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April 25, 2024

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Editor Picks! Favorite Bedtime Stories for Babies and Young Children

Once upon a time, bedtime was simple and sweet and filled with gentle stories.

All little ones should be read to before sleep, and with a gentle, soothing voice. Start your bedtime routine with a bath and teethbrushing, make sure there's a sippy cup of water nearby, and bring a book to the bedside. The American Academy of Pediatrics says parents should 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. But snuggling together for a bedtime story also promotes a good night's sleep. For babies and little ones, stick to stories that contain rhymes, colorful illustrations, a warm and upbeat message and simple vocabulary. 

Here are our favorites:

Goodnight Moon is one of the best bedtime stories for little ones ever told. Written in short poem form and detailing the bedtime routine of a rabbit bent on postponing sleep, he has to say, "Good night" to all the items he sees until the only thing left is the moon. It's short, pleasant and gorgeously illustrated. 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar follows the journey of a caterpillar eating through the pages of the book. Kids will ask for it over and over again. Like Goodnight Moon, it has sold millions of copies worldwide. You may have to reread it a few times before your little one nods off. Practice a mystical voice …


Winnie-the-Pooh gets a bit lost in the shuffle today, but this classic tale of Christopher Robin and his lovable stuffed animal friends come alive in the Hundred Acre Woods is full of innocence and wonder. Pooh, notorious for getting his snout caught in beehives, enjoys friendships with Owl, Rabbit, Eyore, Piglet, Kanga, Roo and Tigger. timeless tale that relies on amusement and imagination to engage readers. While Winnie-the-Pooh spawned other books, movies and more, the original book is timeless, light and pleasant and funny.


Love You Forever is an emotional children’s book (for parents). It covers the experiences of a young boy and his mother throughout the boy's life as he grows. Similar in feel to The Giving Tree, by the end of the story the mother is too old to sneak into her grown son's book to read to him, so the boy goes to her. This story introduces the concept of life's cyle and how we change as we grow. Warning: this story may turn on the waterworks for you.


Guess How Much I Love You Of course all we really, really want to know deep down inside of ourselves is whether or not we are loved. This affirming story of affection is all a little one needs to hear before drifting off to sleep.


The Tale of Peter Rabbit First published in 1902, this sweet and smart tale of a playful rabbit and the trouble he gets into in Mr. McGregor's vegetable garden is a cautionary tale full of beautiful illustrations and delightful characters.


Sleep, My Bunny A lovely bedtime book, inside a bunny's cozy house, the family goes through the tradition of bedtime. Follow along at each step, which will help your own child learn a routine of his own: eating dinner, cleaning up the toys, taking a bath, listening to a story. 


Bedtime for Frances Bedtime delay tactics are funny and relative to all little children. The minimalist illustrations by Garth Williams (of The Little House books fame) are perfect enough to frame.

Llama, Llama Red Pajama This sweet essential for your child's night stand finds little Llama reluctant to go to bed. Wise Mama to the rescue! With warm, emotional illustrations and a perfect rhyme scheme, this story is gentle enough for all ages.


A Treasury of Bedtime Stories: More Than 40 Classic Tales for Sweet Dreams These kind of collections are what children remember after growing up: standard fairy tales beautifully illustrated. 


About the Author

Susan Swindell Day

Susan Day is the editor in chief for this award-winning publication and all-things Nashville Parent digital creative. She's also an Equity actress, screenwriter and a mom of four amazing kids.