Fantastic Christmas books for kids aged 0 – 12 years
There are lots of Christmas books for kids in the shops at this time of year. The covers feature reindeer, Santa and lots of snow and glitter and the books, at first glance, look like they might be fun. But take a closer look, turn a few pages and many of the books start to look a bit … well … gimmicky. A bit cartoon-y and boring. To me, the vast majority of these books lack charm and often there’s no real story happening between those pages. Some might be ok for a quick read but they don’t engage a child’s attention for long and, once read, that’s it really – there’s nothing much worth chatting about or thinking about.
Do I sound like a children’s Christmas book snob? I probably am.
So how do we find better Christmas books for kids? Which ones are the best children’s Christmas books and why do I think they’re so good?
On this page you’ll find my list of the 13 best Christmas books for kids, including the best Christmas books for babies and the best Christmas books for toddlers.
Why read Christmas books with kids?
Sharing books about Christmas with our children is great fun but there are other reasons why it’s a good idea. Sharing books which feature some of the things and experiences they’re seeing around them actually helps to build babies’ brains.
How does this work?
Basically, it’s all about making connections. In fact, for everyone, regardless of our age, learning is all about making connections.
So, a bit of neuroscience. The architecture of our brains is comprised of billions of connections between individual neurons across different areas of the brain. These connections enable lightning-fast communication among neurons that specialise in different kinds of brain functions.
Image courtesy of L Schwimmer
The early years are the most active period for establishing neural connections. The more neural connections a baby’s brain has and the stronger those connections are, the stronger will be the foundations for the connections that form later . Put another way, lots of strong connections in a baby’s brain mean that he or she will be able to learn new information easily and quickly.
One of the ways we can build and strengthen those neural connections is by reading. When we read about something we’ve observed in our environment – something we’ve seen, heard, touched, tasted or smelt- our brains connect the experience we’re reading about to the real-world experience we had in the past. The experience is enhanced and built-upon so that we now know more about it than we did before.
And the reverse is also true. When we see or experience something we’ve previously read about, new neural connections are formed and old ones are strengthened.
So what does this all mean when it comes to Christmas books for kids?
Well, when your baby or toddler sees the family’s Christmas tree with the gifts all wrapped up beneath it and then you read a book to her which shows illustrations of these same things, neural connections are being formed and strengthened in her brain. And, when you read a Christmas book together and your little one later, in real life, hears the words or sees the things she’s first heard and seen in the book, more neural connections are formed and strenthened.
I find that fascinating.
So here’s my list of some really good Christmas book for kids. I hope you and your children enjoy them.
This very simple book contains pictures of some of the things we typically associate with Christmas celebrations. Each picture is created from different materials that little ones can touch and enjoy. There’s a prickly Christmas tree, a sparkly star and a velvety hat for Father Christmas, along with the words for each one underneath. This is a great first Christmas book for babies and a perfect way to introduce the youngest member of the family to the vocabulary around Christmas celebrations.
Suggested for ages: 0 – 1.5 years
Spot is always popular and this cute lift-the-flap book has been a huge hit with every small person with whom I’ve shared it. With lots of flaps for little hands to open, children love reading about cheeky puppy Spot as he helps his family prepare for Christmas.
Suggested for ages: 1 – 2.5 years
Slinky Malinki is a mischievous and very cute cat who’s a great friend of Hairy Maclary and one of a cast of wonderful animal characters created by the very clever Lynley Dodd. I absolutely love this book and I love everything about it. The illustrations are gorgeous and the rhyming text is a delight to read aloud.
Christmas was coming. Out came the tree,
dressed up in finery, splendid to see.
Trinkets and tinsel with baubles and bows,
a mouse with a hat and a very red nose.
Needless to say, the mischievous Slinky Malinki can’t resist the temptation to investigate the Christmas tree …
Rhyming books like this one are brilliant to read aloud to babies from birth because the rhythm and rhyme are wonderful stimulators of phonological awareness, a critical pre-reading skill that starts developing in infancy. Babies also love the closeness and sense of security they feel when we hold them close and read to them so why not pick up a couple of Christmas books and include your little one in the Christmas fun?Suggested for ages: birth – 5 years
This is a fairly new book by an Australian author and I love it for a number of reasons. First, it manages to avoid mentioning Santa, focusing instead on family and celebrations and reflecting on the year that is drawing to a close. second, it’s written in the first person from the point of view of the young koala who is the main character in the story. And, finally, this book is set in Australia and beautifully reflects our Australian experience of Christmas. It mentions that the days are getting longer and warmer, the characters are all dressed in summer clothes and there’s not one mention of snow! This is a book that young children will immediately be able to identify with and connect to their experience of Christmas.
Suggested for ages: 2 – 7 years
This beautiful book by Mem Fox was first published over twenty years ago and has been in print ever since. It’s the delightful story of Wombat who loves everything about Christmas and desperately wants to be in the Nativity play. He’s wanted to be in it for as long as he can remember and at last he’s old enough to try out. Will there be a part left for Wombat?
Suggested for ages: 4 – 7 years
To be honest, I wasn’t sure whether I’d be including this book on my list of great Christmas books for kids. I loved When the Crayons Quit but this seemed a bit … I don’t know … derivative? Well, it’s certainly that but I’ve read it to a few children now and they’ve all enjoyed it and it’s definitely silly and lots of fun. The book is about Duncan and his crayons and how they celebrate Christmas and the holidays. As you read the story, you discover letters and cards that can be pulled out from envelopes in the book as different members of the house receive gifts and letters from their loved ones. Each pocket is filled with fun, interactive pieces such as clothes for the crayons, a fold up board game, punch-out ornaments, recipe card, and pop-up Christmas tree.
Suggested for ages: 3 – 7 years
The Christian celebration of Christmas was kind of grafted on to an earlier, much older celebration that pre-dates Christianity – the festival of Yule. In the northern hemisphere, the shortest day – the Winter Solstice – was the time when people would gather to push the darkness away and to celebrate the light that they knew was to come and this book is a beautiful introduction to that history for any age group. The text takes the form of a poem filled with hope, anticipation, love, joy and spiritual happiness and the illustrations blend imagery from the long-ago celebrations of northern Europeans with modern-day observations and global traditions. I think it’s important for children to understand the origins of important celebrations, whether or not their families actually celebrate, and this book reminds us of the many ways we are all connected and that we are, all of us, part of the vast history of the world.
Suggested for ages: 5 – 9 years
As a teacher and as someone who’s not especially religious these days, I’m always on the lookout for good Christmas-themed books which have a secular focus. I also like to steer clear of too much focus on Santa and gifts and, just to be even more picky, I am really over picture books which link Christmas with winter because I live in Australia and it’s hot here! It’s hard to find picture books which tick all these boxes but this one is perfect. Anna Walker is a Melbourne-based illustrator and I’m a huge fan of her books. What do you wish for? is a gorgeous story about Ruby who, with her friends, sits down to write a Christmas wish to hang on the tree in the park where they will have their Christmas party. But Ruby’s wish feels too big to write down on a piece of paper and it’s not until much later, when she’s thought about all the things she loves about Christmas, that she is able to do it. This story focuses on the things that make Christmas magical, especially in Australia where the sun shines and we spend Christmas outdoors: friendship, family, Dad coming home from work when it’s still light, smiles and swimming in the sea on summer holidays.
Suggested for ages: 3 – 10 years
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! has been around since 1957 and is still a favourite with children. With its made-up words and signature Dr Seuss rhyming text, I think it’s also great fun to read aloud. When I read it in the classroom, I find the children have often seen the movie but don’t necessarily know about the book so I usually being by telling them that the book came first. The story follows the Grinch, a miserable, nasty character who lives on a hill above a town called Who-ville. The Grinch hates Christmas and sets out to destroy the Christmas celebrations of the Whos who live in the town. Though he steals all their presents, the Whos still enjoy a happy Christmas which leads the Grinch to discover that Christmas isn’t just about gifts but about being together.
Suggested for ages: 3 – 8 years
No list of the best Christmas books for kids would be complete without ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, the well-known story-poem originally written by Clement C Moore. The poem made its first appearance when it was published anonymously in a New York newspaper in 1823 under the title A Visit from St Nicholas. The poem has been published in different forms over the years but I really love this version which first came out in 1912, with the original illustrations by Jessie Willcox Smith. I found out an interesting fact when I was doing the research for this page. Did you know that this poem is actually responsible for introducing Santa Claus to American children? Before it was published, Saint Nicholas wasn’t really known much outside Germany however the poem became popular pretty much as soon as it was first printed and the legend of Saint Nicholas, who gave presents to children, wore a red suit and travelled in a sleigh pulled by reindeers quickly spread throughout the English-speaking world. Some families have created a special Christmas tradition around reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas together on Christmas Eve. If you’d like to do the same, this is a lovely book to buy.
Suggested for ages: 4 – 12 years
If you have Lord of the Rings fans in your house, this book is a must. It’s a collection of illustrated letters from Father Christmas, written by J R R Tolkein to his children, beginning in 1920 when his eldest son, John, was three years old. For over twenty years, John and his brothers and sister received a letter from the north pole every Christmas, written in Father Christmas’s shaky script and illustrated with paintings and sketches. The letters told wonderful tales of life at the North Pole … how the reindeer got loose and scattered presents all over the place; how the North Polar Bear climbed the North Pole and fell through the roof of Father Christmas’s house; how there were wars with the troublesome horde of goblins who lived in the caves beneath the house … Originally titled The Father Christmas Letters, this book was republished under its current title in 2004. This edition is edited by Baillie Tolkein, the wife of J R R Tolkein’s youngest son, Christopher. This is a lovely book to share with children of all ages. Each letter is a nice length to be read as a bedtime story to younger children and the drawings and funny stories are enchanting for adults and children alike. Older children who are fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy will recognise some familiar elements … the goblin attack on Father Christmas’s cellar reminds me of the Goblin-Elf wars and his elf-secretary Ilbereth is probably the model for the elf-queen, Elbereth.
Suggested for ages: 4 – adult
Have you ever wondered where Christmas comes from? Or how it’s been celebrated throughout the centuries? The pre-Christian history of Christmas is a fascinating one and this book, written by a lecturer and author on folklore, histories and unexplained mysteries, is an interesting journey through the history of Christmas celebrations around the world. I’d actually been looking for a book like this to use in the classroom for ages and was excited to find this one because it’s perfect for exploring with children. Beautifully illustrated, the book has chapters on things like the symbolism of the Nativity; the Roman festival of Saturnalia; the Puritan banning of Christmas; the introduction and rise of gift-giving; and the origins of Father Christmas. This book lends itself to reading a page or two at a time and is a great book to share with older children.
Suggested for ages: 6 – adult
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Over to you
Do you have any favourite Christmas books for kids?
What do you think makes a great Christmas book for children?
I’d love to hear what you think so drop me a line in the comments.
I’m Felicity. I write about children’s books and reading and about their potential for enriching the lives of young humans.
I review picture books, board books and sometimes books for older children.
As well as being a lover of all things to do with books and reading, I’m a mum of three young adults and a primary school teacher. I also create gift baskets filled with the very best books for children from newborns to four-year-olds.
Welcome. It’s nice to meet you.