Neha Dhupia has some great book recommendations for toddlers
Her two-year-old daughter’s reading list is multilingual
Two year olds have garnered a bad reputation for ruining their motherships’ sleep cycles. They throw one too many tantrums (and breakfasts) while expressing their unfiltered feelings towards porridge. They tend to unleash their inner engineers and behead most of the mini figurines in their play area.
Cut them some slack, the little humans are only engaging with the world around them. And they want you to be a part of their explorations too and vice versa. While you can’t invite them to Zoom meetings or binge-watching sessions, you can certainly make reading hour a group activity.
Neha Dhupia shared her lockdown diary with us, and spilled that reading time is not me-time anymore. “I have managed to finish Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants. But I haven’t read too much during lockdown. I’ve only been reading to my daughter, Mehr. None of the books I’ve been reading will make sense to any one except for mommies,” she says, offering her picks of books for toddlers.
We live for reading recommendations of all kinds. And we know one too many moms struggling to discover more engaging books for toddlers, because the experts agree this will help your mini-me’s brain grow faster.
A 2019 study that involved MRI images of children’s brains shows that reading to kids younger than five boosts brain development. It plays a huge role in assisting with your child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development as Dr Swati Popat Vats, president, Podar Education Network, explained in our story on interactive books for kids.
We picked Dhupia’s brains to help other mommies get ideas and secretly, we wanted to rediscover the vibrant board books and escape to an alternate universe of limitless possibilities and happiness.
Guided by the actress, we found a caterpillar that eats his way through the week (much like most babies and a lot of adults), an elephant fighting a bout of cold and a tried-and-tested classic.
5 books for toddlers that your little humans will love
Gajapati Kulapati by Ashok Rajagopalan
It’s a little book with larger-than-life illustrations that tells us a simple story with a big heart.
Rajagopalan’s book asks a question that even adults struggle to answer: What happens when an elephant (the mighty Gajapati Kulapati) catches a cold after getting wet in the rain, and can’t stop sneezing? With one ginormous “Aaachhooooo”, he disrupts village life: a banana seller collides with the postman who further knocks down a cow and so on.
When the sneeze-fest ends, villagers come together to build him a shelter.
Gajapati Kulapati is loaded with lessons in kindness towards animals and each other. And there’s a second book in the series too, titled, Gajapati Kulapati Kalabalooosh, where the endearing elephant takes a splash in the community pool, throwing everyone else out.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
It’s been 51 years since this hungry caterpillar entered our lives, and it’s the undisputed king among books for toddlers. According to Penguin Random House, a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar is sold somewhere in the world every 30 seconds.
As you read this tale of evolution out to your toddler, the caterpillar also reminds you of the importance of clean eating and a cheat day.
In this Eric Carle classic, we follow the giant green caterpillar’s life, with a special focus on its diet, for a week. After hatching on a Sunday, the caterpillar overeats nutritious fruits (apples, plums and so on) through the week, and binge eats fast-food on Saturday (relatable much?), and finally feasts on a leaf on Sunday before hitting the snooze button. Two weeks later, voila! It’s a vibrant, little butterfly.
Teach your little ones the first lesson in metamorphosis before they move on to Kafka much later in life. And keep a fruit salad handy.
The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle
Yet another enduring Carle classic.
A grumpy ladybug tries to pick a fight with everyone in the animal kingdom: a fellow bug, a beetle, a lobster, a rhinoceros, a chest-beating gorilla and a gigantic whale.
Everybody refuses to indulge the bug — and responds with kindness and smiles. At the end of the day, when the annoyed whale’s tail flips the ladybug back to the starting point, another bug offers the Groucho Max some dinner, which calms it down.
It doesn’t take too much to be kind and Carle repeats the message throughout the 15-pager with vivid illustrations. The book will paint little acts of kindness in your tiny one’s memory forever. The book will also make your toddler couch-surf through a zoo in these times of confinement.
There’s an Owl in My Towel by Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb
This engaging board book is a one-of-a-kind party starter. With every flip, the protagonist in a diaper moves from one daily activity to another, but each chore is interrupted by a different animal. With simplistic watercolour illustrations, the text in the book is written in the form of three-liner rhymes.
‘A hare on my chair’, ‘a mole in my bowl’, ‘lamb in my pram’ and so on. But each roadblock is also met with a delightful action-led solution — like asking the hare to go back into its burrow. With one flip of the flap, the hare disappears — the interactive book is filled with these secret flaps and promises to keep your child busy for hours.
Donaldson has also composed a song which you can access by scanning the QR code in the book.
Little Red Riding Hood and other classic fairy tales
Dhupia swears by the tried-and-tested approach and goes back to her own childhood as she recommends classic fairy tales to all young mothers looking to fill bookshelves. Little Red Riding Hood and the big bad wolf howl from the top of the list.
You may need to sew a red cape for your entranced toddler after you’ve finished reading this to them. Keep the knitting kit handy.