Sleepytime Stories: Books To Help Children Build a Bedtime Routine
by Jennifer Ridgway
One of the most ubiquitous pieces of parenting advice I have heard and read is how important it is to establish and maintain a bedtime routine. Many experts (as well as fellow parents) recommend starting as soon as possible to help create the link between a routine and falling asleep. As with many pieces of advice, it can sometimes be easier said than done — but thankfully there are many books to help illustrate routines. Here are some stories that can help you and your child come up with a nighttime ritual that works well for your family.
Ages 0 - 2
Patricelli is well known for her bold illustrations and simple text. With Nighty-Night, she follows a baby as it goes through the bedtime routine. While she highlights some standard steps (bathtime, brushing teeth, and storytime), she also includes a couple of different ones, including dance-time and saying goodnight to the moon. At the back of the book is a glossary of “More nighty-night things” that illustrates words like yawn, blankie, dream, and snore.
Sleep Tight with The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Snuggle up with your little one and their favorite caterpillar! Babies and toddlers love lifting the flaps on each page, revealing animals getting ready for bed. Eric Carle’s signature artwork and simple text make it the perfect addition to your bedtime routine.
Llama Llama Nighty-Night
A great introduction to the beloved character of Llama Llama, this short board book features the poetic rhyming of the full-length Llama Llama books. Follow along as Llama Llama and Mama go through the bedtime routine after dinner — from brushing teeth to taking a bath to falling asleep. This gives families a simple and sweet way to introduce a regular bedtime routine.
Leo, Sleep Tight!
Creating a bedtime routine is essential for young children, and the author created this book with that in mind. Readers follow a toddler named Leo, who uses the five senses to wind down and get ready for bed. It’s an excellent book to read to your child before giving them a goodnight kiss.
Baby Touch and Feel: Bedtime
With real photographs of bedtime objects and children, Baby Touch and Feel: Bedtime allows toddlers to have an interactive experience with the book and feel objects associated with going to bed, including a soft blanket, flannel washcloth, and grippy slippers. Touch and feel books are a favorite for many young children and using actual photography helps kids become familiar with bedtime-related objects.
Bedtime routines look different in every family. In this one, hair care is an essential part of going to bed. When nighttime rolls around, each person carefully combs, twists, braids, and brushes their tresses. This sweet story received a Goodreads Choice Award nomination and is adored by bonnet-wearing readers everywhere.
Kiss Good Night
In this gentle book with cozy illustrations, Mama Bear goes through the tucking-in routine with Sam. As Mama goes through the different steps of putting Sam to bed (reading aloud, tucking him in tight, giving him warm milk), Sam waits for his goodnight kiss. There are opportunities for real-life kisses and hugs as you read the story. I still love reading this one to my twins at bedtime.
Ladybug Girl Says Good Night
Join Ladybug Girl as she goes through her own bedtime routine (including pajamas with her signature dotted wings!). A cute and brief bedtime book for little sleep-seeking fans of the ever-popular Ladybug Girl series.
Ages 3 - 5
I Don't Want to Go to Sleep
Humor, fun, and facts combine in this surprisingly informative picture book about bedtime. Frog feels reluctant to hit the hay because he will miss all the fun winter activities with his friends. But an unusual idea and help from his friends convince him to drift off to sleep.
Just Go to Bed (Little Critter)
As every parent knows, some kids hate bedtime and go to extreme lengths to avoid it. With humor and charm, this relatable classic from Mercer Mayer helps reluctant snoozers create a bedtime routine and settle down before catching some z’s.
Real To Me
This heartwarming tale of genuine and imaginary companionship brings comfort to those who read it. The vibrant illustrations are sure to captivate young readers, and the story teaches them that change is a natural part of life.
Even Superheroes Have to Sleep
Highlighting both extraordinary and everyday superheroes, this book shows children that sleep is a necessity for everyone, even caped heroes, princesses, doctors, and construction workers. The last line is “Even children have to sleep” — the perfect way to sum up the book. The book also includes a sleep reward chart with stickers to help kids establish a good bedtime routine.
Taking a bath is an essential step in a bedtime routine, but have you ever considered how your bathtub feels about it? In this hilarious picture book from the author of No One Likes a Fart, readers will see their routine from the tub’s point of view.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2017 and updated in 2023.