It's that wonderful time of the evening. The stars are out, and your little ones are bathed, fed and almost tucked up in their beds. And in a perfect world, all that went off without a hitch! Your kids are now begging to be snuggled up and kissed goodnight, right? No?
Okay, mine neither. But, as both a teacher and mum, I have a few suggestions about bedtime reading that might settle the troops and create some lasting memories of shared quiet time snuggled up with wonderful books. What could be nicer for children at the end of the day than your time and attention? I think most of us have discovered though, that such moments of stillness with our children cannot be forced. You can, however, provide the right setting, routine and an appropriate book.
1. When do you read the bedtime story?
I have played around with this a bit over the years of raising my kids. I used to read to them before bath time, but found that having a good romp in the bath negates any effects of the soothing rhythms of my reading. Maybe that's also because their Daddy thinks bath time is a great time for uproarious laughter and seeing how wet the bathroom floor can get. ( You can tell who is in charge of bath time, hey) So I moved story time to immediately before bed. This works well with children older than one. But I did find that while I was still breastfeeding my youngest it was easier to let his nighttime feed be the the last event of the day (as it lulled him to sleep) and stories happened just before. It's up to you really, but I would suggest you chose a time as close as possible to bedtime and pick a moment that children have nothing else going on. In other words you are heading in the direction of bed and not merely filing in time in between the adds of their favourite show. I think routine really helps to establish this as a nightly event leading to sleep time. I also think it helps children to wind down and settle their bodies and minds at the end of the day.
2. Where do you snuggle?
I think where you read is just as important as when or even what you read. After all, you are not only wanting to focus your child's attention on the book, but you are wanting this to be a relaxing and quiet event. Needless to say then, (but I'll say it anyway), don't read in the kitchen, lounge room or any place that is super lit with overhead flood lights and plenty of other commotion going on. Personally I think bedrooms are perfect for nighttime stories. Pick a soft lamp light, a comfy chair or bed, gather the favourite cuddly toys and blankies and settle down to read.
3. What do you read?
I would chose bedtime reading selectively. The latest story on some monster related theme (no matter how child friendly) will do nothing to promote a sense of security about being left alone in their rooms to sleep. Even some dinosaur books can leave little ones calling out long after their bedtime and mummy's and daddies crawling around under beds and opening cupboards to prove to their child that no creature from the book is actually living under there. Any story that your child loves is the right one to read, but if you want to add a quiet bedtime book at the end ,here are my suggestions.
- Kisses For Daddy by Frances Watts & David Legge
- Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
- Sleepy Bears by Mem Fox
- Time for Bed by Mem Fox
- How do Dinosaurs say Goodnight? by Jane Yolen & Mark Teague
- Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
- Mommy's Best Kisses by Margaret Anastas
- Sleepy-time Dance by Kathrine Grace Bond
For Older Children
As I have said on previous posts, keep reading to your kids as long as you are both happy for this to occur. Now that my eldest son has moved on past picture books we read one chapter of whatever book he is currently reading. I still focus on making this a quiet event, but we now spend a lot more time talking about the characters and how their stories related to our own. He asks plenty of questions, which often leads to chatter that winds down some interesting paths that have nothing whatsoever to do with the book we are reading. But I think that is the whole point. Books are a wonderful spring board for conversation and they often provide just the right sort of atmosphere for kids to ask questions they might otherwise shy away from. Life is plenty busy. I really milk this quiet reading time for all it's worth. There are precious few moments in the day for me to sit alone with my children without distractions and really focus on them and their thoughts and concerns. Bedtime reading is a wonderful distraction all of its own. I encourage you to indulge nightly and introduce your little ones to the art of stillness as you snuggle together to share the last event of their day before bed.