The ritual of a mysterious man with a white beard and a red coat leaving gifts under the tree is one of the main highlights of Christmas for families with small children.
But while you might be bursting with excitement for ‘his’ arrival, your little one could be slightly anxious about a strange figure coming into your house at night. Or they may simply be too young to truly understand what is going on.
Share one of these seasonal stories to familiarise your baby or toddler with the famous festive character, as well as teach them about all the fun there is to be had during the most wonderful time of the year.
1. Dear Santa by Rod Campbell. £5.99 (board book), Macmillan
The classic Rod Campbell lift-the-flap book Dear Zoo gets a festive makeover. In this edition, Santa is trying his best to find the perfect Christmas present for the reader.
Poster paints, a trumpet and a kite are dismissed for being too messy, noisy and big before a sweet kitten is declared the ideal gift. Not very PC these days (a pet is for life, folks!) but lots of fun for babies and toddlers. Buy from Amazon
Why Dear Zoo is still a kids’ classic
2. Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs. £7.99 (paperback), Puffin.
The wonderful Raymond Briggs gives a very human take on this Christmas character, depicted him as a slightly grumpy man living in a normal house with only his pets for company and happily partaking of a few stiff drinks as he delivers his gifts to children around the world.
The comic strip style sequences and limited words just add to the humour, as our man ponders how to get into a caravan, curses too tight chimneys and worries he’s catching a cold. It’s so well observed, no wonder it won the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration in 1973. Buy from Amazon
Review: Michael Morpurgo’s version of Raymond Briggs’ classic The Snowman
3. Where’s Santa Claus? by Ingela P Arrhenius. £6.99 (board book), Nosy Crow
Set out on a search for Santa with this hide-and-seek board book which introduces your baby to a cast of Christmas characters. The artwork is stunningly stylish, with hints of gold and eye-catching fluorescent to really grab your little one’s attention.
What’s especially neat are the flaps behind which Mrs Polar Bear, Mr Snowman and co are concealed – they’re made from soft felt, making it easy for tiny hand to grab them (and less risk of ripping too). There’s an exciting surprise at the end in the form of a mirror so your little explorer can also seek themselves. Available from Amazon
12 of the best first Christmas books for babies and toddlers
4. The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore. £5.99 (paperback), Miles Kelly
A story that needs no introduction! Is there any better way to build Christmas anticipation than this cherished Clement C. Moore poem about a visit from St Nick, which is arguably the most famous seasonal story after the birth of the man the celebration is all about.
In this version, illustrator Rosie Butcher gives a modern feel to the almost 200-year-old tale, with the drama set in a house that will look familiar. Her Father Christmas is also a jolly chap with twinkly eyes, a nose like a cherry and a smile a mile wide.
Your child won’t fail to fall in love with both him and the gorgeous glittery cover.
10 of the best classic Christmas books
5. Emily Brown and Father Christmas by Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton. £12.99 (hardback), Hodder
Kind, resourceful and strong-minded – Emily Brown is one of the most compelling female characters of the picture book world. This story sees her come to the aid of an ailing Father Christmas, who has tried to modernise his present delivery operation only to end up stressed out and full of cold.
The wise little girl tucks him up and takes charge, ensuring children receive their gifts and Christmas is saved, assisted by bunny sidekick Stanley. It’s another charming tale from Cowell and Layton which sums up the spirit of the season. Available from Amazon
We meet Emily Brown illustrator Neal Layton
6. The Christmas Bear by Ian Whybrow and Axel Scheffler. £5.99 (board book), Macmillan.
When Bear misses his ride on Santa’s sleigh and is left behind in the workshop, he gives chase to try and make it to Tom’s house in time for Christmas morning.
Your child needs to lift the flaps to see how our intrepid teddy journeys through ice-cold seas and snowy forest back to his beloved boy in a story reminiscent of Eighties movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
Ian Whybrow’s witty rhyming text combined with Axel Scheffler’s amusing artwork make for an entertaining adventure, with a host of crazy animal characters, lots of silly scenarios and a few sighting of Santa in the sky. Buy from Amazon
7. Usborne Touchy-Feely Father Christmas by Fiona Watt and Rebecca Finn. £9.99 (board book), Usborne
Enjoy a sensory seasonal experience thanks to this chunky board book which follows the main man as he packs up his sleigh on Christmas Eve and heads out to deliver presents. The text is very simple to follow while the illustrations are full of festivities – and lots of sparkle too.
Your child will enjoy stroking Santa’s fluffy coat, peering through the windows and touching the textured wrapping paper. The book also features an army of elves and reindeers, and look out for a special little helper – the famous mouse from the That’s Not My… series. Buy from Amazon
8. The Night Before The Night Before Christmas by Kes Gray and Claire Powell. £6.99 (paperback), Hodder
Inspired by the famous festive tale, the bestselling author of Oi Frog reveals what happens on Christmas Eve Eve with bags of his trademark humour and a witty punchline.
There’s a real sense of excitement and anticipation as you hear about the elves’ enormous efforts to thread yo-yos, dress dollies and spring slinkies, while Santa busies himself checking his list and readying the reindeer.
Like a well-oiled machine, it all comes together the next morning and the big man is off into the sky… having forgotten one very important thing. Read it to find out what! Available from Amazon
More magical Christmas reads…
12 of the best first Christmas books for babies and toddlers
10 classic Christmas stories every child should read
15 of the best snowy stories for kids