Getting your kid tucked into bed without any fuss can be an uphill battle some nights, and getting them to stay asleep can be even more of a struggle. If you want to make bedtime run a little smoother, try incorporating a nighttime routine into your regular evening schedule to help your child wind down before bed and sleep more soundly throughout the night.
One of the most beneficial and relaxing activities you can do with your child before bed is reading them a bedtime story. Not only is it a memorable pastime that has been passed down through generations, but it stimulates literacy development and strengthens the relationship between you and your child.
Story Time Tips For Parents
Before we dive into our list of relaxing bedtimes stories, we want to give parents a few pointers on how to make the best out of storytime.
Read Slowly — Make sure you’re reading slow so your child retains the vocabulary, and admire the illustrations if there are any. Also, tracing the words with your finger as you read will help your child learn the words as they get to hear the auditory pronunciation, and visually see the words spelled out on the page.
Bring On The Drama — Designate different voices for different characters, take dramatic pauses to build anticipation, and fluctuate the volume of your voice with the tone of the story (whisper, exclamations, etc). The more drama you bring to the story, the more fun it’ll be for both you and your child.
Set The Mood — Make sure your child is in a comfortable and cozy environment so they can effortlessly drift off to sleep as you’re reading. The key here is to make them feel relaxed. Dim the lights, turn the nightlight on, and most importantly — make sure their mattress is kid-friendly. Since most kids are much lighter than adults, they’ll need a plush mattress they can nestle into, rather than something that feels overly firm.
Read Stories More Than Once — Similar to the way your child makes you replay their favorite Disney movie for them over and over again, they’ll want a repeat of their favorite stories, too. This is a good way for them to memorize the vocabulary, and come to new realizations every time they hear it.
Babies (0-3 years)
Your child is never too young for a bedtime story. According to the The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), pediatric providers should encourage parents to begin read-alouds with their child as soon as birth, in order to promote early literacy development and prepare their minds for learning language skills.
With that being said, it’s important to keep the material age-appropriate. For babies and infants who learn best through repetition and imitation, you’ll want to stick to stories that contain rhymes, colorful illustrations, and very simple vocabulary.
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown – This 1947 classic takes repetition to a whole other level as the rabbit, the story’s main character, says goodnight to the contents of his room, the stars, and the moon. This book is riddled with realistic drawings, and as you turn the pages, promotes a calming effect as it shows the progression of passing time and dimming light.
Hush Little Ones by John Butler — This book is best for the little animal lover in your life. It tells the story of baby animals like rabbits, birds, and even whales being tucked into bed by their loving parents. Each page contains simple vocabulary, a rhythmic rhyme, and an adorable animal picture that your son or daughter will love.
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star by Jerry Pinkey — Bring the classic lullaby to life with this soothing and illustrative story that follows a little chipmunk who explores the beauty of nature as the words from Twinkle Twinkle Little Star gently puts your child to sleep.
2.) Toddlers and Kids (4-6)
This is the age range where you can start introducing stories with more words and slightly more advanced vocabulary, different genres, and characters they can relate to.
Sleep My Bunny by Rosemary Wells – From the creator of beloved kid’s show Max and Ruby comes this tale of a bunny going through his nighttime routine step-by-step. This will encourage your little one to approach their nighttime routine with the same positive attitude the bunny does in this story, and hopefully lull them to sleep.
If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Numeroff – You might remember this one from when you were a kid. This book tells the story of how a mouse’s request to a little boy for a cookie turns into a cycle of more and more requests. It’s repetitive, sing-songy, a little silly, and great for your toddler who’s just learning how to read.
Berenstain Bears In The Dark by Stan Berenstain – Everyone’s favorite bear family is back teaching valuable life lessons, and in this tale, they show your child how to overcome fear of the dark. After Sister Bear hears a scary bedtime story, Papa Bear comes to the rescue and successfully teaches her how to conquer her fears. This is a go-to bedtime story for parents looking to help their kid who’s afraid of the dark relax at bedtime.
The Three Golden Apples by Nathaniel Hawthorne – This story inspired by Greek mythology is ideal for your little warrior, and will inspire an adventurous spirit inside your child as it tells the story of strongman Hercules’ journey to the Garden of Hesperides to retrieve the three golden apples.
IRA Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber – Sleeping over at a friend’s house can be a scary moment for a kid, especially if they’ve never stayed overnight in an unfamiliar place without their parents. Your kid can relate to and draw courage from Ira, as the character works through his worries about attending his first sleepover.
3.) Children (7-12)
Once your child enters elementary school and begins learning how to read, they’ll be ready to move onto “big kid” books — a.k.a long stories or chapter books. It’ll keep them more captivated, and your kid will be excited to take on the challenge of bigger vocabulary.
Astronaut Annie by Suzanne Slade – Teach your child to shoot for the stars in this charming story about little Annie who dreams about being an astronaut as she talks to her parents about future career possibilities before her school’s career day. As an added bonus, the book includes fun facts about the moon and female astronauts that your child will be excited to learn.
The Dragon’s Eggs by Jade Matre – In this kid-friendly fantasy, your son or daughter will learn the importance of perseverance as Luca makes his way through an abandoned castle in search of four dragon eggs. It’s full of magic, mysticism, and is perfect for fueling a child’s flourishing imagination.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – This book is pretty lengthy, but a great read for your child looking for a challenge. It tells the story of an orphan named Mary Lennox who is sent to live in the English countryside with an uncle she’d never met after the loss of her parents. At first, she’s sour and dislikes everything about her new home, but she experiences a change of heart when she discovers a secret garden and other mysteries inside the home.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White – You’re likely familiar with this tear-jerker, and it’s perfect for children 7+ because it’s rich in both vocabulary and life lessons. Help teach your child about friendship and the cycle of life in this classic story that revolves around the touching relationship between Wilbur the pig, and his eight-legged friend Charlotte.
Author Bio: McKenzie Dillon is a blogger and sleep enthusiast for The Slumber Yard, a reviews site that focuses on bedding products. When she’s not sleeping, McKenzie likes attending music festivals, reading novels and practicing yoga.