Baby Faves: Bedtime
It is never too early to incorporate reading with your child into your daily routine. Aside from ensuring that reading is built right into your busy day, routines provide babies with the repetition necessary to make lasting brain connections! Routines also establish predictability, which is vital to even the youngest child's sense of security.
Many families choose to include reading specifically in the bedtime routine, relaxing at the end of the day with a book (or ten!). It turns out that reading while snuggling isn't just nice, it also has early literacy benefits -- those comfortable, soothing bedtime cuddles facilitate a positive association with reading early on that will be super important later, when baby has grown into a burgeoning independent reader.
Here are ten sleepy selections to add to the nightly routine, as well as a few related rhymes and songs to sprinkle in, too.
Peekaboo Bedtime by Rachel Isadora
A toddler plays peekaboo with family members, toys, and household objects while getting ready for bed in this picture book. A bedtime round of peekaboo with your own baby would be a great tie-in to this book; the text is even formatted to mimic peekaboo -- each spread reads "Peekaboo! I see..." and when the page is turned, the person or object is revealed. If you can't get enough, try Isadora's earlier book, starring the same child, Peekaboo Morning.
Time for Bed by Petr
Each short, simple line of text in this board book begins with "Time for" and lists a different pre-bedtime activity, reinforcing the idea of a daily routine. The edges of the pages are wavy and each page gets successively smaller, providing an interesting sensory experience and quietly building layers of a colorful blanket for the boy getting tucked into bed on the very last page.
Pajama Time by Sandra Boynton
This board book really showcases the author/illustrator's musical sensibility-- it's a jazzy, rollicking, rhythmic rhyme, complete with text clues for dynamics -- larger text for the loud parts, smaller text for the quiet ones. Consider this book if you're looking for something silly, upbeat, and unlikely to become dull after many, many readings.
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
This gorgeous picture book version of the classic song is well-suited to grow with children – as they get older, they can more fully explore the intricate watercolor illustrations that tell the tale of a chipmunk’s moonlit sailboat adventure through the sky. Babies, however, will enjoy hearing the familiar melody repeated in several verses. The wordless portions provide the opportunity to use rich vocabulary to talk with babies and toddlers about what is happening on the page.
Yawn by Sally Symes, illustrated by Nick Sharratt
In this repetitive, chant-like story, a boy named Sean passes his yawn to a cat, who passes it to a bird, who passes it to a... you get the idea. The rhyme and board book format are key for infants, and the opportunities to really play up the yaaaawwwwwnnnns and shout out the animals they recognize will appeal to toddlers.
Time for Bed by Mem Fox, illustrated by Jane Dyer
“It’s time for bed, little mouse, little mouse/ Darkness is falling all over the house.” This first line sets the repetition and rhyme scheme for the rest of the story, in which various creatures attempt to coax their little ones to sleep. This lovely, simple book ends with a human mother wishing her child “sweet dreams,” and “good night.”
Hush, Little Baby by Brian Pinkney
Another picture book rendering of a classic lullaby, Pinkney's sunny illustrations depict a playful African American family in the early 20th century interacting with all of the gifts Papa brings home -- and in this version, the last gift is a bit of a surprise! The print is large and the pages uncluttered, making it easy to point out words, letters, and objects to babies as you sing.
The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
Another silly board book offering from Boynton follows the (at times boisterous) bedtime routine of a few animals on a boat in this short, rhyming narrative. By the end, though, they all "rock and rock and rock to sleep."
Sleepy, Oh So Sleepy by Denise Fleming
This picture book is a great choice for putting babies to bed with its sweet, lulling text (the phrase "sleepy, oh so sleepy" repeats on each double-page spread, the question "Where's my sleepy baby?" on every third). Plus, the beautiful, double-page illustrations (created using pulp painting, a really unique technique!) of baby animals cuddling with their parents and large print in a clear, bold font are easy for little eyes to see.
Baby Bedtime by Mem Fox, illustrated by Emma Quay
This easily-flowing rhyme, spoken from mother elephant to baby elephant, sets the tone for a very snuggly goodnight. Best if you're in the mood for a gentle, affectionate book full of hugs and kisses -- even the pastel illustrations are sweet and cuddly.
Related Songs and Rhymes:
Hey Diddle Diddle
Five in the Bed