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Diverse Picture Books for Kid’s First-Time Experiences

From the moment we are born, our lives are filled with first-time (milestone) experiences. Our first steps, the first time we learn to use the potty, the first day of school, the first trip to the zoo, and so many more. If you are a parent or caregiver, you have the chance to share new ideas and experiences with your children. Inevitably, some of their experiences will be challenging and may result in having tough conversations and a few heart-to-hearts. Hopefully, many first-time experiences for your kids will be enjoyable, although some may be filled with BIG emotions, worry, and anxiety which is all part of learning and growing.

Books are great resources that can help reassure little ones about their big worries and help them understand what to expect in certain situations. Children’s books are an important source of new language, concepts, and lessons for young children. Finding the right book can be an invaluable tool for starting a conversation and to inform children what to expect for some first-time experiences.

Below I’ve compiled a list of a few first-time (milestone) experiences that children may encounter during their lifetime. I also included a BONUS book to help remind kids (and adults) we all have things and experiences we haven’t learned yet.

First-Time Experiences featured:

  • First hospital visit
  • First airplane ride
  • First day of school
  • First time being “the new kid” in a new school
  • First haircut
  • First camping trip
  • First time riding a bike
  • First time swimming
  • First time hiking

What are some additional first-time experiences you would add to this list? Happy Reading!

The Hospital Book

Lisa Brown
Going to the hospital can be strange and scary, but this book will comfort and reassure even the youngest patient. When a little girl develops a bad stomachache, it's time to go to the hospital. We follow her experience from arrival through diagnosis, anesthesia, and recovery Lisa Brown is a graphic novelist as well as a picture book creator whose talents inform the design of this book chock full of speech bubbles that will delight kids and parents alike. This is a funny, accessible, and above all comforting tale of a very scary experience in the life of any child.

The Airport Book

Lisa Brown
In a book that is as intriguing as it is useful and entertaining, we follow a family on its way through the complexities of a modern-day airport. From checking bags and watching them disappear on the mysterious conveyor belt, to security clearance and a seemingly endless wait at the gate to finally being airborne. But wait! There’s more! The youngest family member’s sock monkey has gone missing. Follow it at the bottom of the page as it makes a journey as memorable as that of the humans above.

The Queen of Kindergarten

Derrick Barnes, Vanessa Brantley-Newton
MJ is more than ready for her first day of kindergarten! With her hair freshly braided and her mom's special tiara on her head, she knows she’s going to rock kindergarten. But the tiara isn’t just for show—it also reminds her of all the good things she brings to the classroom, stuff like her kindness, friendliness, and impressive soccer skills, too! Like The King of Kindergarten, this is the perfect book to reinforce back-to-school excitement and build confidence in the newest students.

The King of Kindergarten

Derrick Barnes, Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Starting kindergarten is a big milestone--and the hero of this story is ready to make his mark! He's dressed himself, eaten a pile of pancakes, and can't wait to be part of a whole new kingdom of kids. The day will be jam-packed, but he's up to the challenge, taking new experiences in stride with his infectious enthusiasm! And afterward, he can't wait to tell his proud parents all about his achievements--and then wake up to start another day.

KINDergarten: Where Kindness Matters Every Day

Vera Ahiyya, Joey Chou
It’s the first day of Kindergarten and Leo isn’t at all ready. Leo is a quiet kid and would prefer to stay home. Over the summer, his new teacher, Ms. Perry sent a letter asking her students to think about how to show kindness in school. She explained that they would be making a kindness pledge, and each student should bring one way to show kindness on the first day. As it turns out, Leo’s classmates have lots of ideas about kindness: like raising your hand, never leaving anyone out, and apologizing if you hurt someone’s feelings. At the end of the first day, Ms. Perry asks if anyone witnessed something they’d like her to add to the kindness pledge? Lots of hands shoot up in the air. Several classmates say they noticed Leo returning crayons to the box, holding the door for everyone, and helping a friend who fell. Leo smiles as he realizes he really does know a lot about kindness after all.

The Name Jar

Yangsook Choi
Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from. But while Unhei practices being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, one of her classmates comes to her neighborhood and discovers her real name and its special meaning. On the day of her name choosing, the name jar has mysteriously disappeared. Encouraged by her new friends, Unhei chooses her own Korean name and helps everyone pronounce it--Yoon-Hey.

The Day You Begin

Jacqueline Woodson, Rafael López
There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it's how you look or talk, or where you're from; maybe it's what you eat, or something just as random. It's not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.

Bippity Bop Barbershop

Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, E. B. Lewis
In this book, a young boy, Miles, makes his first trip to the barbershop with his father. Like most little boys, he is afraid of the sharp scissors, the buzzing razor, and the prospect of picking a new hairstyle. But with the support of his dad, the barber, and the other men in the barbershop, Miles bravely sits through his first haircut. Written in a reassuring tone with a jazzy beat and illustrated with graceful, realistic watercolors, this book captures an important rite of passage for boys and celebrates African-American identity.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut

Derrick Barnes, Gordon C. James
This rhythmic, read-aloud title is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair—a tradition that places on their heads a figurative crown, beaming with jewels, that confirms their brilliance and worth and helps them not only love and accept themselves but also take a giant step toward caring how they present themselves to the world. The fresh cuts. That’s where it all begins.

Fatima's Great Outdoors

Ambreen Tariq and Stevie Lewis
An immigrant family embarks on their first camping trip in the Midwest. Fatima Khazi is excited for the weekend. Her family is headed to a local state park for their first camping trip! The school week might not have gone as planned, but outdoors, Fatima can achieve anything. She sets up a tent with her father, builds a fire with her mother, and survives an eight-legged mutant spider (a daddy longlegs with an impressive shadow) with her sister. At the end of an adventurous day, the family snuggles inside one big tent, serenaded by the sounds of the forest. The thought of leaving the magic of the outdoors tugs at Fatima's heart, but her sister reminds her that they can keep the memory alive through stories--and they can always daydream about what their next camping trip will look like.

Together We Ride

Valerie Bolling and Kaylani Juanita
Learning to ride is no easy feat! But with a little courage, a guiding hand from her dad, and an enthusiastic bark from her pup, one brave girl quickly learns the freedom that comes from an afternoon spent outside on a bike. Experience the fear, the anticipation, and the delight of achieving the ultimate milestone in this energetic, warm story that celebrates the precious bond between parent and child.

Together We Swim

Valerie Bolling and Kaylani Juanita
Jumping into the water can be more than a little scary! But with Mom’s steady arms there’s no fear of sinking. With a kick, a splash, and his family’s cheers of encouragement, one determined boy finds his groove, making waves in this fun-filled day at the pool. Embrace the feeling of accomplishment in this joyous, reassuring story about perseverance and new experiences.

Hiking Day

Anne Rockwell and Lizzy Rockwell
A young girl and her family go hiking up a nearby mountain for the very first time. As they climb up and up the path, they see everything from a friendly toad to a prickly porcupine, tall leafy trees to tiny red berries. Anne Rockwell and her daughter, artist Lizzy Rockwell, celebrate a day the little girl will never forget, especially when she reaches the mountain’s summit.

The Magical Yet

Angela Diterlizzi, Lorena Alvarez Gómez
Each of us, from the day we're born, is accompanied by a special companion--the Yet. Can't tie your shoes? Yet! Can't ride a bike? Yet! Can't play the bassoon? Don't worry, Yet is there to help you out. The Magical Yet is the perfect tool for parents and educators to turn a negative into a positive when helping children cope with the inevitable difficult learning moments we all face. Whether a child or an adult, this encouraging and uplifting book reminds us that we all have things we haven't learned...yet!
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