One of my favourite children's authors and illustrators has to be Eric Carle. I love the way that art, colour, and words combine to create books that are perfect for reading together with your young children. There are so many to choose from though from the classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar through to less well-known books like How to Catch a Star or The Tiny Seed. When my children were toddlers and preschoolers we must have raided the library of every book that we could find written and/or illustrated by Eric Carle so I've put together our favourites to share with you. Where we have activities related to the books I have also included those so that you could extend the reading into play, learning, and crafts.
Books by Eric Carle for Toddlers and Preschoolers
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I have tried to divide the books into different topic areas so that you can find the perfect Eric Carle Book for the theme that your toddlers and preschoolers are interested in. But these books work throughout the year and are lovely to read together anytime.
Bug Books by Eric Carle
My all-time favourite Eric Carle Book is The Very Hungry Caterpillar - I remember having this read to me as a child, my brother and I had a pop-up version and at the end of the story the "beautiful butterfly" popped out of the book after emerging from the cocoon.
Activities inspired by The Very Hungry Caterpillar
- Create a Stained Glass Butterfly
- Make Caterpillar Puppets
- Create a caterpillar that transforms into a butterfly
- Make Cress Caterpillars for Spring
- Learn the days of the week with The Very Hungry Caterpillar
- Set up an invitation to create playdough caterpillars and butterflies
Activities based on The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle
- Make giant spiders webs
- Construct spider webs with playdough and straws
- Use spider webs to practice skip counting
- Spell your name with spider webs
Activities based on The Grouchy Ladybug
Animal Books by Eric Carle
Based on this same idea Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you Hear? and Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What do you See? are great for following on the theme from the Brown Bear book. It will also help to reinforce language as they follow the same pattern and use similar words throughout.
I remember reading Mister Seahorse with my children when one of our good friends was pregnant - their shock at discovering that it wasn't Mrs. Seahorse that was having a baby but instead it was Mister Seahorse. As a marine biologist, I loved this story and it was one that after we borrowed it from the library I went out and brought to add to our bookshelves.
Poetry and Rhymes are a great way to develop language skills in children - in Animals Animals Eric Carle takes poems from famous writers and poets and adds his own flare with the illustrations to illustrate these fantastic classic poems for kids.
Get moving with the animals in From Head to Toe a fun book that takes you through a journey with the animals and your body. Strech your neck like a giraffee or wave your hand like a monkey and have fun together. It's a great book for getting your child to follow instructions - imagine a book like Simon Says.
In this simple book Do you Want to Be my Friend take a tour through the different animals as the little mouse asks various creatures to be it's friend. This book is ideal for younger toddlers rather than some of the others which will work with preschoolers and oldr children too.
Eric Carle Books to Learn with
Although a lot of the Eric Carle books have ideas that you can learn with there are some that really stand out for learning about certain concepts.
I brought Eric Carle's ABC book for my children when they were little to help us read and learn our alphabet and letter sounds. As they loved the illustrations in the other books we had read I knew that this book would go down well with the children and it was ideal to read together and help them to start to recognise the letters and the names and sounds they make.
As well as the ABC book we also got My Very First Book of Numbers by Eric Carle and I would spend a lot of time counting out the objects on the pages as well as pointing to the number on the page helping my children to learn to count as well as recognise the numerals.
Other Notable Books by Eric Carle
With so many books to choose from outside of these topics there are a few others that I would recommend and love to read aloud to my children and have used in classrooms.
When we looked at artists when my children were preschoolers and I asked them for a famous artist they both said Eric Carle. In two of his books - The Artist that Drew a Blue Horse and Draw me a Star Eric Carle takes art a step further and creates tales around it.
There are many other books by Eric Carle, however these are ones that I found especially good to read aloud with my toddlers and preschoolers and were the ones that we read together multiple times.