Bedtime Books

Sending kids off to sleep is much easier when you have a dedicated ritual – which will likely include wonderful bedtime books. These stories should be sweet, soothing, and should help kids drop off into a wonderful slumber. Let’s take a look at the best books for just that purpose.

Top 5 Bedtime Books for Kids

goodnight moon Goodnight Moon: No childhood is complete without the lovely, inspired and classic Goodnight Moon. Told from the perspective of a little rabbit who’s trying to postpone his bedtime, the story is a poem to all the things the rabbit doesn’t want to say good night to quite yet. This includes all objects he can see and hear, including a woman telling him to hush, and the bright moon. The illustrations are both simple and spectacular, and they vary between tiny ink drawings and wide, bright views of the entire room of the little rabbit. This is a book that’s been cherished for generations and will continue to be so.
the going to bed book The Going to Bed Book: The perfect book for a little one who isn’t quite ready for bed, this book is full of every animal you can imagine. They watch the sun go down and each do their own thing to get ready. Some take a bath, some find pajamas, others get their exercises in. Finally, when all their night time rituals are complete, they say goodnight and head off to sleepy land. The author has a very unusual knack of understanding what appeals to small children. The simple, adorable rhymes, goofy animals in silly settings, and comforting stories all work together to create a delightful book.
five little monkeys jumping on the bed Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed: There are five little monkeys, and it’s time for them to go to bed. They get their pajamas on, get prepared, and say good night to their mother. But instead of going to bed…they jump on it! This book is based on the popular finger play, which follows a melodic rhyme scheme that will get stuck in the head of young ones as they drift off to sleep. As each monkey falls off and bumps his head, the doctor comes to bandage him up. Then we’re left with 4 little monkeys jumping on the bed, then 3, then 2, then 1…then it’s time for sleep!
good night gorilla Good Night Gorilla: The zookeeper says good night to Gorilla, but Gorilla isn’t ready quite yet. Instead, he follows the zookeeper on his rounds and frees all the other animals from their cages. Kids will delight as they follow Gorilla and the zookeeper to discover who ends up with the last laugh. This book is almost wordless, yet each word that’s used is used to optimal effect. The story is mostly told through incredibly expressive illustrations, a very fine attention to detail, and hilarious asides. This picture book provides the perfect amount of chuckles without getting kids worked up right before bedtime.
llama llama red pajama Llama Llama Red Pajama: Llama, Llama is waiting for his mama to come tuck him into bed for the night. When she doesn’t come right away, he begins to fret. This read-aloud book is full of lovely rhymes, and plenty of llama drama. Once Llama, Llama is finally tucked into bed by his mama, he finds new things to worry about. When his whimpers don’t work, he starts hollering – which finally gets Mama’s attention. Kids who read this book will relate to Llama, Llama wanting the comfort of his mom, while parents will learn something from the reassuring message of Mama Llama.

Sleep Children’s Books: Honorable Mentions

time for bed Time for Bed: This picture book is all about the illustrations. With large-scale watercolors that are bright, delightful, and whimsical, children will love to gaze at this book right before their bedtime. The verses are short, and the words are minimal, but they are used to great effect. The book features a number of different kinds of animals being cuddled and coddled by their moms, and each rhyme corresponds with each animal. This is a great book for animal lovers, or those who simply love to look at adorable babies and their mamas right before they slip off into slumber for themselves.
goodnight, goodnight construction site Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site: If you know a wee one who loves construction, then you know someone who will love this book. It begins as the sun starts to set on the big construction site. All the trucks who’ve worked so hard all day are ready to say goodnight to one another. The book follows them as one by one they say good night. It features the wonderful characters Crane Truck, Cement Mixer, Dump Truck, Bulldozer and Excavator. Parents will appreciate the excellent message it includes, as it tells kids how important it is to get a good night’s rest so they can be at their best the next day.
How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?: So many kids love dinosaurs, and so many of them will love this sweet book. It answers important questions like, what does a dinosaur do if he catches the flu? It’s no surprise that dinosaurs hate being sick as much as people do. After all, the doctor can be quite scary! This book is especially recommended for parents who are looking for books that directly relate to helping kids fall asleep when they’re sick. Though the story is always a good one, the messages about getting rest and listening to the doctor are especially relevant during bouts of the flu.
the goodnight train The Goodnight Train: Everybody hop on the Goodnight Train to Dreamland! Hold on to your pillow, and prepare yourself for the soothing, soft, wonderful ride. The train is taking off, so get ready to roll across that corner, rock the curve that’s coming up, soar on by the mermaids, leap over the sheep – and even take in the ice-cream clouds! We promise you won’t want to miss a thing, so be sure that you don’t close your eyes…until it’s time, that is. This book uses soothing, bedtime words and magical illustrations to lure kids off to sleep and encourage them to snuggle up tight for the night.
dr. seuss’s sleep book Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book: While many of Dr. Seuss’s children’s books focus on a specific character, this book focuses exclusively on imagination. Also of note are the lavish illustrations that are quite different from those typically seen in a Seuss book. Clearly the author and illustrator wanted this to be a completely soothing, bedtime book, and so they created large, lush landscapes with crazy creatures hiding everywhere. Children who have sleeping issues like sleepwalking or snoring will love the way this book reassures them that it’s OK to be a different kind of sleeper. Though this book is quite subtle, it’s also very effective at calming kids as they get ready for their nightly snooze.
don’t let the pigeon stay up late! Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!: A follow-up to the beloved Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, this is a wonderful bedtime story about an ornery pigeon who just doesn’t understand why he can’t stay up late! Initially kids may agree with the pigeon, but as the case is made they’re likely to see that it is indeed for the pigeon’s best interest that he start snoozing earlier rather than later. They may not realize it, but this book will teach kids how important it is to get their shut eye early. It also walks them through various nighttime rituals that can help them get a handle on sleep.
the napping house The Napping House: Everyone is sleeping in this delightful house, including a loudly-snoring grandma, a blissfully sleeping child, a dog who’s dozing delightfully, a cat who’s grabbing a cat nap, and a mouse whose nose twitches as he dreams. Well, everyone is sleeping except for a flea! This humorous book follows the flea as he wakes them up one by one. The story fits in well with bedtime books like Goodnight Moon, as the illustrations are similar and the story is sweetly slumber ready. The text is rhythmic, repeating, and sure to help lull even the most wound up little ones into a wonderful sleep of their own.
bear snores on Bear Snores On: Bear seems to be able to sleep through pretty much anything. A variety of animals enter his cage, one by one, to get away from a nasty storm. He continues to sleep and snore through them all. Mouse comes in to build a warm form, and Hare cooks popping popcorn on it. Badger brings snacks of his own, and they all have a lovely time! But then Bear finally wakes up and he realizes that he’s missed out on quite a party. His visitors are afraid Bear won’t take it well – but are they in for a surprise? Will he join their party?
snoozers: 7 short short bedtime stories for lively little kids Snoozers: 7 Short Short Bedtime Stories for Lively Little Kids: If you’re only going to pick one of the books on this list, this might be the one. It includes seven complete stories and is quite interactive. Kids can easily flip from one story to the next thanks to color coded tabs that help them learn their colors as they find the story they want. A simple press of the button leads to a wonderful auditory experience. Not only is this a great book to read with kids, but it’s a book they can explore on their own. Each story is short, sweet, whimsical and sure to quickly become a favorite.
twinkle twinkle little star Twinkle Twinkle Little Star: : Already an acclaimed illustrator of children’s books, Jerry Pinkney sets his hand at a wonderful bedtime book. The watercolors in this book are perfect for sleepy time, as they are soft, comforting and soothing. The story follows a curious chipmunk who leaves his home to say hello to the twilight. He stares at the glittering stars above him, and notices how different the world is at night than it is by day. What follows is a dreamlike quest wherein the littlest chipmunk literally reaches for the stars. Based on the famous children’s lullaby, kids will be familiar with much of the lyrical text.
pajama time! Pajama Time!: Author of the immensely popular Barnyard Dance! and Birthday Monsters!, Sandra Boynton creates yet another whimsical children’s tale, this one based on the bedtime ritual. With irresistible language, truly impressive illustrations, and a cast of characters that’s so hilarious only she could create it, this book is sure to be a hit. The loveable characters include a chicken who jumps rope and a pig who spends his days swinging. An elephant is outfitted in his fuzzy one-piece pajama outfit – complete with feet! This is a book that will show kids just how fun it can be to get ready for bed for the night.
in the night kitchen In the Night Kitchen: From the author of famous children’s books like Where the Wild Things Are comes this night time book that will get kids to bed on the right foot. While the writer and illustrator insists he’s not a comic artist, it’s hard not to note the comic aspect of this book. The story follows a child who floats from one panel to another, as he works his way through a wonderful dream world that takes place entirely in a baker’s kitchen. This is less traditional than his other books, thanks in part to the hand-lettered text and the integration of many different panels.
a book of sleep A Book of Sleep: This book is all about the art. The text is sparce, though soothing when it’s there, but the illustrations are so rich and multi-textured that even the least affected children will be taken away on a wonderful journey. The story begins and ends in the middle of a starry night, where an owl watches all the other animals as they settle in for their night. Some of the animals sleep while standing up, some of them even sleep while they’re on the move! Some sleep alone, though peacefully, and others huddle together in a ball. This is a wonderful way for kids to learn about the different sleeping patterns of other animals.
go away, big green monster! Go Away, Big Green Monster!: Another interactive example of sleep books, this is perfect for kids who are afraid of the dark or sleeping in general. They can watch their nighttime fears slip away as they turn the pages of the book. First, the Big Green Monster will grow as their fears grow. As they overcome the fear of the monster, they can turn the rest of the pages and watch the monster begin to disappear. This is a very textured book, with die-cut eyes, and a sparkling foil cover. Kids who have nothing to be afraid will love this just as much as those who need a little help shaking away the night time scares.
kiss good night Kiss Good Night: Poor little Sam! Mrs. Bear goes through the bedtime ritual and gives him everything he needs – except one important thing. She starts by reading him a story while the wind blows and the rain pelts down outside. She tucks him in, but he’s still not ready for bed. I know, he needs some warm milk! Surely now he’s ready. When it becomes apparent that she’s missed something, will Mrs. Bear catch on to the fact that she’s forgotten to give him his goodnight kiss? This is a wonderful story for kids who can relate to needing their own goodnight kiss.
bedtime for frances Bedtime for Frances: When it comes to brilliant, unique illustrations, you can’t do much better than this book. Though it’s part of a series, including Bread and Jam for Frances, this is the only book that uses this particular artist, so it has quite a different feel from the others. Kids love the picture of the father who’s half awake in bed, and the illustrations of Frances and her father as they brush their fangs before going to bed. Though it was originally published in just black and white, it’s now available in full color that adds some much needed detail without taking away from the integrity of the originals.
i need my monster I Need My Monster: This book will create the perfect balance between wide-eyed wonder and adorable giggles. While it does cover a scary topic – monsters – it shows how you can use humor to get over fears. It shows kids that the things they’re afraid of can actually be quite funny, and that finding it funny will take away the fear. In the book, the little boy Ethan checks for his monster, only to find a note from him instead. Little Ethan knows that he needs his nightly monster scares in order to get to sleep, so he interviews some local substitutes to see if they can fill his monster’s shoes.
the night night book The Night Night Book: Bedtime books don’t get any cuter than this. Not only does it help kids to say good bye to the day, but it helps parents do so as well. Everyone will get settled in, snuggled up, and ready to rest for the new day of tomorrow. This is an emotional and thoughtful story that is destined to quickly become a children’s classic. With rich illustrations, sweet prose, and a wonderful story, this book is lulling kids to sleep across the country. The author has done an impressive job mimicking the way a toddler would write about their bedtime, if they were able to do so.
tuck me in! Tuck Me In!: You can see the stars. There goes the moon rising. The baby animals are all ready for bed, from the peacocks, to the zebras to the pigs. All they need is someone to say good night to them. All you have to do is turn each page, and you’ll be greeted with big, adorable flaps that double as blankets. Each flap will cover the little creature up and make him comfortable for the night. This book feels complex, due to its many textures and interaction, but it’s actually a very simple, sweet book that will help make little ones actually look forward to bedtime.

Tips on How to Get Kids to Sleep

Good sleep habits start early, and the most important thing you can do to help you get your kids to sleep is to establish a routine. Proper sleep can improve a child’s immune system, can improve cognitive function, and can help them be in generally better spirits. Make sleep time a priority for your kids, and come up with a nightly ritual and schedule you can stick to.

bedtime books

The right routine for your family will depend on your your child’s preferences and what’s reasonable for your family – but the key is consistency. For example, your routine may consist of getting pajamas on, having a cup of milk while watching the little one’s favorite cartoon, teeth brushing, and then into bed to read sleep books. You want to make the experience fun for your child so they’ll look forward to getting started every night.

Once you establish a consistent sleep schedule, your child will be less likely to try and push the envelope. If they know bedtime is at a specific time and that they can’t talk their way out of it, eventually they are likely to stop trying. Create a safe, soothing, comfortable atmosphere for your child and you’ll see them sleep the entire night through.

Any of the books on this list make a perfect choice for a bedtime ritual. Keep in mind that not all books are right for night time. Books that include a lot of action, loud noises, or that require kids to follow directions to jump, stomp, or otherwise get worked up are likely to keep them up even longer.

One Response to “Bedtime Books”

  1. Kimberly Scanlon says:

    Aw, I love these recommendations. I already have a few of them and can’t wait to go out and buy some more. BUT, I must say I think you are missing an incredibly peaceful and beautiful bedtime story – It’s Time to Sleep My Love by Nancy Tillman. My little girl is only 4 months old (I’m a speech therapist, so I start a bit early :) but the story and pictures are simply exquisite.

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