The best child development books

6 authors have picked their favorite books about child development and why they recommend each book.

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The Neurobehavioral and Social-Emotional Development of Infants and Children

By Ed Tronick,

Book cover of The Neurobehavioral and Social-Emotional Development of Infants and Children

This book helps clinicians and parents to understand the need for mothers or primary attachment figures to repair the missteps and misunderstandings from moment to moment to foster emotional security. Every mother and baby have moments of misunderstanding, the sooner the mother can repair this rift through empathy and taking responsibility for the misstep, the more seen and heard and secure the baby will feel.


Who am I?

Erica Komisar is a licensed clinical social worker, psychoanalyst, and parent guidance expert who has been in private practice in New York City for over 30 years. A graduate of Georgetown and Columbia Universities and The New York Freudian Society, Ms. Komisar is a psychological consultant bringing parenting and work/life workshops to clinics, schools, corporations, and childcare settings. She is a contributor to The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Daily News. She is a Contributing Editor to The Institute For Family Studies and appears regularly on Fox and Friends and Fox 5 News


I wrote...

Chicken Little the Sky Isn't Falling: Raising Resilient Adolescents in the New Age of Anxiety

By Erica Komisar,

Book cover of Chicken Little the Sky Isn't Falling: Raising Resilient Adolescents in the New Age of Anxiety

What is my book about?

This is a guide for parents who want to raise emotionally healthy and resilient adolescents in a time of great stress where anxiety and mental health disorders are epidemic.

In these times of great stress for our kids, resilience is not a given. The epidemic of mental health disorders in adolescents has made parenting even more challenging, but parents can still have an enormous impact on the health and well-being of their child. This book offers parents the tools they need to navigate this tumultuous time of change and create a continuous deep connection with their child. With covered topics such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, behavioral issues, and addiction, parents will learn how they can recognize mental health disorders as well as obtain compassionate and practical advice on how to address these issues if they occur

An Experiment in Education

By Sybil Marshall,

Book cover of An Experiment in Education

At a hippy party in 1967, I found this book lying on a table and picked it up. I’d soon forgotten the party raging around me because I was totally riveted by Sybil Marshall’s story. She was a primary teacher sent to run a little country school during the Second World War. The children had been terribly neglected and at first seemed uneducable, so Sybil decided to re-motivate them through music, art, and drama. By the end of the evening, I’d decided to leave university and train as a primary teacher.

Who am I?

As a primary head teacher, then literacy consultant, I wrote many books about education but at the age of 50 I changed tack. A meeting with a researcher who’d discovered an alarming decline in young children’s listening skills led to eight years’ research on the effects of modern lifestyles on children’s development. It involved many interviews with experts on diet, sleep, play, language, family life, childcare, education, screen-time, marketing influences and parenting styles – and a great deal of reading. By the time Toxic Childhood was first published in 2006 I’d realised that, in a 21st century culture, society should be paying far more attention to child development, especially in the early years. I hope to go on spreading that message until my dying breath.


I wrote...

Toxic Childhood: How The Modern World Is Damaging Our Children And What We Can Do About It

By Sue Palmer,

Book cover of Toxic Childhood: How The Modern World Is Damaging Our Children And What We Can Do About It

What is my book about?

What’s happening to childhood today? Why does one child in five now suffer from mental health problems or behavioural and learning difficulties? How has the rapid rise of digital media impacted children’s lives?

In this ground-breaking book, Sue Palmer presents up-to-date research on the toxic cocktail of factors affecting today’s children. She also provides sound advice on ‘detoxifying childhood’, including the vital importance of real food and real play for children’s development, why sleep is essential to learning – and how to ensure children get enough of it, childcare and education – what works best for different age groups, protecting children from aggressive marketing and excesses of celebrity culture, and the dangers (and benefits) of growing up in an unpredictable yet unavoidable digital age.

Play is the Way

By Sue Palmer,

Book cover of Play is the Way

In 2020, as Chair of the Upstart Scotland campaign, I was invited to edit a collection of essays by experts from a wide range of disciplines. All were arguing for a more enlightened and coherent approach to the care and education of children between three and seven years of age. The 19th century approach to education in the UK and USA is completely out of kilter with children’s needs in a 21st-century world and we need radical change, starting at the beginning. This is when developmental foundations are laid that will underpin children’s lifelong learning, health and well-being. All teachers need to know about early child development and helping pull together so much wisdom and humanity into one readable little book was a great privilege and an absolutely joyous experience.


Who am I?

As a primary head teacher, then literacy consultant, I wrote many books about education but at the age of 50 I changed tack. A meeting with a researcher who’d discovered an alarming decline in young children’s listening skills led to eight years’ research on the effects of modern lifestyles on children’s development. It involved many interviews with experts on diet, sleep, play, language, family life, childcare, education, screen-time, marketing influences and parenting styles – and a great deal of reading. By the time Toxic Childhood was first published in 2006 I’d realised that, in a 21st century culture, society should be paying far more attention to child development, especially in the early years. I hope to go on spreading that message until my dying breath.


I wrote...

Toxic Childhood: How The Modern World Is Damaging Our Children And What We Can Do About It

By Sue Palmer,

Book cover of Toxic Childhood: How The Modern World Is Damaging Our Children And What We Can Do About It

What is my book about?

What’s happening to childhood today? Why does one child in five now suffer from mental health problems or behavioural and learning difficulties? How has the rapid rise of digital media impacted children’s lives?

In this ground-breaking book, Sue Palmer presents up-to-date research on the toxic cocktail of factors affecting today’s children. She also provides sound advice on ‘detoxifying childhood’, including the vital importance of real food and real play for children’s development, why sleep is essential to learning – and how to ensure children get enough of it, childcare and education – what works best for different age groups, protecting children from aggressive marketing and excesses of celebrity culture, and the dangers (and benefits) of growing up in an unpredictable yet unavoidable digital age.

Character Building

By David Isaacs,

Book cover of Character Building: A Guide for Parents and Teachers

Reading this book is like taking a course from a wonderful teacher who opens your eyes to how much more there is to a subject than you ever imagined. David Isaacs was director of the School of Education at the University of Navarre, has published ten books and is the father of six children. This enduring classic, originally published in Spanish in 1976 but available in English, provides a clear, concise chapter on the meaning and importance of each of 24 teachable virtues: good judgment, orderliness, respect, responsibility, obedience to legitimate authority and rules, industriousness, moderation, modesty, justice, generosity, patience, friendship, and more.

Isaacs helpfully groups these virtues into four developmental periods (early and middle childhood, early and late adolescence) and tells us which virtues to emphasize during each period based on the characteristics of children at that age. His vision of virtues is also informed by his Catholic view…


Who am I?

I’m a developmental psychologist and former professor of education. My life’s work and 10 books have focused on helping families and schools foster good character in kids. Educating for Character: How Our Schools Can Teach Respect and Responsibility is credited with helping launch the national character education movement. My first book for parents, Raising Good Children, described how to guide kids through the stages of moral development from birth through adulthood. My focus these days is kindness and its supporting virtues. My wife Judith and I have two grown sons and 15 grandchildren, and with William Boudreau, MD, co-authored Sex, Love, and You: Making the Right Decision, a book for teens.


I wrote...

How to Raise Kind Kids: And Get Respect, Gratitude, and a Happier Family in the Bargain

By Thomas Lickona,

Book cover of How to Raise Kind Kids: And Get Respect, Gratitude, and a Happier Family in the Bargain

What is my book about?

The big idea of my book is to try to create an intentional family culture based on our deepest beliefs and values like kindness and respect—and never give up. Each chapter provides real-life examples of how to do this, such as protecting family together time, talking about things that matter, getting control of screens, disciplining wisely, sitting down as a family to solve problems fairly, and more. Library Journal found the book “chock-full of straightforward tips for creating a home that cultivates empathy.” Kids, of course, are constantly shaping their own character by the choices they make and so share the responsibility for the person they are becoming. Our part as parents is to make the most of the opportunities we have to help them grow in goodness.

Children's Minds

By Margaret Donaldson,

Book cover of Children's Minds

I read Children’s Minds during the school summer holidays in 1979 and vividly remember sitting in the sunshine in Edinburgh’s Meadows, in floods of tears over Margaret Donaldson’s call to arms in her closing pages. Children’s Minds is a wonderful introduction to the science of child development (indeed, it profoundly affected the course of that science, particularly in terms of the development of thought and language). It’s wise, perceptive and a great read.  


Who am I?

As a primary head teacher, then literacy consultant, I wrote many books about education but at the age of 50 I changed tack. A meeting with a researcher who’d discovered an alarming decline in young children’s listening skills led to eight years’ research on the effects of modern lifestyles on children’s development. It involved many interviews with experts on diet, sleep, play, language, family life, childcare, education, screen-time, marketing influences and parenting styles – and a great deal of reading. By the time Toxic Childhood was first published in 2006 I’d realised that, in a 21st century culture, society should be paying far more attention to child development, especially in the early years. I hope to go on spreading that message until my dying breath.


I wrote...

Toxic Childhood: How The Modern World Is Damaging Our Children And What We Can Do About It

By Sue Palmer,

Book cover of Toxic Childhood: How The Modern World Is Damaging Our Children And What We Can Do About It

What is my book about?

What’s happening to childhood today? Why does one child in five now suffer from mental health problems or behavioural and learning difficulties? How has the rapid rise of digital media impacted children’s lives?

In this ground-breaking book, Sue Palmer presents up-to-date research on the toxic cocktail of factors affecting today’s children. She also provides sound advice on ‘detoxifying childhood’, including the vital importance of real food and real play for children’s development, why sleep is essential to learning – and how to ensure children get enough of it, childcare and education – what works best for different age groups, protecting children from aggressive marketing and excesses of celebrity culture, and the dangers (and benefits) of growing up in an unpredictable yet unavoidable digital age.

The Whole-Brain Child

By Daniel J. Siegel, Tina Payne Bryson,

Book cover of The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind

This book changed my entire mindset when it came to bringing up my own child. Having been someone who was brought up in a very traditional (aka militarily strict!) manner, I didn’t really know any other way to be in my own life as a dad, but I always felt deep down that having a ‘just do as I say’ approach to parenting is so one dimensional and not reflective of true bonding. 

This book is fantastic at giving the insights into how a child thinks, the signals to watch out for, and also making you see things from a child’s point of view into having a much calmer and more open approach to parenting. I couldn’t recommend it more. 


Who am I?

I’m the founder of DaddiLife—the leading online platform that focusses on modern day dads, who are becoming more equalised in their day to day parenting. We’ve covered a range of different areas from early stage post partum and mental health for dads, through to new research projects on dads at work and young fathers. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over my time as a father myself is that there’s no such thing as perfect parenting, but there are lots of insights that can challenge our fatherly approaches for the better, both at home and at work.


I wrote...

You’re Going to Be a Dad!

By DaddiLife Books,

Book cover of You’re Going to Be a Dad!

What is my book about?

This book is my proudest achievement of DaddiLife so far, and was undertaken after finding that so many pregnancy books for dads still treat us as a secondary parent, and don’t go much further than ‘just don’t forget to put the beers away.’ This book is designed to be the ‘What to expect when you’re expecting’ for a modern generation of dads. 50 new dads and dads-to-be were interviewed as part of the book and it provides a whole community of dad’s experiences that goes deep into the challenges, joys, milestones, and events that dads will experience (e.g. early day nerves, preparing for labor, postpartum challenges, and more), as well as shining a light on what’s happening for partner and baby from pregnancy through to the first full year. 

Touchpoints-Birth to Three

By T. Berry Brazelton, Joshua D. Sparrow,

Book cover of Touchpoints-Birth to Three

T. Berry Brazelton has been recognized as an expert on parenting and child development. I used to eagerly wait to read his newspaper column that offered concise advice on child care. In this book, Brazelton covers the milestones of typical development and he discusses common concerns of this age range. Although this book focuses on emotional and behavioral development, his background in pediatrics allows him to write about physical development as well. You will learn, in detail, what to expect of young children up to age three in this comprehensive book.

Who am I?

My passion has always been caring for and educating young children. I spent over 20 years in the classroom as a child care professional and much of that time was with toddlers. I discovered that the stereotype of the terrible twos was truly misguided. I chose books that will shed new light on why toddlers behave the way that they do. These books will show the reader what an important time this is in a child’s growth and learning. I believe that these books will help convince you that toddlers are not terrible; they are terrific!


I wrote...

365 Toddler Activities That Inspire Creativity: Games, Projects, and Pastimes That Encourage a Child's Learning and Imagination

By Joni Levine,

Book cover of 365 Toddler Activities That Inspire Creativity: Games, Projects, and Pastimes That Encourage a Child's Learning and Imagination

What is my book about?

With 365 Toddler Activities That Inspire Creativity, you can spark your child's creativity and maximize his or her potential every day of the year. Written by an experienced child-care expert, you will find hundreds of entertaining toddler activities, songs, games, and art projects that stimulate cognitive development and encourage inventiveness. You and your toddler will enjoy playtime with age-appropriate activities like: magic sun prints, treasure chest, sprout in a bag rainbow toast, fishing in the tub, all-about-me book, and so many more!

Featuring everything from outdoor activities to rainy-day fun, 365 Toddler Activities That Inspire Creativity provides hours of creative toddler play!

Try New Food

By Jill Castle,

Book cover of Try New Food: How to Help Picky Eaters Taste, Eat & Like New Foods

Jill Castle is a childhood nutritionist who also understands child development AND temperament. Her whole-child approach to healthy eating is refreshingly positive, respectful, supportive, and practical. Jill uses a step-by-step system to help even the most sensitive child enjoy a wide variety of foods. She clearly demonstrates how to stop the mealtime battles and instead make meals a time for connection and calm.

Who am I?

I am passionate about working with families. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Child Development, I realized I wanted to work with the entire family system. I continued my education to receive a Master’s degree in Family Social Science and spent the next seventeen years directing and teaching in Minnesota’s Early Childhood Family Education programs. I founded the Spirited Child, and Power Struggles workshops and wrote Raising Your Spirited Child. It became a best seller. I then started my own company, ParentChildHelp offering workshops, classes, and private consultations to families. Mid-career, I returned to school to earn my doctorate degree. The result of my research is Raising Your Spirited Baby.


I wrote...

Raising Your Spirited Baby: A Breakthrough Guide to Thriving When Your Baby Is More . . . Alert and Intense and Struggles to Sleep

By Mary Sheedy Kurcinka,

Book cover of Raising Your Spirited Baby: A Breakthrough Guide to Thriving When Your Baby Is More . . . Alert and Intense and Struggles to Sleep

What is my book about?

Does your baby burst into tears when another baby in the same situation sleeps soundly? Is it nearly impossible to lay your baby down? Do you feel like you are somehow "failing," when you are trying so hard?

Parents who answer “yes,” are the parents of a spirited infant. Spirited infants are the outliers—the exceptions to the “rules,” the normal, yet extraordinary ones. They are wired to be alert and intense and many of the strategies others swear by do not work with these babies. Yet, no one talks about it. As a licensed parent educator, author, and parent I knew it was time to create for these parents a guide. Fifteen years in the making Raising Your Spirited Baby is research-based and yet practical. It includes my 5-step Spirited Baby Methodology which provides the answers to help these babies and their parents not only survive but thrive.

Mind in the Making

By Ellen Galinsky,

Book cover of Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs

There are many opinions and schools of thought on how to best raise and care for young children. The author lays her discussion firmly on the solid foundation of research. Beyond academic skills or ability, Ms. Galinsky identifies seven skills that will lead to the child’s success in the future. Skills such as making connections or critical thinking need to be fostered for a child to do well in school as well as in interactions and endeavors later in life. This book is sometimes used as a text in college classes. And yet, parents will easily find this content accessible with concrete ideas to develop these essential life skills.

Who am I?

My passion has always been caring for and educating young children. I spent over 20 years in the classroom as a child care professional and much of that time was with toddlers. I discovered that the stereotype of the terrible twos was truly misguided. I chose books that will shed new light on why toddlers behave the way that they do. These books will show the reader what an important time this is in a child’s growth and learning. I believe that these books will help convince you that toddlers are not terrible; they are terrific!


I wrote...

365 Toddler Activities That Inspire Creativity: Games, Projects, and Pastimes That Encourage a Child's Learning and Imagination

By Joni Levine,

Book cover of 365 Toddler Activities That Inspire Creativity: Games, Projects, and Pastimes That Encourage a Child's Learning and Imagination

What is my book about?

With 365 Toddler Activities That Inspire Creativity, you can spark your child's creativity and maximize his or her potential every day of the year. Written by an experienced child-care expert, you will find hundreds of entertaining toddler activities, songs, games, and art projects that stimulate cognitive development and encourage inventiveness. You and your toddler will enjoy playtime with age-appropriate activities like: magic sun prints, treasure chest, sprout in a bag rainbow toast, fishing in the tub, all-about-me book, and so many more!

Featuring everything from outdoor activities to rainy-day fun, 365 Toddler Activities That Inspire Creativity provides hours of creative toddler play!

Hold on to Your Kids

By Gordon Neufeld, Gabor Maté,

Book cover of Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers

The type of attachment people form with their dogs, parents, friends, etc. will impact the relationship in a profound way.  I vividly remember as a young person how my friends would influence the way I would dress, talk, feel, and so behave. The authors of the book describe this phenomenon as ‘pier attachment’ where children nowadays tend to look to their peers for guidance more so than their parents. This is a remarkable force that affects every child as they seek acceptance and direction from one another, which in turn can build their self-esteem or destroy it.  The book Hold on to Your Kids, explains how this attachment has come about, and what as parents, we can do about it.


Who am I?

As a dog behaviourist and parent, I realised there’s a huge crossover between raising dogs and children. We must alike create an environment they thrive and can learn in. We must fulfill their needs by nurturing, feeding & protecting them. We must listen to their concerns and build their confidence whilst simultaneously being an authority figure that sets boundaries. To do this I don’t believe there is one correct way for every dog or child. For that reason, I am very open-minded to each individual’s perspective as I believe you can learn something from everyone. From the research, I have done I present my 5 best books on parenting.


I wrote...

The Dog Guardian: Your Guide to a Happy, Well-Behaved Dog

By Nigel Reed,

Book cover of The Dog Guardian: Your Guide to a Happy, Well-Behaved Dog

What is my book about?

The Dog Guardian: Your guide to a well-behaved dog book reveals vital information on why problem dog behaviour occurs, to address them at their core. The author Nigel Reed explains why emotional intelligence is key to bond successfully with our dogs.

The book begins by giving a backstory to how dogs originated. Nigel then lays out his holistic method to a happy well-behaved dog which consists of understanding the dog’s needs, language, emotional state, and how to perfect one's leadership approach. Lastly, it details how to deal with a range of common issues with the aid of case studies and access to detailed demonstrational videos. This information will empower dog guardians with the mental tools to understand their dogs on a deeper level.

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