Stuff Babies Need

Sleep success! Finding the perfect bedtime story?

Bedtime. It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. A central part of most bedtime routines is the bedtime story. But finding the right story is tricky – too boring and they lose interest, to exciting and they don’t sleep. So what makes a good bedtime story?

To help us uncover the formula for the perfect bedtime story, I’ve got some examples that don’t work so well. We do not usually focus on negative reviews, we try to just point out the things we do like, the things that have worked. So it’s not that these are inherently bad books, but they do have aspects which make them less desirable for a good bedtime read.

Down in the Woods at Sleepytime by Carole Lexa Schaefer

Down in the woods at sleepytime by Carole Lexa Schaefer

Down in the Woods at Sleepytime was given to us as a present. It might as well be called “Top excuses you can use to not go to bed“, as it follows a group of baby animals in a wood telling their mummies why they are not going to sleep. Eventually an owl turns up and tells them a story, and they fall asleep – but the seed of rebellion has been planted. A bedtime book that has so many perfect excuses for not going to sleep is far from ideal.

I want a snack. That rabbits got a snack. Can I have a snack?

Rule #1 : not going to sleep is not a lifestyle choice or situation that should be given any mention!

WOW! said the owl by Tim Hopgood

In the first example, the owl saved the day and got all the babies to sleep. So are owls the perfect sleepy time companions? No!

Wow! Said the Owl is a lovely book, featuring an owl that is amazed at the wonderful colours around us. It’s great for learning the names of colours, and just for generally stoking the fires of amazement that burn so bright in toddlers.

Wow said the owl

But – the owl only sees these thing BY NOT GOING TO SLEEP! A story which is fundamentally based on someone not going to sleep at the proper time and then having an amazing life changing experience does not make for good bedtime reading! I’m not owlist – I’d avoid all books prominently featuring nocturnal animals, they just don’t play by the rules.

Daddy, I want to be an owl, I am a night time creature too

Rule #2 : A good bedtime book should end with people going to bed, preferably at the right time.

Hamilton’s hats

Another great book, but awful for bedtime is Hamilton’s Hats. It’s so long, even with my specially edited cut (sorry crocodile, you’re out!) it takes a good ten minutes to read.

Hamiltons hats

If it’s a fantastic book, teaching the importance of many virtues, through the medium of hats. A great way to talk about different personality traits, and how they are all important for being a nice person. The illustrations are great too, as they are done by the same man who drew The Gruffalo.

But it’s too long for bed. It’s too long to memorise, so it’s not great for reading in a dimly lit bedroom.

Rule #3 : you’ve got to be able to memorise it


So what is the perfect bed time story?

Well, by far the best we’ve found is Goodnight Digger by Michelle Robinson. Its a short story, written in lovely rhyming prose, of a boy saying good night to all his toys before finally saying “Goodnight digger” and going to sleep himself. It satisfies all our rules for a perfect bedtime story, and it has quickly become one of our favourites to read.

Goodnight Digger by Michelle Robinson review

It’s not a boring book, but it’s not too exciting – everyone in the story, and I mean everyone, is going to bed. If your child like diggers, tractors, trams or vans they will love this book. Its simple structure, also lends it well to being a book that your child can start to read (or at least say) along with you.

And if your child has a liking for tractors, there is also Goodnight Tractor which has a similar style, but features more farmyard animals and equipment.


Do you have a favourite bedtime story? Let us know in the comments!

My Random Musings

6 comments for “Sleep success! Finding the perfect bedtime story?

  1. suz
    July 27, 2016 at 10:43 pm

    I loved your rules for bedtime books.
    We haven’t read Goodnight Digger but I’m sure my grandson would love this. At the moment his favourite is Kiss Goodnight, Sam (and yes, we both know all the words).
    Thanks for some great suggestions. Off to look for Goodnight Digger 🙂

  2. July 28, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    Love Goodnight Digger here – there is a whole series I think. Owl Babies and Guess How Much I Love You are our snuggly bedtime books 🙂 #BloggerClubUK

    • July 28, 2016 at 10:17 pm

      I’ve heard good things about owl babies! But still, I don’t want nocturnal animals at bed time! Maybe sloth babies would be better!

  3. July 28, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    I have read them books many a time and never thought about them in this way. Will deffo think about this when I start reading stories to my daughter #bloggerclubuk

  4. August 2, 2016 at 8:23 pm

    It sounds like a fab book! My son is obsessed with diggers, trains, cars, planes anything with wheels… We’re quite lucky that they usually settle to sleep easily but I love discovering new bedtime stories to read them #bloggerclubuk

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