March 7, 2021

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The best bedtime stories for kids according to experts

7 min read

For many children, the routine of bath, book, bed is one they’re very familiar with – even if they do protest that they’re not quite ready to go to sleep.

The middle element of this routine – storytime – is a crucial one as it gives kids time to settle down in their beds and be soothed by the words of their favourite books. These stories, often filled with messages of kindness, love and inspiration, conjure up comforting thoughts that are just what children should be sent off to sleep with.

Reading bedtime stories also, of course, allows families to spend quality time together as the day draws to a close, away from the hustle and bustle of the hours that have passed.

As with any routine, bedtime reading can become a little repetitive. If you find you’re reaching for the same stories again and again, and your children are slightly disinterested, we’re here to help. Here, experts from the worlds of book publishing, education and parenting advice share their best bedtime stories for kids, with a mix of genres and reading difficulty levels suitable for little ones and older children.


The Twits by Roald Dahl

The Twits (Dahl Fiction)

Puffin
amazon.co.uk

£4.00

“Our whole family love The Twits by Roald Dahl,” said Jamie Beaglehole, parenting blogger. Jamie and partner Tom are dads of two and share their family adventures at Daddy and Dad.

“Believe it or not, the story’s the same age as Tom and I – first published in 1980, 40 years ago. Its foul characters, Mr and Mrs Twit, and their gruesome pranks have aged very well. The Twit’s evil vendettas against one another have our boys rubbing their hands together and laughing like evil little geniuses!”

The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin

The Wonderful Things You Will Be

Puffin
amazon.co.uk

£10.40

“I love this book for its delicate and joyful illustrations but mostly for its sincere message. It lists all the wonderful things we hope our little ones will become but reminds them that the thing we look forward to most is them becoming whoever they want to be. If there was a universally important message for us to give our children before bed, then this is it,” said Holly King-Mand, award-winning online English teacher and mother of two.

Ten Minutes to Bed Little Dinosaur by Rhiannon Fielding and Chris Chatterton

Ten Minutes to Bed: Little Dinosaur

LADYBIRD
amazon.co.uk

£4.50

“The whole Ten Minutes to Bed series offers a fun but gentle countdown to bed in the magical Land of Nod. In this story, Rumble is very distracted by all the exciting things in the jungle, like erupting volcanoes, muddly puddles and noisy tropical birds. But from a lively beginning to a gentle end, soon Rumble is more Zzzzz than Roar,” said Shannon Cullen, publishing director for Ladybird.

Knights and Bikes by Gabrielle Kent

Knights and Bikes (Knights & Bikes 1)

“For children who are confident readers, I can’t recommend Knights and Bikes enough,” said Aimée Felone, co-founder of children’s publisher Knights Of.

“A fantastic story of adventure, fighting monsters and great friendship that gives plenty of opportunities for giggles – cue the well-placed spit-related jokes. Nessa and Demelza are the best friends we all wish we had growing up, their enviable relationship has them fighting off the scariest monsters and saving their town all while their parents are at work. With plenty of heart and strong female leads, Knights and Bikes is the quintessential ‘just one more chapter’ read.”

Kind by Alex Scheffler

“There is nothing more important to me than teaching my children to be kind and this book teaches this in the most beautiful way. The illustrations are so touching and inspire so many questions from my toddler – this really is one of our favourites and the moral of the story is one that I would love my little ones to take forward with them as they go to school and start to experience the big wide world,” explained Heidi Skudder, The Parent and Baby Coach, who helps families create healthy bedtime sleep habits for children aged from newborn through to three years.

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne

The Complete Tales Of Winnie The Pooh

Dutton Books for Young Readers
amazon.co.uk

£35.62

“Growing up, my father would read these stories to me at bedtime, so they are a nostalgic personal favourite. As an adult though, I can see just how great a choice this was: the characters and stories are lovely, but also fairly short, which provides a natural cut-off point to storytime. They are also very gentle, and perfect for settling children down before bed,” said Cecilia Bennett, managing editor at Sweet Cherry Publishing.

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

“This is a classic favourite with all three of my children from the youngest (two) to the oldest (six), who still picks it out of the bookshelf to read,” said parenting influencer Nilly Dahlia. The storyline is fantastic for the kids to read along to and they love it when we put on voices for the different characters. The book is excitement, calm and giggles which is everything [you want] for bedtime reading.”

The Bolds by Julian Clary

The Bolds Go Wild

Andersen Press
amazon.co.uk

£5.94

“This is our top pick for grown-ups and kids,” said parenting blogger Jamie. “The Bolds are a clandestine family of hyenas pretending to be humans, living in a house on a suburban street in London. Julian’s camp observational humour pops up on every page – plenty to keep parents giggling. Meanwhile The Bolds rescue wild animals, offering them refuge in their over-crowded house and keeping their spirits up with Mr Bold’s (very Julian Claryish) one-liners. Also Tom’s ‘Mr Bold’ voice sounds like John Inman. A fantastic family read.”

A Kiss Like This by Mary Murphy

Mary Murphy A Kiss Like This

Mary Murphy
amazon.co.uk

“This has to be the ultimate bedtime book for any family that loves making silly kissing noises and filling their storytime with lots of kisses and cuddles,” said English teacher and mum Holly.

“It’s delivered in the quintessential Mary Murphy style; its fun illustrations and simple narrative make this a firm favourite in our house. We’ve kissed this book to death, and it will forever be our ‘let’s-end-the-day-properly’ book.”

Goodnight Pablo

Pablo: Goodnight Pablo

LADYBIRD
amazon.co.uk

£5.94

“This is a heart-warming bedtime book about Pablo and his friend Wren who don’t want to go to sleep because they are afraid they will disappear. With the help of their friends, they learn that there is nothing to be worried about at night-time. All Pablo books are grounded in the real-life experiences of children with autism, and offer brilliant stories for all children to enjoy,” said publisher Shannon.

Look Up by Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola

Look Up!

Puffin
amazon.co.uk

£5.94

“A beautifully illustrated story that is sure to guarantee dreams of the stars in the sky and the possibility of space travel. A bright and joyous story that is led by chatty Rocket who wants nothing more than her phone-obsessed brother to look up at the night sky with her. Rocket shows us that with a little persistence and a lot of charm, what she loves, the starry night sky, can be loved by all if we just pay a little more attention,” said publisher Aimée.

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson

Owl Babies: 1

WALKER BOOKS
amazon.co.uk

£6.55

“An old classic and one that I remember from my childhood, but one that has carried my two boys through their toddler years and is still our firm favourite,” said parent and baby coach and mum Heidi.

Owl Babies is all about three sibling who have to sit and be patient whilst their Mummy goes hunting. We love reading Owl Babies and always love to finish off with reminding them that Mummy always comes back, which no doubt will help many children with separation anxiety, too.”

Time for bed, Zippy!

Rainbow Hand Puppet Books, Time for Bed, Zippy – Cute Soft Cuddly for Babies and Toddlers – Interactive Story (Rainbow Hand Puppet Fun)

Rainbow puppet Zippy doesn’t think he’s tired but when his friends turn their winding-down activities into a competition, he’s determined to beat them and is soon snoring away. This book is one of my favourites because it’s so relatable and very clever in encouraging children to compete with Zippy and show how good they are at yawning, at giving goodnight kisses and at settling down for bed,” said publisher Cecilia.

Nighty Night Circus

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“This is actually an interactive bedtime story which has always saved us right before breaking point for those nights when the children just refuse to sleep no matter how many books we’ve read,” said parenting influencer Nilly.

“It is available for free on YouTube (or an app) and it instantly calms the children down and saves our sanity (!) with the repetition of ‘goodnight’ and the background sound of sleeping outdoors with a crackling fire. Lifesaver!


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