Who doesn’t love a great bedtime story? In our home, bedtime stories take us on magical adventures to faraway lands. Anything is possible, and imaginations run wild! We love exploring new books, and one of our favorite ways to find them is through Lauren of Happily Ever Elephants. She always knows the perfect book suggestion for any situation and offers excellent book reviews. We could browse her site all day discovering new stories to enjoy with our kids. So we’ve asked her to share some of her favorite bedtime books with our readers. Enjoy!
Favorite Bedtime Books!
by Happily Ever Elephants
Bedtime. I don’t know an adult that doesn’t love it. In our exceedingly frenetic and fast-paced world, bedtime is so often the only time of the day when I can finally be quiet. It’s when I can be mindful and present with my breath, when I can think about and reflect upon my day, and when I can surrender to the comfort of my bed and the hush of darkness. I love when the only sound I hear is the ceiling fan whirring above my head!
If only children felt the same way about going to sleep every night! Unfortunately, though, if your house is anything like mine, the sheer call of “bedtime!” inspires nothing but madness. The word alone can conjure so many frightening emotions for a child. For my boys, it’s loneliness. The idea of being alone, confined to a bed in a dark room, is such an uncomfortable feeling for them, not even all the stuffies, lovies, and comfort objects in the world can soothe it. It’s the reason my boys keep asking for water, for one more hug, for one more trip to the bathroom. They simply don’t want to be by themselves.
For others, it’s fear. Fear of the dark. Fear of something in the closet. Fear of something under the bed. How many times has your child asked you to turn the light back on? Called you out of your room because they heard a frightening noise in theirs? Asked you to look in their closet, or in their drawers, or in their toy box just one more time to make sure the coast is clear? The fear can be crippling, and it will undoubtedly have your kids dashing from their rooms like marathon runners and catapulting into your bed like pole vaulters.
For a select few, though, bedtime undoubtedly inspires a quiet journey to the depths of the imagination. The call for bedtime means jumping into a safe haven of blankets and pillows and the soft, comforting cadence of a loved one’s voice reading a wondrous story. There’s nothing better than snuggling under the covers, close to a caregiver, as he or she opens the pages of a crisp picture book and begins to read a story that fills a child with laughter or awe. This is what we want for all of our kids, and this is what we as parents should strive for at bedtime.
But how do we make this happen? It’s easier said than done—trust me, I know. But bedtime stories can help tackle some of these common childhood anxieties and give kids the courage they need to get to sleep calmly. In addition to the significant developmental benefits that reading aloud with children provides, sharing stories with your little ones at bedtime can help soothe their nerves and reinforce bonds between children and their loved ones, making them feel safer and more secure when going to bed. So what are you waiting for? Grab a hold of these books, snuggle up with your kids, and get reading.
The following stories are ones we love in our home, books that ease my boys’ nerves through thrills, wonder, and good old fashioned laughter. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!
A quietly magical bedtime book about a girl whose parents insist she get ready for bed even though she declares she is wide awake. Once under her covers, the child asks her parents how particular animals sleep at night. Through gentle prose, her parents describe the animals’ sleeping habits, which the little girl then mimics once she is alone in her bedroom. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the child falls sound asleep. This story speaks perfectly to little ones who want nothing more than to stay awake when it’s time for bed. For a full review of Sleep Like a Tiger, click here!
Darkness personified—it’s a brilliant concept. Yarlett takes darkness, something many kids are terrified of, and gives him a cuddly frame, a timid but warm smile, and a gentle hand to hold. She shows our little ones that the dark can wrap you up and squeeze you in the most perfect hug, and that the unknown and scary expanse of the night isn’t so frightening after all once you explore it with a friend. To simply say this book is “special” doesn’t do it justice; it leads the pack when it comes to stories for kids afraid of the dark. For a full review of Orion and the Dark, click here!
The premise of the story is simple—a little boy is staunchly resisting his bedtime. Yet even though he becomes more stubborn in his convictions as he moves through each part of his habitual bedtime routine, he eventually—finally!—succumbs to his fatigue. Children will feel an immediate connection to the child in the book as well as his familiar routine, both of which create a sense of comfort for little ones as they snuggle under their covers. For a full review of It is Not Time for Sleeping, click here!
It is a rare child that likes to be told to brush his teeth, go to the bathroom one last time, and get into bed. But this interactive bedtime book allows the kids to be the “boss.” It enables the reader to make sure the book has completed its bedtime routine, that it is warm enough, and that it gets a good hug and kiss before turning out the light. What I love most about this simple and quick read is that it gives little ones power in a situation where they often feel totally powerless. For a full review of Shhh! This Book is Sleeping, click here!
In this whimsical book, a 2019 Caldecott Honor, Little Star cannot resist the great Mooncake her mama bakes her – but she simply cannot resist a nibble! This wonderful book, a modern day myth, tells an enchanting—and totally delightful—story about the different phases of the moon.
A note, a carousel, and a polar bear. Is it a dream? A fantastical adventure? We are still wondering—and that’s so much a part of why we love it. Both artistically beautifully and perfectly fanciful, we adore this captivating story! For a full review of Please Bring Balloons, click here!
Oh, how I love this ingenious bedtime book, and I have no doubt your kids will, too! Can your little ones rise to the challenge and refrain from blinking as they turn these pages? I guarantee they will do everything in their power to pass the test however they can because if they can get to the end of the book without blinking, they win a very coveted prize—they can avoid bedtime! This one is a must.
This book is guaranteed to get your kids laughing about ogres and beasts, rather than fearing them. When Ethan looks under his bed to check on his monster, Gabe, Ethan finds a note from Gabe instead. What does it say? Gabe has gone fishing and will be back in a week! How on earth will Ethan get to bed without his monster’s heavy breathing lulling him to sleep? This book is a hoot and will help your kids turn the tables on their monster woes.
All aboard for dreamland! If your kids love trains or cookies, or trains and cookies, then they want to make sure to climb aboard the Goodnight Train, one that soars past mermaids and ice cream clouds and has heaps and heaps of cookies on board. This was on reread in our house for a good year, as my children loved being rocked and rolled to bed.
A young girl has no interest in sleeping in her own bed in her own room (*ahem* nope, can’t relate to that one at all!) So what does she do? She comes up with the perfect solution to her problem: she sleeps in her parents’ bed and gifts her dad a camping cot, attempting to convince him why he should no longer be sleeping in his own big bed where he belongs. From the girl’s well thought out arguments to the hilarious illustrations, The Big Bed will have your kids laughing from start to finish. For a full review of The Big Bed, click here!
This book is exquisite! The words are sparse, but the illustrations are rich with detail and emotion, telling stories upon stories in and of themselves. A young boy at a boarding school finds himself friendless and alone, but when he gets ready for bed one night, he finds a mysterious invitation. The boy then departs on a magical, mystical journey where he befriends dancing animals and attends a glorious celebration. He returns to his room with the perfect story to tell to a new friend.
If you love Goodnight Moon (or, perhaps, if you are in the camp of people who do not like it at all!) then you must check out this elegant book immediately. Gentle and lyrical prose inspired by cumulative poetry combines with exquisite scratchboard illustrations to make this story an absolute winner. This book is bedtime perfection, a quiet good night book sure to lull your child to sleep with its dreamlike narrative and pictures.
This is one we recite by heart in our house, a classic story about a little llama who gets himself in a tizzy at bedtime. When baby Llama settles into bed, he begins to worry as soon as his beloved Mama leaves his room. How will he handle the dark on his own? Before long, Llama’s whimpers and worry turn into hollers, and soon it escalates into an all out Llama Drama!
Gaby is over bedtime. Yawns and snores are such big bores! So she decides to take some action and leave bedtime behind, setting out with her bewildered granny to find a place where beds are for bouncing, ice cream is available round the clock, and there is no more hushing and shushing. But despite her best efforts, even poor Gaby realizes that sometimes, it is just a bit too difficult to stop that yawn!
When a child opens the Night Box, day slips into evening as darkness unfurls and stars light up the sky. He is the holder of the key that opens this wondrous box, the one that breathes out night and breathes in the day. What a wonderfully imaginative and unexpected story about one child who holds the key (literally) to our world’s most natural cycle.
About the Author
Lauren, of Happily Ever Elephants, found a way to take her passion for children’s literature and turn it into a passion for helping parents teach children to be kind, respectful, empathetic, and compassionate through reading with intention. By selecting stories that are both magical and meaningful, she helps guide parents and children through important life lessons.