Tired of Dr. Seuss, Elmo and Pooh? You can teach your child to appreciate the fine arts of painting and literature with this roundup of colorful, educational and simply fun-to-read board books. And you won’t mind your toddler’s requests to read them over and over and over again.
Jane Austen for toddlers
The “Baby Lit” series of board books (BabyLit.com, $10 each) has given new life to Jane Austen and her contemporaries — in a good way. We’re not talking zombies and vampires awkwardly shoved into a storyline. Works like Sense & Sensibility have been downsized to get the point across to toddlers — like learning about opposites — while introducing them to classic works simultaneously. Review numbers with Pride & Prejudice or count along with Dracula, Jane Eyre or Romeo & Juliet. You can even teach weather concepts with Wuthering Heights. It’s a multi-layered approach to learning, and you’ll love hearing your little one say words like “Mr. Darcy,” “Pemberley” or “Dr. Van Helsing.”
Painting without the mess
Whether your child is a fan of finger painting or coloring, and whether you’re a fan of cubism or realism, you can introduce her to the finer points of fine art — as well as concepts like colors and movement — with a lyrical Mini Masters artsy board book (Amazon Prime, $14 for boxed set) or two. Painting with Picasso, A Magical Day with Matisse, Quiet Time with Cassatt, In the Garden with Van Gogh, Dancing with Degas and A Picnic with Monet allow you to look at the work of your favorite artists while reading the delightfully rhyming tale that accompanies each book. Your children are exposed to detailed, thought-provoking pictures that lend themselves to questions and discussions you may have only dreamed of having with your 2-year-old. Now that’s a work of art.
Art becomes life
Engage three of the five senses with the “Touch the Art” collection of board books (various retailers, $13 each). See masterworks, hear accompanying rhymes and appreciate the tactile element highlighted on each page (though some of the board books in this series are more successful at this touch-and-feel element than others). From Frida Kahlo to Edward Hopper to Milton Avery, books like Pop Warhol’s Top, Feed Matisse’s Fish, Catch Picasso’s Rooster, Make Van Gogh’s Bed and Brush Mona Lisa’s Hair present an array of work from different artists, not just the title artist. Watch your child discover delightful enhancements like the 3D eyelashes on the iconic pop art painting of Marilyn Monroe in Pop Warhol’s Top.
Tasty and smart
The American painter Wayne Thiebaud is best known for his representations of food — particularly pastries and candies. And we all know that sweets are one of the best ways to get a child’s attention. In Counting with Wayne Thiebaud (Chronicle Books, $7), Parent and Child will be delighted by this delicious way to learn numbers. Count the hot dogs, the cakes, the ice cream clowns, the pickle rounds. And, there’s even an opportunity to count the vast number of gumballs on the last page — which could keep the more advanced numbers kid busy for hours. Chances are, though, your child will be asking for glimpses of more work from this cherished artist. And that’s a good thing.