A handful of great children's bedtime stories should be in every parent's and grandparent's arsenal for those nights when the kids need a little extra nudge to fall asleep. Bedtime stories have been a reliable parenting tool for centuries with good reason: soothing tales can help promote healthy sleep patterns by relaxing children and taking their minds off the day’s worries. While every family is bound to have their tried-and-true favorites, we’ve rounded up some almost universally agreed upon classics (and a couple of newcomers) that are practically guaranteed to help youngsters along on their way to dreamland.
Best Bedtime Stories
This enduring classic by Margaret Wise Brown doesn’t really have much of a plot, but its soothing text, quirky-cute illustrations, and obvious progression toward the little bunny’s bedtime have made it one of the world’s most popular bedtime stories for the last 70 years.
The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep
This hypnotic book is a relative newcomer on the bedtime story scene. While its illustrations may leave something to be desired, many parents swear by the tricks and techniques employed by its author, Carl-Johan Forssen-Ehrlin. The book uses keyword repetition and special emphasis to seemingly “hypnotize” kids into a relaxed, sleep-ready state.
Llama Llama Red Pajama
Little kids can readily relate to the wooly protagonist in this story by Anna Dewdney. Little Llama procrastinates over his bedtime and works himself into a lather when his mother doesn’t respond immediately to his complaints, but ultimately he settles in for a good night’s sleep knowing that mama llama is nearby.
Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book
This book by the master of children’s literature, Theodor Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss), starts out with extremely contagious yawns to set the tone. A parade of nonsensical creatures progress through stages of sleepiness, urging children along on their snooze-tastic journey.
The Going to Bed Book
As the title suggests, this Sandra Boynton favorite outlines the bedtime routine of some cuddly critters. Kids will recognize their own nighttime habits, like brushing their teeth and putting on pajamas, in this short and silly story.
Guess How Much I Love You
The appeal of this sweet book by Sam McBratney is its reassuring message of a parent’s infinite love for his child. At the conclusion of perhaps the world’s only loving game of one-upmanship, the little bunny (apparently, rabbits really like to sleep) snuggles in his nest and falls asleep.
Books to Avoid
Fun, interactive books or action-packed tales are great for daytime, but they make bad bedtime stories. Books that promote back-and-forth banter, like BJ Novak’s The Book with No Pictures, those that encourage interaction, like Herve Tullet’s Press Here and Eric Carle’s From Head to Toe, and those with fun rhythm, like Steve Webb’s Tanka Tanka Skunk are all fantastic books that should be read to kids liberally--just not when you want them to sleep.
No matter what bedtime reading material you choose, the way you read is just as important as the story when it comes to putting kids to sleep. Maintain a soft, quiet tone that almost borders on monotonous, and emphasize any sleep-related words and phrases.