ByKelly Holmes, author and Certified Parent Educator
Inside: With a high-energy kid, the wrong bedtime story can fire them up. But these 10 bedtime story books actually help your kid slow down for sleep. Add them to your collection of the best picture books.
Nearly every night, my kids fight sleep like sleeping through the night is the most unspeakable torture devised by mankind.
As bedtime approaches, my shoulders tense as I anticipate the apocalyptic battle ahead of me. I know the only way to get to that delicious moment where I can collapse in my own bed is to go through the fire, but I find myself wishing I could rewind an hour or two. Delay the inevitable fight.
The worst part is we can never tell what kind of night we’ll get. On some magical nights, everyone will go to sleep with no tears, no bargaining, and no getting out of bed 57 times.
Other nights? All of the above.
Every kid has their own reason. My eldest is an anxious child. My baby is unpredictable due to teething, growth spurts, and possibly the moon phase. But my toddler just can’t slow her body down for sleep.
Describing Bailey as an “energetic” child would be like describing a quadruple espresso as a “low-octane” drink. She makes me tired just by watching her antics.
To remove as many variables as possible from the fiasco that is our nightly bedtime routine, we’ve stumbled upon a few hard and fast rules:
No ice cream before bed.
No chocolate, either.
No bedtime stories that will get her riled up.
For example, Press Here† is a wonderfully interactive book for kids. But it’s outlawed as a bedtime story for our kids. All the pressing and shaking and blowing on the book wakes our toddler’s body up instead of getting it ready for sleep.
† This site is reader-supported. When you buy through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
But over the past few months, we’ve taken this rule one step further. We’ve cobbled together a priceless collection of books that actually help our kids’ bodies slow down for sleep.
10 Bedtime Story Books for Kids Who Hate Sleep
Not only do these books help get our kids ready for sleep, but they also have another essential quality for bedtime story books for kids. They’re short.
Because long bedtime stories do nothing to slow my kids down. Long, drawn-out stories just delay the inevitable battle.
And also? You won’t find the likes of Goodnight Moon in this list. These are books you haven’t read a gabazillion times before so you can actually enjoy the bedtime story process again.
Add a few of these kids’ books to your library, and bust them out at bedtime when you need to lure your kid into falling asleep.
Related: Forget the Award Winners! These Are the Best Picture Books for Kids
This is a recent find of ours at the library, and we’ll be purchasing our own copy. Charlotte is a little girl who likes quiet, but everywhere she goes, she’s overwhelmed with noise. The book steps through what Charlotte does to find a quiet space and how to practice mindful breathing. We breathe along with Charlotte, and my toddler can’t help but calm down as a result.
This book teaches your little one how to take deep, calming breaths
This simple, soothing text moves through each of the seasons until the end, where the bunny cuddles up for a long winter sleep, looking forward to spring. I always point out to my child that the bunny going to sleep for the winter is like her going to sleep for the night, and the bunny looking forward to spring is like her looking forward to morning. Works like a charm!
In this book, the child is the one putting the parents to bed. I didn’t think much of this one as a bedtime story until on a whim one night, I asked my little one if she could put me to sleep in her bed. She thought that was hilarious. Giving her a smidge of control – even if just for play – seemed to do the trick that night. When it was my turn to put her to sleep, she didn’t get out of bed once. We’ve since recreated the magic of this book several times with the same effect.
The girl in this book doesn’t want to go to sleep, but unlike in our house, the parents respond to her endless questions with endless patience. What makes this a fantastic bedtime story is that the girl steps through getting ready for bed by mimicking the animals’ movements. My toddler follows suit, and the gentle movements help her body slow down for sleep.
This book steps your little one through the process of getting ready for sleep by inviting your child to help the book fall asleep. You’ll read the book a bedtime story, tuck it in with a cozy blanket, give it a hug and a kiss, and more. Just for fun, we like to act out all the steps with the book, and I suspect it works well for the same reason How to Put Your Parents to Bed works – role reversal.
The first time we read this book, my toddler asked a ton of questions. A ton. The idea of darkness coming alive and befriending the little boy may be tough for your kid to understand at first, but once she does it’s worth it. This story gives you the perfect opportunity to talk about your child’s fears at bedtime and how she might confront them.
This is a must in any collection of bedtime story books. The little girl doesn’t want to go to sleep (of course), so her dad teaches her a trick for making the morning time come. This will work best for preschoolers or older kids because the trick involves counting.
This is possibly my favorite picture book of all time, and I don’t say that lightly. Unfortunately, it’s out of print. The good news is you can get a used copy in good condition on Amazon for a penny, so all you have to cover is the shipping.
Here’s why this book made my list of the best bedtime story books: Mrs. Biddlebox wakes up in a bad mood, but instead of sitting around like a grouch, she tackles that bad mood and turns it around in time for sleep. We reach for this book anytime my toddler and I have butted heads during the day, and it’s the perfect tool to help us process the bad mojo and end the night on a positive note.
Side note: Do you know how to get an out-of-print book back in print? It makes my heart hurt to think this book might fade off into the sunset one day.
This story also happens to be the best picture book EVER
One Final Note
This book made the news not too long ago: The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep: A New Way of Getting Children to Sleep. The author specifically wrote this book as a bedtime story that will get your kids to sleep. The book is pretty long and nearly put me to sleep while I read it, but after trying it out several nights, I had to admit the book wasn’t making my toddler any sleepier. And apparently, we’re not the only ones.
Still, if you’re desperate for bedtime story books, it wouldn’t hurt to try that one out.
What are your favorite bedtime story books? Share in a comment below!
Kelly Holmes, author and Certified Parent Educator
I'm a mom of four, a Certified Parent Educator, and the author of Happy You, Happy Family. I believe if you want a loving parent-child relationship that will last into the teenage years and beyond, the time for nurturing that kind of relationship is now. The good news? All you need is 10 minutes a day. Start here »