Creative Story Ideas
Write the Best Books for Toddlers

Here are our top creative story ideas, garnered from studies of children's reading development and the best books for toddlers. Find out what makes a good toddler book, and get great ideas for writing a book that appeals to kids aged 1-3:

Creative Story Ideas #1: Write Children's Books about Everyday Activities

Toddlers love stories with simple plots that relate to their own lives and daily activities: for example, Going to Playschool by Sarah Garland; the Tom and Pippo series by Helen Oxenbury: Tom and Pippo's Day; Tom and Pippo Read a Story; Tom and Pippo Go for a Walk; Pippo Gets Lost; Shirley Hughes' Alfie Gets in First; Alfie's Feet; Lucy & Tom's Day; Cathryn Falwell's Feast for Ten; also, The Snowy Day (Caldecott Medal) by Ezra Jack Keats; and Margaret Gordon's Wilberforce series: Wilberforce Goes to Playgroup; Wilberforce Goes on a Picnic; Wilberforce Goes Shopping; Wilberforce Goes to a Party.

Creative Story Ideas #2: Favorite Funny Stories about Messy, Noisy, Naughty Kids

Stories should not be too predictable or mundane: add surprises, suspense and slapstick humor. Kids of this age enjoy reading about naughty children who get into hilarious scrapes: for example, David Shannon's No, David! (Caldecott Honor; this is one rambunctious toddler who draws on walls, tracks in mud and runs naked down the street);and David Goes to School; Vivian French's Oh No, Anna! (messes abound when Anna's around); Not Again, Anna; and Let's Go, Anna; and Patricia Hubbell's Pots and Pans (noisy, chaotic fun when a toddler gets into the pan cupboard).

Creative Story Ideas #3: Favorite Children's Books about Animals

Many toddlers are fascinated with animals. Interesting, well-written books about the natural world, whether in the form of simple tales or non-fiction, find an eager audience among this age group: for example, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, has sold 22 million copies worldwide since it was published in 1969; check out Carle's other bestselling titles too: The Very Busy Spider; Will You Be My Friend?; The Very Quiet Cricket; and Have You Seen My Cat?

Other top sellers are: Jim Arnosky's Rabbits and Raindrops; David Bennett's One Cow Moo Moo!; In the Tall, Tall Grass and In the Small, Small Pond, both by Denise Fleming; Deborah Guarino's Is Your Mama a Llama?; Gail Jorgensen's Crocodile Beat; Robert Kalan's Jump, Frog, Jump!; and Eve Rice's Sam Who Never Forgets (a sure winner with kids, about a zookeeper who never forgets each animal's favorite food).

Kids also enjoy stories about children and their pet animals: for example, Dianne Ochiltree's Pillow Pup; Lisa Kopper's Daisy Thinks She is a Baby; Daisy is a Mommy; Daisy Knows Best; Daisy's Babies; and Good Dog, Daisy!; Lisa Campbell Ernst's Cat's Play; Isabelle Harper's My Dog Rosie; and My Cats Nick and Nora.

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Creative Story Ideas #4: Stories with Animal Characters are Favorites Too

Toddlers love stories with animal characters, especially those with baby animals as the hero/heroine: for example, the Little Crittur stories by Mercer Mayer; the Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik: Little Bear; Little Bear's Friend; A Kiss for Little Bear; Father Bear Comes Home; Little Bear's Visit; Virginia Miller's Bartholomew Bear series: On Your Potty!; Eat Your Dinner!; Get Into Bed!; Be Gentle!; I Love You Just the Way You Are; Martin Waddell and Barbara Firth's Can't You Sleep, Little Bear?; Tanya Linch's Three Little Kittens; Frank Asch's Just Like Daddy; and, of course, the Beatrix Potter classics: The Tale of Peter Rabbit; The Tale of Benjamin Bunny; The Tale of Jemima PUddle-Duck; The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin; The Tale of Tom Kitten; The Story of Miss Moppet; The Tale of Mr Jeremy Fisher.

Books that help children feel loved are perennial favorites; creative story ideas abound in animal tales that successfully portray the love of different creatures for their young. Kids identify with the baby animals in these books and feel reassured of their own parents' love: check out, for example, Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney (this warm tale of a father hare's love has sold 15 million copies worldwide); Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown (bestselling story of a mother's love for her baby); Liza Baker's I Love You Because You're You (a fox's tale of unconditional love); Little Gorilla by Ruth Bornstein (hot seller for more than 20 years); Laura Krauss Melmed's I Love You as Much...

Creative Story Ideas #5: Write Children's Books that Meet Kids' Needs for Love and Self-Esteem

Books that promote self-esteem and self-confidence are popular with toddlers and parents alike; check out On the Day You Were Born by Debra Frasier, and Nancy Tillman's On the Night You Were Born (both books celebrate the birth of a baby and show how special every child is); Giles Andreae's Giraffes Can't Dance (teaches kids it's great to be different); and the classic Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper (encourages self-confidence; kids love the upbeat "I think I can" message and triumphant ending).

Toddlers have a deep need for love - even (or perhaps especially) when they're at their naughtiest and crankiest. Warm stories of unconditional love are hot favorites; kids'll want the same story read to them again and again. Check out Mama, Do You Love Me? by Barbara Joosse; I Love You Just the Way You Are by Virginia Miller; David Shannon's No, David!; and Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. These books also make great bedtime stories.

For more tips and ideas, go to How to Write a Book of Inspirational Stories for Children

Creative Story Ideas #6: Bedtime Stories

Toddlers need to feel loved by their parents; and bedtime stories are well-suited to help forge the bond between parents and their children. Favorite children's books that help kids feel loved are: Goodnight Moon, a multi-million bestseller by Margaret Wise Brown; The Going-to-Bed Book and Snuggle Puppy, both by Sandra Boynton; Time for Bed by Mem Fox; Anne Gutman's Daddy Kisses and Mommy Hugs; Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney; Lauren Thompson's Little Quack's Bedtime; and Love You Forever by Robert Munsch.

Creative Story Ideas #7: Popular Children's Books to Help Toddlers Deal with Challenges

Some toddlers may be facing a new challenge in their lives: the birth of a sibling. Stories that help them come to terms with the changes in their lives that a new baby brings, and deal with their feelings of jealousy, are much in demand: check out Peter's Chair by Ezra Jack Keats; Joanna Cole's I'm a Big Brother; and I'm a Big Sister; and On Mother's Lap by Ann Herbert Scott.

Also hot with this age group are books that deal with common issues such as: toddler tantrums, as in When Sophie Gets Angry - Really, Really Angry (Caldecott Honor) by Molly Bang; separation anxieties, as in Owl Babies by Martin Waddell; facing changes, giving up diapers, high chair, security blanket, as in Mary Murphy's Some Things Change, Shen Roddie's Good-bye, Hello!; Margaret Miller's Now I'm Big; Holly Keller's Geraldine's Blanket; overcoming fears, as in Ed Emberley's Go Away, Big Green Monster!; There's an Alligator under My Bed and There's Something in My Attic, both by Mercer Mayer.

For more tips and ideas, go to How to Write a Book of Inspirational Stories for Children

Creative Story Ideas #8: Write a Good Book that Imparts Values

Also popular with adult purchasers are stories that impart values and morals to toddlers in an unobstrusive way: for example, the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel, which help kids understand the meaning of true friendship: Frog and Toad are Friends; Days with Frog and Toad; Frog and Toad Together; Frog and Toad All Year; Frank Asch's Bear's Bargain (about friends who want to make each other happy); Keiko Narahashi's Two Girls Can (about true friendship); The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle (teaches manners and socially-acceptable behavior); and Martine Agassi's Hands Are Not for Hitting.

For more tips and ideas, go to How to Write a Book of Inspirational Stories for Children

Creative Story Ideas #9: Best Seller Books about the Big, Beautiful World Out There

Growing out of babyhood, toddlers are eager to explore beyond the confines of their everyday lives and learn about novel ideas and adventures, real or imaginary: for example, First Flight by David McPhail (about a toddler going on his first airplane flight); John Coy's Vroomaloom Zoom; Pancakes, Pancakes! by Eric Carle; Sarah Hayes' This Is the Bear; Pat Hutchins' My Best Friend; Mama Don't Allow by Thacher Hurd; Pamela Allen's Who Sank the Boat?; The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr; and Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (Caldecott Medal winner) by William Steig.

Creative Story Ideas #10: Best Selling Books that Stretch Toddlers' Imaginations

Also popular are books that encourage kids to use their imagination, like Where the Wild Things Are (Caldecott Medal winner) by Maurice Sendak; Little Cloud by Eric Carle; Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson; It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles Shaw; Julia Donaldson's The Gruffalo; and The Gruffalo's Child; and We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen.

Creative Story Ideas #11: Favorite Funny Stories & Funny Poems

Toddlers love funny stories, slapstick comedy and silly nonsense: see, for example, Moo, Baa, La La La; Barnyard Dance!; But Not the Hippopotamus, all by Sandra Boynton; Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw; Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann; Mo Willems' Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (Caldecott Honor); and Knuffle Bunny; Margaret Miller's Where Does It Go?; If You Give a Mouse a Cookie; If You Give a Moose a Muffin; and If You Give a Pig a Pancake, all by Laura Numeroff; and Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? by Nancy White Carlstrom.

Read as many of these as you can, to come up with creative story ideas of your own: I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly (Caldecott Honor) by Simms Taback; June Crebbin's Cows in the Kitchen; Go, Dog. Go! by PD Eastman; Lynn Downey's The Flea's Sneeze; Bark, George by Jules Feiffer; My Little Sister Ate One Hare by Bill Grossman; Rosie's Walk by Pat Hutchins; Bernard Most's Cock-a-Doodle-Moo!; A Hat for Minerva Louise by Janet Morgan Stoeke; Harry the Dirty Dog series by Gene Zion; Dr Seuss' Mr Brown Can Moo, Can You?; There's a Wocket in My Pocket!; and Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. by Eileen Christelow.

Creative Story Ideas #12: Interactive Children's Books for Busy Bodies

Toddlers can't keep still, so books that invite movement are a hit with them - and their frazzled parents too. These action books show children and/or animals hopping, stretching, bending, kicking, stomping, flapping their arms, and encourage the child to do the same. Check out From Head to Toe by Eric Carle; Judy Hindley's Eyes, Nose, Fingers and Toes; Zita Newcome's Toddlerobics; and Toddlerobics: Animal Fun; Bill Jones and Susan Kuklin's Dance; and Shake My Sillies Out by Raffi.

Creative Story Ideas #13: Popular Children's Books for Car-Crazy, Plane-Passionate Kids

Many toddlers are plain crazy about vehicles. Books for this niche market can be purely informative or a mixture of fiction and information; this latter gives the inventive writer a wide scope to explore innovative approaches and come up with creative story ideas that combine original plots with fascinating information.

See, for example, Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things that Go; Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks A to Z; Freight Train (Caldecott Honor) by Donald Crews; Roger Priddy's My Big Truck Book; Byron Barton's Airport; Boats; Planes; Trains; Trucks; and I Want to Be an Astronaut.

Look out also for Paul Collicutt's This Train; This Boat; This Car; This Plane; Margaret Mayo's Dig Dig Digging; Henry Pluckrose's Building a Road; Ken Robbins' Giants of the Highway; Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! I'm Off to the Moon! by Dan Yaccarino; Big Trucks, Little Trucks; Fast Cars, Slow Cars; Here Come the Fire Trucks; Trucks That Dig and Dump, all by Peter Spier; and Anne Rockwell's Things That Go.

Creative Story Ideas #14: Funny Poems, Nursery Rhymes & Rhyming Songs

Tales told in rhyme are great for reading aloud: for example, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown; Jez Alborough's Where's My Teddy?; Rain Dance; and Toddler Two-Step; Janie Bynum's Altoona Baboona; Patricia Hubbell's Wrapping Paper Romp; Sea, Sand, Me!; and Sidewalk Trip; Kevin Lewis' Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo; and Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw. Little kids love repetitive language, as in The Lady with the Alligator Purse by Nadine Westcott; they need this repetition to learn words.

Toddlers also enjoy verses with catchy words, wordplay, rhythm and rhyme, that they can repeat over and over again. Rhythm and rhyme also make listening to stories easier and more enjoyable. Look out for The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear; Dr Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham; Hop on Pop; and Mr Brown Can Moo! Can You?; Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins; Over in the Meadow by Ezra Jack Keats; and Ride a Purple Pelican by Jack Prelutsky.

These delightful read-alouds can spark off novel creative story ideas too: Jamberry by Bruce Degen; Stephanie Calmenson's Good for You: Toddler Rhymes for Toddler Times; Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore by David McPhail; See You Later, Alligator by Laura McGee Kvasnosky; Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin and John Archambault; Nancy White Carlstrom's Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?;Charlotte Pomerantz's The Piggy in the Puddle; We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen; Each Peach Pear Plum; and Peepo!, both by Allan Ahlberg.

Creative Story Ideas #15: Educational Toddler Books & Concept Books

These books teach kids educational concepts like the alphabet, colors or numbers, or moral concepts like honesty, loyalty or courage. Teaching abstract concepts to toddlers takes skill: the language has to be clear, simple and concrete, and the text interesting enough to hold the child's attention.

Eric Carle is the author of some of the most successful concept books; check out his Very Hungry Caterpillar; Very Busy Spider; and Very Quiet Cricket. See also Bill Martin Jr's Chicka Chicka Boom Boom; and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?; Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt; Dr Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham; Hop on Pop; and Mr Brown Can Moo, Can You?; Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins; Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton; Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks from A to Z; Are You My Mother?; and Go, Dog. Go!, both by PD Eastman.

Creative Story Ideas #16: Picture Books for Young Kids

A picture book tells a story through the interplay of pictures and words, the pictures being just as important as the text. Toddlers enjoy books with big, realistic pictures in bright colors: check out On the Day You Were Born by Debra Frasier, Harcourt Children's Books, 1991; Yellow Ball by Molly Bang, 1991, Greenwillow; John Burningham's Hushabye, 2001, Knopf, and Mr Gumpy's Outing, 1971, Henry Holt; Alexandra Day's Good Dog, Carl, 1985, Aladdin; and From Head to Toe by Eric Carle, 1997, HarperCollins.

Creative Story Ideas #17: Interactive Children's Books & Multi-Sensory Books

Multi-sensory or touch-and-feel books let kids move flaps, feel textured materials like silk, wool or sandpaper, look through peep-holes and at pop-up pictures, or open up pages to reveal a surprise: see for example, Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt, Golden Books, 2001 (a classic bestseller for many decades; kids love the furry cloth, scratchy paper, shiny mirrors, peekaboos and hidden surprises); and Paul Strickland's Dinosaur Stomp! A Monster Pop-Up, Dutton, 1996.

These are great too: Clare Beaton's One Moose, Twenty Mice, 1999, Barefoot Books (fascinating felt and applique illustrations, with buttons, beads and sequins); Simms Taback's I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, 1997, Viking; David Carter's Says Who? A Pop-up Book of Animal Sounds, 1993, Simon & Schuster; Peek-A-Who? by Nina Laden, Chronicle Books, 2000; and The Wheels on the Bus by Paul Zelinsky, Dutton 1990.

For creative story ideas to help you write stories in a way that grabs toddlers' attention, go to How to Write Stories Kids and Teens Want to Read.

For lists of best selling books for toddlers, together with worldwide sales figures, go to: Top Toddlers' Books

Writing for younger readers? Go to Story Writing Ideas for Baby Books.

Writing for older readers? Go to Preschoolers Kindergartners' Stories: Ideas for Writing a Story.

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