5 Minutes for Books: Begin Smart Books

by Jennifer Donovan

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.

Email Author    |    Website About Jennifer Donovan

Jennifer Donovan has been a part of the 5 Minutes for Mom team since 2007. She writes product reviews, covers events, and manages the 5 Minutes for Books weekly column and website. She lives in Houston and blogs at Snapshot about life with her family.

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1 Mama Bub December 15, 2008 at 12:16 am

These are precious. I’ll be ordering some regardless.

2 karen c. December 15, 2008 at 12:21 am

My toddler would love some new books!

3 Heather December 15, 2008 at 12:21 am

I hadn’t heard of these before–they’d be great for my little girl.

4 Amy December 15, 2008 at 12:21 am

Excellent giveaway! Yes, please enter me!

5 Nicole December 15, 2008 at 12:21 am

My little guy would love these!


6 Jesica December 15, 2008 at 12:26 am

oh we love books – and these look super. Thanks for the great giveaway

7 Elizabeth December 15, 2008 at 12:27 am

My baby and I love Begin Smart books. We only have a few, but they are her favorites!

8 Anny December 15, 2008 at 12:29 am

I would love to these for my granddaughter.

9 Celeste December 15, 2008 at 1:19 am

My littles would have so much fun with these!

10 Krista December 15, 2008 at 1:44 am

Yay, we can always read more books!

11 Sheri December 15, 2008 at 1:45 am

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!

12 stacey December 15, 2008 at 2:08 am

That “Who Am I?” book is darling. Thanks for this giveaway.

13 aubien December 15, 2008 at 3:19 am

We love books in our house. Probably read 15-20 a week! Thanks for the giveaway…we’d love to add these to our treasures.

14 Audrey December 15, 2008 at 3:59 am

Awesome! Sign me up!

15 Jamaise December 15, 2008 at 4:36 am

We are book monsters here. We’d love to win!

16 Lori (teacher turned mommy) December 15, 2008 at 5:18 am

I’ve never seen these before and they look neat!

17 kristie December 15, 2008 at 7:14 am

Sounds great! Sign me up!

18 C. clemens December 15, 2008 at 7:19 am

hi, enter me to win this nice prize

19 Laura Harrison December 15, 2008 at 7:50 am

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

20 ReggieMann December 15, 2008 at 8:00 am

Would love to win these for my 17-month old niece :)

21 MRS.MOMMYY December 15, 2008 at 8:24 am

oh I love books- its like jumping into an adventure each time

22 Alexandra Hancock December 15, 2008 at 8:31 am

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

23 The Gang's All Here! December 15, 2008 at 8:52 am

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.

24 stephanie December 15, 2008 at 9:02 am

We <3 books at our house.

25 Carey December 15, 2008 at 9:22 am

I would love to win.

26 Mom24 December 15, 2008 at 9:34 am

Ooooh! I want these. What a great idea.

27 Stefanie December 15, 2008 at 9:47 am

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

28 Keeling December 15, 2008 at 9:56 am

I want to win! :)

29 Susan Heim December 15, 2008 at 10:13 am

These sound like wonderful books. I’d love to win some!

30 Through The Canon December 15, 2008 at 10:19 am

My babies would love these books!

31 Andria December 15, 2008 at 10:26 am

Great books for the kiddos! THanks.

32 chyk December 15, 2008 at 10:37 am

we think this is fab

33 Melanie December 15, 2008 at 10:56 am

My daughter loves books more than anything and would love these!

34 Carissa December 15, 2008 at 11:00 am

The twins would LOVE these!

35 PisecoMom December 15, 2008 at 11:08 am

The frog-on-the-cover version of Who Am I is my 2 yo daughter’s favorite! I’d love more books in this line. Thanks!

36 Tracey December 15, 2008 at 11:09 am

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.

37 Pat December 15, 2008 at 11:12 am

These books are adorable!

38 Maja December 15, 2008 at 11:13 am

great books

39 Maja December 15, 2008 at 11:14 am


40 jodi December 15, 2008 at 11:21 am

these look like great books – thanks!

41 Michele December 15, 2008 at 11:24 am

We would love to add this to the baby books we already own! They sound great.

42 Richelle F December 15, 2008 at 11:25 am

These look great!

43 Richelle F December 15, 2008 at 11:26 am

I’m subscribed to your feed.

44 Shelly December 15, 2008 at 11:42 am

I love books, but haven’t purchased any of these. I would love to give them a try!

45 Terri December 15, 2008 at 11:53 am

would love to win

46 Mary December 15, 2008 at 11:59 am

These books look great!

47 Briana December 15, 2008 at 1:08 pm

I would love these!

48 Briana December 15, 2008 at 1:08 pm

I subscribe to the feed

49 Briana December 15, 2008 at 1:09 pm

and the newsletter

50 Briana December 15, 2008 at 1:10 pm

and have your button on my blog

51 Marisa M December 15, 2008 at 1:12 pm

My 18 month old would love them– he is really into books right now.

52 Sheila Capell December 15, 2008 at 1:28 pm

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???!!

53 Michelle Rosborough December 15, 2008 at 1:33 pm

Cute books

54 Michelle Rosborough December 15, 2008 at 1:34 pm

I’m on your newsletter list

55 Linda December 15, 2008 at 1:43 pm

I would love to win one of these books for my little grandson

56 Rebecca December 15, 2008 at 1:44 pm

I’ve never heard of these before, but would love to try them! We LOVE books at our house!

57 Michelle December 15, 2008 at 1:54 pm

Sound cute to me. We love books. :D

58 Bettina December 15, 2008 at 1:57 pm

We sure do love to read around here!

59 susan varney December 15, 2008 at 2:01 pm

loove to win

60 becky fitzpatrick December 15, 2008 at 2:02 pm

would love to win

61 Adrienne! December 15, 2008 at 2:11 pm

Would love these!

62 Adrienne! December 15, 2008 at 2:11 pm

Subscribe to your feed!

63 Adrienne! December 15, 2008 at 2:11 pm

And your newsletter!

64 michele anne jaquays December 15, 2008 at 2:36 pm

A nice gift for my nieces and nephews

65 Angela C. December 15, 2008 at 2:41 pm

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

66 Jaclyn Reynolds December 15, 2008 at 2:44 pm

Would love to win this for my youngest son! He would really enjoy it!

67 mariadelgado32302 December 15, 2008 at 2:47 pm

Sounds really cool.

68 Jill W December 15, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Sounds right up my 20 month old’s alley, thanks!

69 Jen December 15, 2008 at 3:07 pm

My boys would love this!

70 Stephanie V December 15, 2008 at 3:19 pm

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

71 Denise December 15, 2008 at 3:21 pm

I’d loves some books for my youngest.

72 Angie L December 15, 2008 at 3:45 pm

My little girl would live these.

73 Sheila December 15, 2008 at 4:18 pm

These would be great for my daughter!

74 staceyk December 15, 2008 at 4:59 pm

What great looking books!

75 Marlena U. December 15, 2008 at 4:59 pm

We love books and would love to win! Thanks!!

76 Lisa C December 15, 2008 at 5:11 pm

I’d love to win these books for my son!

77 Kat R December 15, 2008 at 5:45 pm

What a great way to introduce your child to reading and books

78 ellen cunningham December 15, 2008 at 6:02 pm

I’d love to win these for my son. Thanks for the chance.

79 judy brittle December 15, 2008 at 7:17 pm

I would just love these for my grandchildren. Thank you so much!

80 Adrienne Gordon December 15, 2008 at 7:30 pm

great books

81 Barb December 15, 2008 at 10:05 pm

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!

82 Michael Capp December 15, 2008 at 10:07 pm

I’d love to win!

83 Amy December 15, 2008 at 10:54 pm

We check these books out of the library but we would love to have our own!!

84 christopher h December 15, 2008 at 11:06 pm

love to win these

85 Amy from Occupation: Mommy December 16, 2008 at 12:06 am

My 19 month old would love these!

86 leah December 16, 2008 at 12:08 am

These books would be awesome for my little nephew!

87 Stephen Saunders December 16, 2008 at 12:34 am

Merry Ho Ho!

88 stampedwithgrace December 16, 2008 at 12:43 am

subscriber :)

89 stampedwithgrace December 16, 2008 at 12:43 am

I get your newsletter!

90 stampedwithgrace December 16, 2008 at 12:43 am

these books sound great :)

91 stampedwithgrace December 16, 2008 at 12:44 am

your button’s on my blog!

92 grubmama December 16, 2008 at 12:49 am

I just looked up some baby books for my dd!

93 Julie Donahue December 16, 2008 at 2:00 am

This looks great!

94 Julie Donahue December 16, 2008 at 2:00 am

I have your button on my blog.

95 Julie Donahue December 16, 2008 at 2:01 am

I sub to the newsletter

96 Dree December 16, 2008 at 2:16 am

I love these books.

97 Amanda December 16, 2008 at 2:42 am

These would be wonderful for my son!!

98 Amanda December 16, 2008 at 2:44 am

I am a subscriber :)

99 Amanda December 16, 2008 at 2:47 am

I get your newsletter as well!

100 Ronni Fox December 16, 2008 at 5:37 am

Just perfect for my adorable grandaughter..she is just developing an interest in books.

101 rachel burke December 16, 2008 at 5:41 am

i want these books

102 Alicia December 16, 2008 at 8:18 am

What fun!

103 Mar Detrick December 16, 2008 at 8:34 am

Thanks for the great suggestions!

104 Susan C December 16, 2008 at 10:44 am

I would love to read Night Night Baby to my 8 month old grandson!
smchester at gmail dot com

105 Diana December 16, 2008 at 11:36 am

This is adorable. I really like the toddler who am I book. so cute.

106 Heather December 16, 2008 at 11:50 am

My two year old would love these.

107 hawkshoe December 16, 2008 at 12:00 pm

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.

108 Diane S December 16, 2008 at 1:14 pm

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

109 Diane S December 16, 2008 at 1:14 pm

i am a subscriber

110 Renee December 16, 2008 at 2:50 pm

These are cute. Would love to win!

111 Katharine December 16, 2008 at 3:29 pm

These sound like wonderful books. I like the bold gaphic illustrations

112 Stephanie December 16, 2008 at 4:53 pm

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.

113 Jessica T December 16, 2008 at 5:52 pm

This would make a great gift!

114 Kathy Scott December 16, 2008 at 6:14 pm

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.

115 MJ December 16, 2008 at 10:25 pm

I’d love to have these. They sound great for the little ones.

116 The Diaper Diaries December 16, 2008 at 10:42 pm

My little one loves books. Count me in!!

117 Shannon Baas December 16, 2008 at 10:54 pm

Wonderful idea.

118 Kathy Amos December 16, 2008 at 11:32 pm

This is a great giveaway

119 Mustangkayla December 17, 2008 at 12:05 am

What a great give-away! My son and I usually read at least an hour a day! We just LOVE books!

120 Michelle December 17, 2008 at 12:47 am

can never have too many books!

121 Mozi Esme's Mommy December 17, 2008 at 8:19 am

These books look wonderful! And I have a US address.

122 jan koontz December 17, 2008 at 12:18 pm

just to cool

123 Jay December 17, 2008 at 2:36 pm

Please enter me!

124 Mike Weisberg December 17, 2008 at 5:52 pm

I want to win

125 John Mizell December 17, 2008 at 10:40 pm

Grandson would love these

126 thompmalice December 17, 2008 at 11:01 pm

I’d love to win these for my grandson.

127 Vicky Boackle December 18, 2008 at 12:34 am

great for my grandson.

128 Miranda Kuskie December 18, 2008 at 9:34 am

These are such cute books! My toddler would definitely love to read them with me.

129 Jennifer F December 18, 2008 at 11:45 am

My daughter would love these books.

130 Vicki Wurgler December 18, 2008 at 8:13 pm

delightful books-I’d love to read these to my grandkids

131 ky2here December 18, 2008 at 10:35 pm

These look like great books.

132 Terra Heck December 19, 2008 at 4:58 am

These would be great books for my young’un.

133 Hesper F December 19, 2008 at 5:12 pm

The books sound great! Thanks for the chance.

134 Jennifer R December 19, 2008 at 5:24 pm

My daughter would love some new books!

135 Andria Shelton December 19, 2008 at 6:03 pm

These books sound wonderful, I would love a chance to win.

136 REBECCA TOWNER December 19, 2008 at 9:46 pm

would love to win

137 Martha Payne December 19, 2008 at 10:17 pm

Please count me in and thanks for the contest!
codisweepstakes at gmail dot com

138 Bobv December 20, 2008 at 12:43 am

Great prize, enter me please.

139 SHELLEY VILLARREAL December 20, 2008 at 12:51 am

Would be greatful to win. Thanks a bunch.

140 Ann Marie Walker December 20, 2008 at 1:36 am

Thanks for the great giveaway. I have 2 little ones that would enjoy them.

141 Jennifer M December 20, 2008 at 2:18 am

I would love to have these for my daughter and any other children we might have.

142 Lori Z. December 20, 2008 at 8:05 am

I’m constantly looking for colorful books that my son might like and these look great!

143 Janine Brotzman December 20, 2008 at 10:18 am

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

144 Heather B December 20, 2008 at 10:58 am

These are cute, my daughter would love them

145 Melissa Butler December 20, 2008 at 11:45 am

Love these books ~ I am a firm believer in reading to your child, from infancy on.

146 Steph Elias December 20, 2008 at 1:35 pm

Looks like a great set of books.

147 Rosanne December 20, 2008 at 2:36 pm

I’d love to win these great books

148 Jessica Davidson December 20, 2008 at 3:15 pm

Pick me!

149 Debra F December 20, 2008 at 4:23 pm

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

150 Amy December 20, 2008 at 5:11 pm

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.

151 Marion B December 20, 2008 at 5:11 pm

These would be cool for my niece!

152 Cassandra December 20, 2008 at 5:23 pm

Great books–thanks!

153 Ed Nemmers December 20, 2008 at 6:16 pm

Happy Holidays!

154 john ferris December 20, 2008 at 9:44 pm

A fantastic set of books. Please enter me.

155 mary boemmel December 20, 2008 at 10:00 pm

Would love this for my grandson.

156 Lisa Fosses December 20, 2008 at 10:16 pm

these books would make great gifts

157 Dan December 20, 2008 at 10:21 pm

My kids would like these

158 Sherrie December 20, 2008 at 10:23 pm

This would be great.

159 Kristin Harvey December 20, 2008 at 10:39 pm

this would be great

160 Angela DeBonis December 20, 2008 at 10:42 pm

Oooo Sign me up! Thanks

161 renee December 20, 2008 at 11:03 pm

we love books at my house and want to try these

162 gina snow December 20, 2008 at 11:13 pm

i would love to win

163 David Nguyen December 20, 2008 at 11:15 pm


164 Renee G December 20, 2008 at 11:52 pm

These look like great books.


165 Lara Aleff December 21, 2008 at 12:22 am

I’d love to win these great books!

166 Angela Prater December 21, 2008 at 12:27 am

I would love to win – these look like great books.

167 Aniela R. December 21, 2008 at 12:41 am

These look really cute, I’d love to have them for our new baby.

168 Chrysa December 21, 2008 at 2:05 am

They look great!

169 Patricia December 21, 2008 at 4:06 am

Very young children can learn to read…….I would like to win!

170 louise December 21, 2008 at 4:34 am

I would heart win these for my grandsons.ty 4 the entry:)

171 Elizabeth M. December 21, 2008 at 6:42 am

These sound just super!

172 Marcy Strahan December 21, 2008 at 10:20 am

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.

173 Peggy Gorman December 21, 2008 at 10:34 am

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

174 Cindy Ellis December 21, 2008 at 10:47 am

This would be for my granddaughter

175 Kristen December 21, 2008 at 12:02 pm

My little girl would love these! There are terrific!

176 Jessica Rowe December 21, 2008 at 12:12 pm

I would love this for my girls!

177 Sarah Berry December 21, 2008 at 12:46 pm

My DD loves books I would love to win this for her. Thanks

178 claudette flanigan December 21, 2008 at 2:19 pm

how fun! My daughter-in-law would just love to have these for our little guy!

179 Candie L December 21, 2008 at 2:31 pm

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

180 Brenda Park December 21, 2008 at 4:13 pm

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

181 Pamela White December 21, 2008 at 5:14 pm

Very cute books, my son could use some new ones.

182 Kelly L December 21, 2008 at 5:38 pm

I love giving and receiving books as gifts. My daughter would love these. Thanks!

183 angela cisco December 21, 2008 at 7:50 pm

I would love to win this!

184 Brenda S. December 21, 2008 at 7:50 pm

My grandkids (toddler) would love some new books! thanks!

185 Lily Kwan December 21, 2008 at 8:18 pm

Please enter me into the contest. Thanks!

186 Kristyn Martin December 21, 2008 at 9:59 pm

I would love to win this for my son! Thanks for the chance!

187 kathy pease December 21, 2008 at 10:26 pm


188 Michelle H. December 21, 2008 at 10:40 pm

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

189 Donna K December 22, 2008 at 1:40 am

Please, count me in.

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