Family Magazine

Designer Daddy’s 15 Favorite Children’s Books About Dads

By Designerdaddy @DesignerDaddy

15 Best Children's Books About Dads

I sat on the floor of my son’s room amidst a sea of books, surveying those he’d carefully selected yanked off the shelf for inclusion in a yard sale. Memories from the last eight years of nightly bedtime stories flooded my thoughts (and my eyes a little, too).

Few moments in parenting are as special as those spent reading with your kids. Yet it can be a challenge finding quality children’s books that include a positive — or any — portrayal of fathers.

Some progress has been made, but society still often works overtime against dads making emotional, creative or educational connections with their kids. Books that feature fathers can play an important part in bridging that divide. They help lay an early foundation for equally involved parents, regardless of gender. And for two dad families like mine, representation is crucial to helping our kids feel nurtured, included, and seen.

As I proceeded to cull, it came as no surprise that the “dadâ€� books were making the “keep” pile rather tall. So as we near Father’s Day, I thought I’d share my favorite “keepers” — my favorite children’s books about dads. Each of these father-centric books carries the official Designer Daddy (and son) seal of approval, and is guaranteed to keep dad(s) showing up for story time.


The Daddy Book

15 Best Children's Books About Dads

Todd Parr books are a staple in many a family library, and for good reason. Parr illustrates life through a child’s eyes using the simplest of words and pictures, always finding ways to be the most inclusive. The Daddy Book is one of the best examples, portraying a rainbow of colorful dads: from work-at-home to space explorer; hippie-haired to balding; buttoned-up to mismatched. All overflowing with affection and nary a negative stereotype in sight.

The Daddy Book by Todd Parr (2002) • 0-3 years

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Daddy Hugs

15 Best Children's Books About Dads

A great first board book, Daddy Hugs uses minimal words and maximum color to not only teach baby to count, but that there’s always a reason for fatherly affection.

Daddy Hugs by Karen Katz (2005) • 0-2 years

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Papa Papa

15 Best Childrens Books About Dads

Like many two dad families, our son calls his parents “Daddy� (me) and “Papa� (my husband). With the dearth of dad books, there are even fewer that use “papa.� Luckily we found Papa Papa, the first of several books that helped make story time a little more inclusive and a little more special for our Papa.

It gets bonus points for using some atypical animal dads (i.e. not bears or lions), including a swan, a seahorse, and a songbird.

Papa Papa by Jean Marzollo and Laura Regan (2000) • 0-2 years

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Pony Brushes His Teeth

15 Best Childrens Books About Dads

The hilariously cute illustrations were what originally drew me to Pony Brushes His Teeth. I was pleasantly surprised to find a primer in oral hygiene told through a bucktoothed pony mimicking his dad’s every toothbrushy move. Short and sweet (and a little messy), I love that Pony… shows a father participating in the nurturing, everyday life of his child.

Pony Brushes His Teeth by Michael Dahl and Oriol Vidal (2010) • 2-4 years

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Daddy, Papa, and Me

15 Best Childrens Books About Dads

Daddy, Papa, and Me was an instant favorite in our family. It’s a straightforward, non-preachy, day-in-the-life story of a child (illustrated to look gender-neutral) and their fathers. It begins with the child asking â€œWho wants to play with me today?â€� followed by spread after spread depicting things each dad does with the realistically energetic toddler.

Regardless of your family’s makeup, you’ll relate to this book as it celebrates the joy of a child spending time with their parents — learning, playing, and experiencing life.

Daddy, Papa, and Me by Lesléa Newman and Carol Thompson (2009) • 2-4 years. Mommy, Mama, and Me is also available by the same author.

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Monster & Son

15 Best Childrens Books About Dads

While the reading in Monster & Son might be a little basic for older children, kids of any age will love this collection of classic monsters shown wreaking havoc (and having a blast) with their spawn. Godzilla, Bigfoot, King Kong and others are gorgeously illustrated in a sweet, rhyming bedtime poem. Monster voices highly recommended.

Monster & Son by David LaRochelle and Joey Chou (2016) • 4-6 years

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I Love You, Daddy

Children's Books About Dads

Having bought this book at a drug store on a whim, I didn’t expect much; but I never pass up a reasonably cute-looking “Daddyâ€� book. While not revolutionary, it doesn’t need to be. I Love You, Daddy hits all the best story time tropes: Anthropomorphic bears? Check. Acknowledging physical and emotional growth? Check. Life lessons disguised as adventures, all under Dad’s protective gaze? Check. A cuddly “I love youâ€� to end the tale? Check.

I Love You, Daddy by Jillian Harker and Kristina Stephenson (2010) • 4-6 years

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Made for Me

Children's Books About Dads

Made for Me is the newest book in our library, and was an immediate hit for both my son and me. (“That daddy looks just like you!â€�) Similar to others on this list, messages of love and belonging are repeated as a larger-than-life dad goes about the business of parenting. It’s beyond endearing to see a burly, bearded father nurturing, teaching, and playing with his child. The perfect book for new dads, yet guaranteed to tug the heartstrings of any loving father.

Made for Me by Zack Bush and Gregorio De Lauretis (2018 ) • 3-5 years

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Guess How Much I Love You

Children's Books About Dads

Guess how many copies of this book have been sold? That would be 28 million. That’s just one reason you can’t beat Guess How Much I Love You for bedtime stories about dad. This board book classic portrays a father’s relentless love for his baby bunny, â€œâ€Śright up to the moon and back.â€� A must for any new dad, dad-to-be, or the rare family who doesn’t already own it.

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram (1994) • 0-2 years

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When Papa Comes Home Tonight

Children's Books About Dads

When Papa Comes Home Tonight is about a youngster awaiting the return of his father from work, and all the things they’ll do together. From washing dishes to playing pretend to watching the moon, it sweetly depicts a range of ways fathers can bond with their children. This book is particularly special in our house, since Papa is the one who works away from home.

When Papa Comes Home Tonight by Eileen Spinelli and David McPhail (2009) • 1-5 years. A companion to its groundbreaking predecessor, When Mama Comes Home Tonight.

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I Love My Pirate Papa

Children's Books About Dads

Our son loves this book because it’s about pirates, treasure, and burping. I love it because of the witty rhymes and whimsical illustrations. But Papa loves this book because it’s all about a little boy and his loving Papa.

I Love My Pirate Papa by Laura Leuck and Kyle M. Stone (2007) • 4-8 years

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Rocking Horse Christmas

15 Best Children's Books About Dads

Given as a Christmas gift to a young boy, a rocking horse tells the tale of the many adventures they embark upon. Eventually the boy grows too old for such play, and the horse is put in the attic where it watches the boy grow up and move away. Inevitably the boy returns as a father with his own son, who of course discovers the lonely, dust-covered horse‌ By this point your child will be wondering why you’re blubbering like a baby.

Rocking Horse Christmas by Mary Pope Osborne and Ned Bittinger (1997) • 3-5 years

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Darth Vader and Son

15 Best Children's Books About Dads

While not an actual story (it’s a collection of one-panel comic strips), and a little long (64 pages), Darth Vader and Son is nonetheless essential for any dad hoping to train his son in the way of The Force. Each page gives classic Star Wars moments a parental twist, including hide-and-seek on the Death Star, batting practice with a lightsaber, and young Luke getting caught playing in the trash compactor.

Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown (2012) • 4-8 years. For dads of daughters, there’s Vader’s Little Princess.

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And Tango Makes Three

15 Best Children's Books About Dads

And Tango Makes Three is the true story of two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo. They’re observed coupling like their male/female counterparts, yet face challenges when trying to hatch an egg. It’s a must for any same-sex parent household, as well as for any family with a kid who loves penguins (so yeah, all of them).

I read this book to my son’s second grade class; while Jon’s class already knew he had two dads, hearing one of those dads read a book about it helped make it a little more real. I saw some eyes widen a few times, and was glad to be the one opening them. Jon seemed pretty proud, too.

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell (2005) • 2-5 years

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The Bear’s Song

15 Best Children's Books About Dads

A fairly straightforward tale of Papa Bear chasing after his runaway bear cub — think Where’s Waldo, but with plot and heart. The bears scamper into forests and busy city streets and all through an opera house. It ends with a sweet rooftop bonding moment and a midnight snack of honey.

Between the extra tall size, the mesmerizing illustrations, and the simplicity of the story, this is probably my all-around favorite children’s book ever. I also relate because I’ve spent so much time running after my cub. However, its primary appeal is in how it reminds me to look for (and enjoy) the sweet moments amidst the chaos of parenting. These sweet moments are what help make the journey more bearable. đŸ˜‰

The Bear’s Song by Benjamin Chaud (2013) • 3-5 years

What are your favorite children’s books about dads?

Share them in the comments — we’re always looking for more!

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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.

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