fun and exciting can help break that initial awkwardness for both of you.
Often this initial introduction happens in front of the parents so having a great ice breaker or distraction from the parents leaving will give the parents confidence in your abilities and experience with children.
This first impression is not only on the child but also the parent and can go a long way towards being rehired.
Books are educational
Reading books provides much more educational and brain stimulating development than watching TV, movies or playing video games (source), (source). Most parents know this but finding the time to read can be challenging. Knowing that their child is being read to while being babysat brings you from a bare minimum level of keeping them safe and fed to becoming a super-sitter who entertains, educates and grows their imagination!
You will become the babysitter they call first every time!
Books are fun
Babysitting can be so much fun but sometimes very hard work! A resource of the right books can be exactly what you need to relieve the work and add even more fun!
What makes a great kids book?
Something that is so essential when picking out kids books, but is often overlooked, is how much YOU (the reader) enjoy the book. There are obviously other important things to consider that we will break down for you below, but first: make sure YOU like the book.
This might sound silly but imagine with me for a minute that you are reading a highly recommended book about trains… however, you think trains are super boring. The book will only be as exciting as the reader makes it.
If you have a genuine love and excitement for a book - that joy is naturally contagious and will get the kids excited too.
Think back to your childhood. What were some books that you absolutely loved? Keep that in mind as you read through the resources below. If you find a classic that you remember and already know you love - it’ll automatically be a better experience for the kids too. The more excited you get about the book - the more they will love and remember it too. This also means a little-exaggerated excitement wouldn’t hurt.
Don’t be afraid to get silly. Get into character. Pull off your funniest accent. Bring a silly prop from home to make the book come to life. You don’t need to go buy a costume. Just look around your room.
Do you have a scarf you could tie around your head to look like a pirate or a stuffed animal, puppet or even sock that you could pretend to be a puppet? What about funny sunglasses or a crazy hat? Even if it has nothing to do with the story - pull out the silly glasses that become your “magic reading glasses” that make you talk in an accent or make you see the creatures in the book come alive. The possibilities are endless - just have fun and be creative with it.
Embracing your silly side and getting the child to laugh is the perfect start to a great night and babysitting relationship!
How to choose which books to bring?
Start by picking books that will teach kids something or make them laugh.
Here’s a helpful tip about children’s humor that not a single Children’s Literature class taught me and I had to learn the hard way. Humor develops with maturity in children - and it’s not as quickly as you would imagine.
For example - there is a wonderful book called “Amelia Bedelia goes to First Grade” I remember loving these books as a kid and was excited to share it with my class. However, every year I read it to my class and came to a funny part I would just get the same blank stares.
Despite the title, this book is NOT for first graders. Most six- and seven-year-olds do not understand most of the sarcasm and word puns that make Amelia Bedelia so funny. Stick to good old fashion silliness (I’m talking about monkeys in pajamas or ducks riding a bike sort of silly).
I would also recommend staying clear of anything questionable with older kids - no potty humor or sparky attitudes unless you know parents approve (such as Captain Underpants or Judy B Jones).
When deciding on the actual book, I would take into consideration two main things: Their age and the activity you want to do afterward.
When getting the call to babysit, the ages of the kids is pretty basic knowledge and if you do not already know the family I would highly recommend at least asking the child/ children’s ages first.
- Babies and Toddlers (6 months - 2 years old)
- Preschoolers (2 - 4 years old)
- School Kids ( 5+ years old)
Before we get to my book recommendations, the other main factor to consider is the activity you would like to follow the book.
How to plan kids activities that follow on from reading
Although having a book-related activity afterward is not necessary I would highly recommend it. Some books have an activity built right into the book - like an “I Spy” book. For other books, you’ll have to get more creative.
When considering an activity, the child’s age and interests are important but I would say the most determining factor is you! What kind of activity are YOU the most comfortable with?
For example, Bartholomew and the OObleck by Dr. Seuss is a classic - a great book that leads right into the activity of making real oobleck. This will undeniably make you an incredible babysitter and it will inevitably be an experience they remember. HOWEVER, it is messy!
How comfortable are you with messes? Does the thought of containing a sticky mess in the kitchen or cleaning up a very messy table and child - and possibly the floor - give you an anxiety attack, or do you just take it in stride because it’s part of playing with kids?
Read our article on cleaning for babysitters to learn what parents typically expect on the job and how to manage their cleaning expecations.
What kind of activity is more your style? What are YOU the most comfortable with? Make sure you consider that first and then most can be adjusted for age or interests of the child.
If you're looking for an easy (and clean) activity for children, print off our Free Kidsit colouring book and bring it along with some coloured pencils to keep the kids entertained for a while.
Best Books for Babies and Toddlers (6 months - 2 years old)
You want me to bring books for a 6-month-old?! Absolutely! I know that seems young but you’d be surprised how early they are intrigued by the bright pictures and pages of a book.
However, babies and young children are far from careful with the pages since they are still developing their motor skills. Luckily, board books are an excellent solution! Small board books that babies can hold are perfect for tiny hands.
Also, consider books that can be put in their mouth as many babies between 6 months to 15 months are teething and put everything in their mouth. (Bring sanitizing wipes and make sure you wipe down anything that goes in their mouth.)
For this young age, children love books with rhymes and songs. These are the kinds of books you can read/sing over and over again. Add motions and make a game/ activity out of it afterward.
Think of the favorites you liked when you were growing up and you may be surprised how much of them you still remember! Here are a few titles to get your toe tapping and memory racing:
- The Itsy Bitsy Spider
- Head Shoulders Knees and Toes
- Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
- The Wheels on the Bus
- Five Green and Speckled Frogs
- No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
We just read most of these today with my 4 and 6-year-old who still love these books! One of our personal favorite versions is Five Green Speckled Frogs. We love the colorful, silly pictures that go with the song! There are many versions of most of these popular rhymes - I would look for ones with great pictures for this age.
World of Eric Carle, My First Library Board Book Block Set
We have also absolutely loved these small board books at our house. They are small enough for even little babies to play with. They come in all sorts of titles - colors, Disney, etc. However, I would recommend a gender neutral set so you can take them for babysitting both boys and girls. (Due to their size - they also make a fun stacking toy!)
Read our babysitting tips for toddlers and infants.
Best Books for Preschoolers (2- 4 years old)
Who Stole the Cookies from the Cookie Jar?
This is a fun book for all ages but you may be surprised that only the older children can play the game back with you. It may take some practice but once they get it they will love any alternatives you come up with. Use their names and objects around the room to change the song a bit once they catch onto it. For example, “Who stole the doll from the toy room?”.
“I know a Wee Piggy” by Kim Norman
This is such a fun book for this age group. It is written to the familiar rhyme of “I know an old Lady” but it is about a silly pig making a mess through a county fair while teaching about colors. These repetitive rhyming books are great for this age because they prepare them to learn to read and this one reviews colors as a bonus! A fun AND educational book takes the prize with this one. Pair it with any basic color learning activity or game to extend for an hour-long fun lesson.
Preschoolers are at the perfect age for all those letters and numbers books. Especially towards four years old they should be getting very familiar with their letters and numbers so books that go in sequential order for them are fun as they begin to be able to guess what will come next.
“Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” by Bill Martin Jr.
This is an absolute classic that is more like a song than a book. Add some actions and let them dance along to the words and see if they can predict the next letters before you turn the page. Let the younger kids clap or stomp as they predict the “boom boom” as you read.
This is one of those books that you can read a few times adding different motions or games each time. When you’re done, cut out some construction paper letters and add the injuries that the letters get in the book. Can you make all the letters in their name? Can they put the letters in order by themselves?
There are just so many options when it comes to fun counting books. Ten Pigs: An Epic Bath Adventure is one of our favorites. Look for fun, bright pictures when picking a counting book. I would also make sure the numbers are big and bold so they stand out and the kids can become familiar with them. This is also a great age to find manipulative books - with flaps or interactive pages of all sorts.
I Spy Picture Riddle Books by Jean Marzollo
I Spy books are one of my favorite books to have on hand with my kids and are an excellent tool for quick and easy entertainment. If you need something to entertain the kids while you make dinner without turning to a screen - these are perfect!
There are tons of different versions but most of them can be played without much reading so as long as you are in the room doing some encouraging and looking every once and a while - they can “read” it on their own.
“I Spy” is also our favorite game to play once the book is done with things around the room. Once kids know their colors they can play and it’s a great way to help them practice their basic adjectives (but they don’t have to know that ;)
King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently
This book could go in any category! I’m struggling to know which age it wouldn’t be fun to read with! You really can’t go wrong with it. It’s a fun, simple book for younger children but easily loved by older kids especially with the activities that come with it.
It’s a rhyming book about a few kids with wild imaginations that build a fort “castle” out of boxes and then fight off “dragons”. Every kid loves making forts! You can get as inventive or be as simple as you want as long as you are careful with moving large furniture and using the couch or bed blankets that are already out. Use your imagination to turn some stuffed animals into dragons and the possibilities are endless!
Read our babysitting tips for preschoolers.
Best Books for School Kids (5+)
The Elephant and Piggie or Pigeon Books by Mo Williems
This series is so fun for 5-7-year-olds. These are newer books that you probably didn’t read growing up but THEY. ARE. HILARIOUS! Or at least the kids will think so.
As I explained above - kids humor can be hard to understand sometimes but this author absolutely nails it! My first graders would read through these books over and over again and laugh hysterically. He is also the same author who wrote the popular “Book with no Pictures”- which if you are an animated reader will leave the kids begging for it to be repeated as well.
This is the only age where I would bring books with more than 3-4 sentences per page. That really isn’t that many words and once you know the kids you may be able to judge this better but children younger than 4 or 5 years old often get really restless sitting still for a longer book. However, at 5 years and older, you can start pulling out your favorites with more of a plot.
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
Remember the book “Caps for Sale”? This book is a fun and clever classic by Esphyr Slobodkina and could lead to some fun origami hat making and decorating. See how many you can stack on your head at one time like the peddler in the book!
Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen
This book is quickly climbing my charts as a favorite. My own children ask for this book repeatedly - and I love it when they do! This is not a humorous book but teaches so many great lessons.
The reason why it’s perfect for babysitting is that every time we read it my 6-year-old daughter wants to pull out some old boxes and turn them into an invention! If you have some old boxes, duck tape, and markers to bring with you. This could lead to an incredibly magical and inventive night for older kids. (Not to mention that If I came home after hiring a babysitter to find a life-size rocket in my living room made out of boxes - parents would be hearing your praises all across town by daybreak!)
Runaway Tomato by Kim Cooley
This is not a popular book but it is one of our favorites at our house. It’s fun to read with a rhyming rhythm and the pictures have the kids fascinated the second and third time looking for something new on the page.
It’s about a town with overgrowing tomatoes and how they deal with enormous tomatoes the size of a hot air balloon bouncing over their streets. The town works together to make the problem fun. It could be a fun introduction to an easy spaghetti dinner!
Kids books by Robert Munsch
Robert is my all-time favorite children’s book author. His books were favorites growing up, they were favorites in my classroom and they are favorites in my own home now with my kids.
My only warning would be that you read them first - for example, there is a book or two about switching clothes that you want to exaggerate as something silly that we would never do or a book or two that says something you may have to adjust like “stupid”. You always want to be precautious about giving children ideas that may be against their parent's approval.
Now, with that warning, these books are hilarious! It is hard to read them without getting into character and having a laugh yourself. Below are two of my favorites that my first graders would ask to have read over and over again.
Purple, Green and Yellow by Robert Munsch
This book would be fun before a coloring activity with markers. Have them draw a picture of themselves to color in funny colors so they aren’t tempted to color their own skin like the character in the book.
Something Good by Robert Munsch
This one would be fun to play “store” or “cashier” afterward with price tags and fake money.
Now, let's look at books for each season:
Fall Kids Books
I love books that go along with the seasons for babysitting. They are a great introduction to encourage some fun and exploration in the backyard with nature especially in the Fall when there is so much you can do with leaves. Here are some of my favorite Fall books and activities to go with them.
The Leaves on the Trees by Thom Wiley
This one is great for ages 2-7 for different reasons. The younger kids will love the catchy melody as the song is written to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus. The older kids will learn how to identify different kinds of leaves and get excited to go and find some in their yard that match the pictures in the book.
When the Leaf Blew in by Steve Metzger
This book is a fun easy read for ages 3-4. The kids have fun predicting what will happen next. However, if you have older kids around as well - it would be a perfect introduction to a cause-and-effect game using dominos lined up down their hall or around their kitchen table. Now that’s a cool babysitter!
Leaf Trouble by Jonathan Emmett
This is a fun book about the colorful falling leaves. I’d recommend this book and the activity afterward for older kids that are at least 5 years old. Bring some thick paper like white construction paper with paints (a set of watercolors is cheap and normally not too messy) for them to create a sunset or Fall scene with the beautiful colors of this season.
Leaves aren’t the only fun things that come with this season. Apples are in season and a fun and healthy treat for babysitting.
Make some edible art by cutting apples a fun way. Try cutting them horizontally across the center to show the star shape that the seeds make in the middle. Use normal slices to make flower designs on the plate. Add some raisins or string cheese to add a leaf or stem. Make a funny face by cutting the apple to make eyes and nose with slices as the mouth.
“Ouch” by Ragnhild Scamell or “Little Mouse and the Big Red Apple” by AH. Benjamin and Gwyneth Williamson are both stories with cute animal creatures and their adventure with an apple. They would both make a great introduction to this fun food activity! It would be perfect with kids ages 4 and older.
Winter Kids Books
Winter can be a great time to cuddle up on the couch with a stack of great books when it is too cold to play for hours outside.
It gets dark outside so early, so get them all ready for bed early and then they feel like they are getting away with something by staying up and reading. Sometimes reading about the snow can be a lot easier than bundling and unbundling, wiping cold noses and dealing with wet snow clothes for only a few minutes of fun.
Jan Brett is my absolute favorite illustrator! She has some beautiful winter books. Most of her books have a longer story plot with detailed pictures so they are great for older kids 5 or older.
The Mitten is a fun story about winter creatures all squeezing into a small winter mitten for warmth. Bring an old glove, mitten or hat and see how many different toys you can stuff inside. Make predictions and see who can stuff the most inside.
Jan Brett also has a version the Gingerbread man called Gingerbread Friends with a surprise pop-up ending! You can bring graham crackers and frosting for a tasty “gingerbread” activity or learn how to make a basic pop-up book after reading this one.
If you do decide to brave the weather with some snow fun. Here are two books to make it more exciting.
Snowman Magic by Katherine Tegen is a fun introduction to snowman building for kids 5 or older and Five Little Penguins Slipping on the Ice is great for kids ages 2-4. It is a simple book that can be sung to the tune of “No more monkeys jumping on the bed”. Bring out some waterproof plastic toys and let the little kids try to slide them across some ice or slippery snow.
Spring Kids Books
Spring is often filled with rainy days that keep us inside as well. Books are the perfect solution to enjoy the season inside. Here are some of my favorites:
Split Splat by Amy Gibson brings the fun of a rainy day alive with the musical bounce that comes with the natural pitter patter and all the other sounds that come with raindrops.
Raindrop Plop! By Wendy Cheyette Lewison Is also a favorite in our house. It’s also a counting book.
Both of these are great for children between 2-4 years old. Depending upon your comfortability with messes this would be a fun introduction to jumping in puddles outside or making your own raindrops inside. We love using science droppers to put colorful raindrops (vinegar with a little food coloring) on all kinds of clouds (piles of baking soda) to see what happens when “magical” raindrops fall.
Summer Kids Books
Summer is a great time for exploring and having picnics! There are excellent books for both of these that are guaranteed to make you a favorite sitter after one day!
We’re going on a Nature Hunt by Steve Metzger is a fun book that reads more like a song and game put to pictures. Bring this book outside to read and then have your own nature hunt around the yard.
Tea Party Rules by Ame Dyckman is a fun favorite at our house and I’m convinced that for kids, picnics make all food taste better. Make a fun picnic basket or be creative with what is in the kitchen. For example - fill up little muffin tins with crackers, apples, cheese sticks, etc. In a fun container and outside in tea party fashion any meal turns into a party every kid will love!
Keep your book recipts!
If you're buying books to read while babysitting you can claim them back on your tax. See our tax guide for details: How to write off babysitting expenses.
Reading is one of the best babysitting activities, not only because kids find stories engaging, educational, and fun, but also because books can nicely lead to many follow-on games and activities that will make you the best babysitter ever!
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