Choosing Chinese Books for Babies and Toddlers – Montessori-Friendly Tips and Examples

Babies prefer to look at faces

Most parents know that regular reading is important for raising a bilingual baby. However, they aren’t sure how to choose the best books for babies and toddlers.

The question we should ask is “What do babies want to see?”

In this media-dominated world, Disney, Marvel, Pinkfong, and other cartoons have made this confusing for parents.  However, no matter what language your family speaks, books that show reality are most useful.

First, I’ll explain why, and then I’ll give specific examples. Most of my recommendations are Montessori-friendly Chinese books for babies, but I have included links to English versions when available.


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What are babies trying to learn?

When babies are born, they are trying to learn about the real world!  They are wondering:

  • “Are my parents happy or sad?”
  • “Who is that stranger?”
  • “What is making that barking sound?”

Extensive research has shown that babies have an innate preference for visualizing humans and animals as they learn to discriminate facial expressions and body language.  They are also listening intently to our voices and learning the pattern of our inflections.  In other words, children learn how to read situations (eg, faces, emotions) well before they read letters and words.

The ideal Chinese books for babies and young toddlers

When you’re shopping for your child’s first books, look for:

  • Thick pages (easy to turn)
  • Hardcover/board books (can withstand drool and normal mouthing behavior!)
  • Real photos or realistic illustrations
  • Simple text
  • No clutter
  • No flashing lights or animation

Why children need books with realistic images

Long before modern research, Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator, observed that children need a solid foundation of concrete experiences before they are able to think abstractly.  Therefore, until your child understands make-believe from reality, it’s best to limit books about fantasy.

You’ll notice that our home library has a large variety of fiction and non-fiction books, and my kids have seen it all.  However, the books with real or realistic images, do the best job at capturing attention and satisfying curiosity from infancy to toddlerhood and beyond.

Real/realistic images have wonderful details to see and discuss.  Regardless of the complexity of the storyline, babies and young toddlers usually don’t have the patience to listen to complete stories yet.  They are mainly observing and learning how to describe people, animals, objects, and other things they see in this world!

My 19-month-old son loves all of the books in this post, and even my 4-year-old daughter, who reads Chinese at a 1st-grade level, still enjoy looking at the pictures in board books!

Realistic, Montessori-friendly Chinese Books for Babies and Toddlers

Without further ado, here are our favorite Montessori-friendly Chinese books for babies and toddlers!

Please note that you don’t need to get every book on this list.  Choose a few that you think your child will like.  Keep in mind that some children will enjoy these books through toddlerhood while others may outgrow them by age 2.

And don’t worry if you are not able to find these exact books. This should give you a sense of what to look for in your local library or favorite bookstore!

Chinese Books For Babies

1. Chinese Books for Babies and Toddlers: Roger Priddy Happy Baby Books (Words, Animals, Colors, etc)

These books are excellent first books for young children to hold.  The photographs are clear and stand out against the white background.  Kids love looking at photos, especially images of babies! The text is simple and easy to read.  In addition, the kids in the book have different ethnicities!

Where to buy:

Chinese Books For Babies
Chinese Books For Babies - Animals
Chinese Books For Babies - Animals
Chinese Books For Babies - Animals
Chinese Books For Babies

2. Chinese books for babies and toddlers: Roger Priddy First 100 Words Books

This set is similar to the Happy Baby series.  The pages are a little busier than the Happy Baby books, but the images are generally straightforward and easy for a young child to recognize.

My only problem with this book is that they use candy as an example for counting to number eight.  Before my daughter could read, she insisted that these were balls (see image below).

Where to Buy:

Chinese Books For Babies

Eric Carle Does Kangaroo Have a Mother? ChineseEric Carle Does Kangaroo Have a Mother? ChineseEric Carle Does Kangaroo Have a Mother? Chinese
3. Does Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too? 袋鼠是也有妈妈吗?

Although Eric Carle books have mostly artistic illustrations, some of the books have illustrations that represent real animals.  I think “Does Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too?” is a great book for babies, because the animals are proportional and the colors are generally true to life.

Other classic Eric Carle books are still wonderful to have at home!  For example, the kids love “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” and “Hungry Caterpillar“.  However, my advice is for young kids to learn information about real animals first.

Where to buy:

Related: Eric Carle books in Chinese and Korean!

A Nest in Springtime Chinese Baby Book

4. Chinese books for babies and toddlers: A Nest in Springtime (春天的鸟巢)

This is a short and sweet story about little goslings hatching in Spring.  Children learn new words about spring and how to count to eight in Chinese!

Where to buy:

  • Amazon (Traditional Chinese with pinyin and English)
A Nest in Springtime Chinese Baby Book
A Nest in Springtime Chinese Baby Book

5. Chinese books for babies and toddlers: 宝宝的传统儿歌 (Book + CD)

These nursery rhymes and CDs are very cute and fun for babies and toddlers!  In the CD, the rhymes are spoken with catchy music in the background.  Highly recommend!

Please see this post for details about 宝宝的传统儿歌.

Dear Zoo Chinese board book for babies

6.  Chinese books for babies and toddlers: Dear Zoo (亲爱的动物园)

This classic book has been translated in many languages, and little hands love to open the peek-a-boo flaps!

I think “Dear Zoo” is a great example of realistic illustrations mixed with fantasy (eg, we cannot have animals delivered to our home).  Since the story ends with the child happily receiving a dog, the overall message is realistic.  The repetitive language is also helpful for kids to learn new words.

To extend the learning with this book, below is an example of how I set up an animal matching basket for my son.

Where to buy:

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell (Chinese version)

7.  Chinese books for babies and toddlers: My First Bilingual Books (Millet Publishing)

This series of books has been published in many languages, and the Chinese vocab books have been generally accurate.  We have many of these books and like the realistic illustrations.  However, I don’t recommend getting all of the books though and would just pick a few topics that your child is interested in (eg, animals, vehicles, etc). Also, their books with longer phrases and sentences have some translation errors.

Where to buy:

My First Bilingual Book (Milet Publishing)
My First Bilingual Book (Milet Publishing)

8. Chinese books for babies and toddlers: Who Am I Book Series

This adorable set has simple yet interactive dialogue paired with adorable photographs.

Where to buy:

What are your favorite Chinese books for babies and toddlers?

I hope this list has been a helpful guide on what to look for as you build your child’s home library!

If you end up reading this book, let me know what you think in the comments below!

We’d love to hear about your learning experience and if you agree or disagree with our review! What other books do you recommend?

More Chinese book recommendations

General reading tips for children

Research-based articles about infant development

If you’re interested in learning more about the science between early infant attentional bias and visual development, here are some helpful articles:

Happy Chinese reading, friends!


  1. Thank you for the wonderful post. Do you know where I can find resources for caregivers written in Chinese about the Montessori approach? I want to share them with my in laws who read Chinese fluently. I do not speak the language so it is harder for me to find resources and they don’t speak English well. I am trying to raise my daughter to be bilingual and they take care of her several days per week. They have open minds about learning new approaches but they do not know about Montessori methods. Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Lane! Thank you so much for taking the time to write, and I apologize for the late reply! For Chinese Montessori parenting advice, they can follow Henry Lo 羅寶鴻 老師 on Facebook or his website. He also has a book published in traditional Chinese.

      I’m not sure what script they read, but here are some other traditional Chinese Montessori parenting books that other parents have recommended:


      For simplified Chinese, you can check out this:
      Chinese Montessori Society

  2. Thanks so much for compiling these resources! I would like my daughter to be be multilingual but feel hampered by my own ability. Your story/journey and website are inspiring and helpful!

  3. Hi! Thank you for these wonderful resources! I’m not a proficient reader of simplified or traditional Chinese characters. Do you have toddler book recommendations that have both pinyin and simplified characters? I’ve just been translating English books into very simple mandarin but I would love to read actual books that don’t require me to use Google translate every time. Thank you!

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