5 Minutes for Books: Begin Smart Books

I am a huge fan of Begin Smart Books. When we started 5 Minutes for Books, I decided to have Carrie, toddler mama, review them, since my youngest child had just turned four. You can find her review of All Gone; One, Two; and and Mommy and Me HERE. We also featured a great essay from Harriet Ziefert, the series creator: On Reading to Infants, Babies and Toddlers.

So when a box of some newer titles landed on my doorstep, I was so happy! What’s more, even though these books are designed for newborns to two years old, my four-year-old son Kyle still enjoys them! I think that as parents we are always tempted to push our kids developmentally — by giving them toys slightly above their age. Sometimes it’s fine, and they can often enjoy them, and we feel like they will “last longer,” but in truth, a toy (or book) that is targeted right where they are is going to benefit them most. I would never buy these books made for young toddlers for him, but I think that the fact that they do hold his interest are a big testament to how great they are.

The Begin Smart Books are all categorized by age: newborn to six months, six to twelve months, twelve to eighteen months, and eighteen to twenty-four months, and are developmentally appropriate to that age range.

For example, in the under six months category, you will find “peekaboo” type books that help reinforce object permanence. Hello, Baby! has a cutout that shows through to the next page — either the baby’s mouth or eyes as an object (a hat, a blankie etc) covers and uncovers. It’s a great pre-cursor to a lift-the-flap book. Begin Smart: Night-Night, Baby is a beautiful, soft fabric book. I love these kinds of books, because babies can snuggle up with them at naptime as they get a bit older, and entertain themselves as they are waking up or trying to go to sleep. This book invites babies to put to bed various creatures: baby, kitty, mouse, pig as you turn the soft blanket from one to the other saying “night, night.” Finally, Baby Faces is a fold-out book that features what babies love to look at most: other babies’ faces!

For babies six to twelve months old, there are books like What Does Baby Do?, which has a sturdy flap that flips over showing a thought and an action. For example: Baby sees a kitty. What does baby do? (flip) Baby makes nice. Nice kitty. Woof features pictures of dogs of all types accompanied by the simple descriptive text: toy dog, noisy dog, happy dog etc. It also has a fun sound-effect button that the baby can push to hear a dog bark. Hi! Bye! is a perfect example of a great developmental book. I’m sure that most people would find it far too simple for their ten-month-old baby, but it’s so cute — dog shaped, thick pages, and it gets the point across. The face shows “hi,” then the page is turned showing the rear of the animal (dog, pig, etc) and the word “bye.”

For twelve to eighteen month babies, explore one of their favorite times, bathtime, with cute felt-type pictures and rhyming text in Splish-Splash.

For the year-and-a-half plus child, Who Am I? is a delightful book that has two hand holds on either side and opens up to give Mommy a place to peek through as she’s reading. Kyle also enjoyed holding this book up and “reading” each page as he made the animal sound and asked me, “Who am I?” Feet Are Neat reminds me a lot of Dr. Seuss with rhyming text that teaches concepts such as opposites (fast and slow feet) and colors (red and green feet, making paint footprints), and numbers (two feet and ten toes).

I cannot recommend Begin Smart Books more highly for your own baby or as a useful and fun baby shower or first birthday (or Christmas!) gift.

One reader (U.S. addresses only) will receive a few Begin Smart books (NOT all the ones listed here). Leave a comment if you want to win, and we will announce the winner in next week’s column (on December 22).

Please see our site’s Terms and Conditions of Use for a complete list of our Contest and Giveaway Rules. This promotion is void where prohibited.

The winner of the signed copy of Matrimony is #13 lifeasamama.


  1. says

    How cool! Some of these books would be just perfect for my granddaughter. I especially like “Woof” and “Hi! Bye!” because she LOVES dogs.

    Thank you for offering this giveaway! :)

    Good luck all!

  2. Laura Harrison says

    Oh. Every baby needs books! I would love to be entered in this. Thank you.
    geneveve2 (at) gmail (dot) com

  3. Alexandra Hancock says

    My 13 month old is constantly bringing me books from his shelf and now we have read them all (over and over). We would both appreciate a few new books. Thanks!

    alexandra dot hancock at gmail dot com

  4. says

    Li’l Empress loves a good “booka booka” and grins her little scrunchy nose grin when one of us suggests reading time. These would be so fun – and something new for us all. One can only read Little Bunny’s Book of Opposites so many times in one day before one goes completely batty.

  5. Stefanie says

    These books sound like fun! My son and I love story time and are always looking for new books to add to the pile.

  6. Tracey says

    Thank you! We’ve been looking for some new books, so even if I don’t win, I’ll be purchasing a few of these for our daughter.

  7. says

    I’m always looking for new books and love that these books help reinforce what the age should be developing. I need to look into these a little more. How exciting! My 3 yr old LOVES books, I read to him a lot. I need to be better about reading to my 10 mo. boy though, he’s totally getting the short end of the stick. Where does the time go???!!

  8. Angela C. says

    I don’t think I’ve ever read any of these. They would be great for my 8 month old.

    accoupons at gmail dot com

  9. Stephanie V says

    books are always welcome in our home — my 18 month old would love some of the older ones reviewed like Who Am I?

  10. says

    I’ve seen these advertised and they look so cute! our twins LOVE to read and we have another baby on the way…so another excuse for more books! yeah!

  11. hawkshoe says

    Books are such a wonderful gift for everyone. My husband has many coworkers who are expecting babies and I would love to win these to give as a gift to one of them.

  12. Diane S says

    i know just the little ones who would love to share these books. ages newborn to 7.
    Thank you for the giveaway

  13. says

    A child can never have too many books…and I like that these ones are “interactive.” Those are always my daughter’s favorite kind. She loves books where you can lift up flaps, smell different scents, etc.

  14. Kathy Scott says

    I told my boys early on that I would always buy them a book. Well, they love to read and are breaking the bank. These books would help a lot.

  15. Janine Brotzman says

    I Would love to win this for my daughter! Thanks for the great giveaway!
    misfitmookie at gmail.com

  16. Debra F says

    I think my pre-schooler would really love these. Thanks for all your great giveaways and happy holidays.

  17. Amy says

    I think its so important to read to your baby and start a foundation for a learning and a love of books – these seem so sweet and perfect for my soon to be new niece. And the third for my little one.

  18. Marcy Strahan says

    Reading is a childs passport to the world! I believe that reading & the love of reading is a foundation to a happy & successful life for anyone!
    I would love to win this & share it with the kids.

  19. Peggy Gorman says

    Awesome giveaway! I believe kids can read at a young age and this is a wonderful start to giving them the gift of reading

  20. Candie L says

    We get so caught up in toys and other brighty toys that we forget how important a book could be for a young child. This would be great for several family friends who have children 1-2 years old

  21. Brenda Park says

    Very nice books, my kids would definitely benefit especially the youngest. Thanks for the chance to win!

  22. Michelle H. says

    I would love to win any of these sets, since I have a large family and am expecting another child.