We’ve already said a lot (A LOT) on this site about bedtime – including when exactly bedtime should happen. We’ve also written a ton about bedtime routines – what bedtime routines should (and shouldn’t) look like, why a bedtime routine is key to sleep coaching, and more.
But here’s a part of most parents’ bedtime routines that goes overlooked as a sleep training tool: the bedtime storybook. Sure, most of us probably spend at least a few minutes reading to our little cherubs before tucking them in at night, but have you ever stopped and thought about how you can turn the bedtime story to your (sleep training) advantage?
Now, that’s not to say that you have to choose special “sleep-focused” books at bedtime – there’s a lot to be said for simply reading a good book to your kiddo, regardless of whether or not it mentions sleep! Reading is hands-down the best way to establish early literacy, and it makes for pretty fantastic parent-child bonding time, too.
But if you’re sleep coaching, you no doubt want to utilize every tool at your disposal to help the process along – and the bedtime books you choose can be powerful tools indeed. Read on for details!
15 Bedtime Books You Can Turn Into Great Sleep Coaching Tools
SUPER-SHORT SUMMARY: A bedtime book classic! Little bunny bids “goodnight” to everything in his room, before peacefully drifting off to sleep himself.
WHY IT’S A GREAT SLEEP TRAINING TOOL: Have a toddler who’s fighting off bedtime? Saying “goodnight” to the things she encounters as she goes through her bedtime routine is actually a powerful way to help signal that it’s time to go to sleep. It’s also a way for your toddler to mentally reassure herself that everything else in her life (and in her room) is going to sleep too – so she’s not missing anything. 😉 And this is a great book for babies, too – the simple illustrations and primary colors provide great visual appeal for infants!
SUPER-SHORT SUMMARY: A wide-awake little owl swoops through this beautifully-illustrated book and watches all the other animals settle down (and snuggle down) for sleep.
WHY IT’S A GREAT SLEEP TRAINING TOOL: If you have your own “wide-awake” little watchful owl at bedtime, this book is a great resource! As your child watches how all the animals sleep in their own special way, it can provide big reassurance that bedtime really is for sleeping. And if your toddler has a unique bedtime arrangement (maybe he has to sleep with three or four of the same special stuffed friends each night?), then he can take pride in knowing that just like the animals, he has his own special way of sleeping. Babies will love this book, too – especially if you’re working on teaching your baby animal names and sounds.
SUPER-SHORT SUMMARY: A feisty little girl lets her parents know in no uncertain terms that she is not – positively not – tired. Her loving parents convince her that bed really is the place for her, and a colorful parade of animals follows, as these ingenious parents convince their little one to “sleep like a tiger”.
WHY IT’S A GREAT SLEEP TRAINING TOOL: Who among us HASN’T had a bedtime-avoider on their hands? The “I’m not tired!” line is a favorite among most toddlers. Well, this book is a great choice for the bedtime avoider in your house. Through this story and it’s gorgeous illustrations, your toddler will learn that it’s okay to have a feisty spirit, but that bedtime can be an exciting and imaginative time, too!
SUPER-SHORT SUMMARY: An adorable look at where the big “diggers” sleep at night – this one is quite similar to Good Night, Good Night, Construction Site.
WHY IT’S A GREAT SLEEP TRAINING TOOL: For the wee truck-lover in your life! If you have a little one who loves heavy machinery in your home, this book is sure to be a hit. As your child watches the beloved trucks and diggers go peacefully to bed, odds are bedtime will start to seem more appealing to your little guy or little girl, too!
SUPER-SHORT SUMMARY: Little Willa is scared to go to sleep – good thing her big brother Willoughby is there to tell her something happy before she goes to sleep!
WHY IT’S A GREAT SLEEP TRAINING TOOL: Bedtime fears and fear of the dark are very real for toddlers – and it’s very possible that at some point during the sleep coaching process, your little one will suddenly become scared at bedtime. This book is a great solution to that problem! Willa’s “happy thoughts” before bed can become your child’s – or, after the book is done, come up with some happy thoughts of your own! As for babies, they’re sure to love the snuggly bunny characters in this sweet little book.
SUPER-SHORT SUMMARY: Mama animals gently put their babies to sleep in this fantastic book, complete with gorgeous, lush illustrations.
WHY IT’S A GREAT SLEEP TRAINING TOOL: It can really help your little one to know that when it’s her bedtime, lots of other things are going to bed, too – including animals! The soft, lilting rhymes of this book will lull even the youngest babies to sleep, and the message that everything around the world is going to bed can go a long way to helping your baby or toddler settle down and fall asleep without a fuss.
SUPER-SHORT SUMMARY: Simpson’s sheep need to go to sleep – but they just won’t! Between yakking and stalling and needing to “go”, these sheep are pro bedtime stallers.
WHY IT’S A GREAT SLEEP TRAINING TOOL: Have a bedtime staller on your hands? Then this is the book for you! By the end, you and your toddler will be rolling over the sheep’s stall tactics, and will be chanting together, “Go to sleep, sheep!” This is a great way for toddlers to see how silly bedtime stalling can look from a different perspective, and will hopefully help you make progress towards smoother bedtimes yourselves.
SUPER-SHORT SUMMARY: This little book presents great, basic information about why living things need sleep, and takes a look at how animals sleep, how people sleep, how sleep affects our brains, and more.
WHY IT’S A GREAT SLEEP TRAINING TOOL: Have a little budding scientist at home who constantly asks, “But why?” I can relate! If your little one just needs to know the “why” behind why she has to go to sleep, you’ll want to grab a copy of this book. It presents the basics about why sleep is important in a straightforward, easy-to-understand way. This book will definitely help convince your little bedtime skeptic that sleep matters, and that can help make sleep coaching even easier on both of you!
SUPER-SHORT SUMMARY: Watch a toddler go through his bedtime routine with his family, from brushing teeth to taking a bath to lullabies and snuggles.
WHY IT’S A GREAT SLEEP TRAINING TOOL: Toddlers will be reassured that yes, bedtime is normal and everyone is doing it when they watch the character in the story go through his bedtime routine with mom and dad, and snuggle down happily into bed. Modeling good bedtime behavior and cooperation is a great way to help show your toddler exactly what’s expected of him at bedtime, and this book does exactly that – it provides a positive model of what bedtime should look like. A great tool to add to your sleep coaching arsenal! And babies can get a lot out of this book, too – after all, it’s never too late to start modeling good bedtime behavior, and establishing a strong bedtime routine! Note that this book is one in a series called “Toddler Tools” – check out their other books on meal-times, nap time, clean-up time, and more.
SUPER-SHORT SUMMARY: An adorable breastfeeding toddler learns that nighttime is for sleeping, and that “nursies” happen in the day, when the sun shines.
WHY IT’S A GREAT SLEEP TRAINING TOOL: A FABULOUS book for co-sleeping parents who are working on weaning an older baby or toddler away from nighttime nursing. A client actually recommended this one to us awhile back, and said it was a lifesaver in her home! If you are working on night weaning as part of your sleep coaching, this book will be a great tool for you – it’s designed to help even young toddlers understand when it’s time to nurse, and when it’s time to sleep.
BOOK:If Animals Kissed Good Night – by Ann Whitford Paul
SUPER-SHORT SUMMARY: As she prepares to drift off to sleep, a sweet little girl wonders aloud to her mother what it would be like if animals kissed goodnight at bedtime. Would the wolves kiss and then howl? Would the bears kiss and then growl?
WHY IT’S A GREAT SLEEP TRAINING TOOL: With engaging rhymes and beautiful, whimsical illustrations, this book is sure to captivate your child’s interest at bedtime. The silly concepts may even raise a few giggles! But the main thing here is that it will strongly reinforce your sleep training work if your child sees animal friends peacefully kissing goodnight; it provides a model for what you want your child to do at bedtime, too. And it helps reinforce the idea that everyone has to go to sleep – even the baby animals!
BOOK: A Visit From The Good Night Fairy – by Renee Frances
SUPER-SHORT SUMMARY: A young toddler is anxious about sleeping alone all night in the new “big kid room” and starts resisting bedtime in a big way. Enter Remy Somnus, the Good Night Fairy! Our little sleep-fighter learns that if he can stay in bed all night long, the Good Night Fairy will leave a little gift at the foot of the bed.
WHY IT’S A GREAT SLEEP TRAINING TOOL: Talk about motivation! This book provides a fantastic way to help you motivate your bedtime-fighter to fall asleep quickly and to STAY in bed all night long: every night that she stays in bed and sleeps, the Good Night Fairy will leave a small gift on her bed. This is an ideal sleep coaching tool for toddlers who have recently transitioned to sleeping alone in a big-kid bed.
BOOK: Mother Goose’s Pajama Party – by Danna Smith
SUPER-SHORT SUMMARY: Even nursery rhyme characters need their sleep! Join Mother Goose as she invites all your favorite nursery characters to a special slumber party. This is an inventive (and very sleep-friendly!) take on classic nursery rhyme stories.
WHY IT’S A GREAT SLEEP TRAINING TOOL: If your child enjoys classic nursery rhyme stories like Little Bo Peep and Jack and Jill, he’s sure to enjoy this clever book; he’ll get to watch as all his favorite characters settle in for the night and fall asleep under the loving care of (who else) Mother Goose herself! This is yet another book that emphasizes the universal need to sleep; reading this book will help your little one see that everyone – even nursery rhyme heroes – needs their rest.
BOOK: A Bedtime Kiss For Chester Raccoon (Kissing Hand Books) – by Audrey Penn
SUPER-SHORT SUMMARY: If your child has read The Kissing Hand, then she’s sure to love this sweet bedtime story featuring Chester Raccoon. It’s time for Chester to sleep, but the sun is making strange and scary shadows on the walls. Chester’s mama offers him a bedtime kissing hand, and Chester is finally able to feel reassured and fall asleep.
WHY IT’S A GREAT SLEEP TRAINING TOOL: The kissing hand isn’t just for sending your kiddo to kindergarten anymore! In this adorable addition to the Kissing Hand series, Chester learns that a kissing hand from mama can soothe even the most serious of bedtime fears. If your child is struggling with nighttime fear, this book provides a great solution. Simply give your child his or her own “kissing hand” at bedtime as a way to offer comfort and promote sleep. This can be a great little addition to your usual bedtime routine.
BOOK: Edgar Gets Ready For Bed – by Jennifer Adams
SUPER-SHORT SUMMARY:Little Edgar the Raven is having a tough time minding his mother. Dinnertime, cleanup-time, and bedtime are all met with one word — “NEVERMORE!” From drawing on his bedroom walls with crayons to chasing his sister with a scarecrow, this mischievous and disobedient little bird would much rather do anything than behave. But as the evening winds to a close, Edgar’s mom knows just what to do to get her son into bed.
WHY IT’S A GREAT SLEEP TRAINING TOOL: Full disclosure: I’m a former English major, and the book nerd in me just adores the entire BabyLit® series of books. So I was thrilled to find a BabyLit® book all about sleep! If you have the twin goals of improving your child’s sleep AND introducing him to classic literature, then you’ll adore this book. It will help you lay a foundation for literary appreciation while also guiding your child towards greater cooperation at bedtime…who doesn’t love that?
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This is by no means an exhaustive list – we want to hear about your favorite bedtime books! Share your recommendations in the comments below, and help us expand our list!
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If you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.
For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
For those persistent toddler sleep struggles, check out The 5 Step System to Help Your Toddler Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your toddler sleep through the night and enjoy a better daytime schedule.
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