Mother and Baby

The best bedtime stories for babies and toddlers

The best bedtime stories for babies and toddlers

It’s official, whether or not it’s read by Tom Hardy, bedtime stories are proven to help your tot unwind when it's time for bed. 

Research* suggests that while three-quarters of parents consider reading to their children every night as incredibly important, only 19 per cent of them find room for storytime when settling down for the night. 

Our busy lives, full with work, socialising, smartphones and TV programmes, have pushed out storytime from our parental routines. 

A staggering 71 per cent of parents surveyed said that reading to their children was one of the most stressful things they do. 

Hypnotherapist and Author Dipti Tait said: ‘Storytelling is very important for the brain too. The brain, regardless of age, enjoys a good story as it activates our imagination. When we begin reading tales of adventure, fantasy and mystery to our children, this creates a positive pathway for the brain to follow. Once we drop into sleep, the brain naturally falls into REM, the dream state, so quite often the storytelling helps the child begin the REM process and often encourages sleepiness.’

To help you get back into storytime, and enjoy reading to and with your children, we have rounded up the best bedtime storybooks to read to babies, toddlers and children that they will love to listen to while they drift off to sleep, plus 10 top storytime tips from Professor Tanya Byron so you can put the joy of reading back into bedtime with your children for a great bedtime routine. 

10 bedtime storybooks for babies and toddlers

You were probably read this classic by your own parents, but your little one will love watching the newly hatched caterpillar eat his way through all kinds of food. 

The BFG

£5.85 - RRP: £6.99

Let your little one fall in love with Roald Dahl’s imagination and Quentin Blake’s illustrations with this classic tale, where little Sophie enters Giant Country with the Big Friendly Giant. 

This cute bedtime story was chosen by Supernanny Jo Frost as one of her Best Bedtime Reads. This cute classic helps your little one unwind with the bunny, saying goodbye to familiar items one by one. 

The Gruffalo

£5.42 - RRP: £6.99

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s The Gruffalo is a classic, selling 13.5 million copies across the world. This cute rhyming story will soon become a hit with your tot. Get ready to read it again, and again, and again… 

Winnie the Pooh

£24.84 - RRP: £40.00

These beautiful stories will take you back to your own childhood. A.A. Milne’s characters are timeless, and all those years later, little one’s are still falling in love with Winnie the Pooh. 

Another rhyming story, Llama Llama Red Pajama is fun for your little one to listen to, and for you to read aloud. Telling the tale of Baby Llama, who starts to worry as soon as his Mama leaves the room at bedtime, this will (hopefully) bring a more peaceful bedtime, whilst giving you a laugh along the way. 

The perfect story to accompany a bedtime cuddle, you’ll love the idea behind this cute book, as much as your tot will love hearing it. 

Peace at Last

£5.42 - RRP: £6.99

This all time favourite bedtime book by Jill Murphy is a classic. Just how will Mr Bear manage to get some sleep with all those noises and distractions? 

This interactive touch and feel book is ideal for helping babies and young toddlers wind-down before sleep. 

If your little one is afraid of the dark, this Pablo book is the perfect story to send them to sleep and help them conquer their fears. All Pablo books are written by writers on the autistic spectrum and are written to help autistic children.

10 top tips for storytime

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​Storytime tip 1

If you’re short on time, tell a short poem or pick a book you’re already familiar with.
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​Storytime tip 2

If you struggle to make storytime engaging for your kids, choose books with built-in sound effects/music and interactive visuals – and take some of the pressure off!
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Storytime tip 3

If your child has a TV in their room, avoid having it on when they go to bed and read a story to them instead.
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​Storytime tip 4

If you feel embarrassed, get a partner or family member involved and tell the story together – sharing the parts makes a better story too.
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Storytime tip 5

Make storytime part of the bedtime ritual, it should be something for children to look forward to, setting the scene for them to fall asleep seamlessly.
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​Storytime tip 6

Storytime doesn’t have to be fictional. Make it a two-way dialogue and ask your child to tell the story of their day.
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Storytime tip 7

If it’s inconvenient to read a story to your child at bedtime, find a time that works as part of your routine – whether it’s something you do before dinner or at the weekend.
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​Storytime tip 8

Ease your child into the art of reading by choosing a book based on their favourite TV programme.
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Storytime tip 9

If you don’t feel confident, prepare beforehand by reading the book to yourself and practising the rhythm of the words.
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​Storytime tip 10

If your child uses storytime as a delaying tactic to avoid going to sleep, limit them to one book per night – but promise to build on the tales as their sleep routine gets easier.

*Research conducted by Alton Towers


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  • Author: Sophie Knight Sophie Knight
  • Job Title: Contributing Editor

Sophie is a journalist and mum of one, and previously edited motherandbaby.co.uk before moving on to write about family cars for Parkers.co.uk - now Sophie is Commercial Content Editor for M&B, Closer, Heat, Empire, Yours, Garden News, and WhatsTheBest.co.uk 

She is passionate about raising awareness around postnatal depression and is a Mental Health First Aider.

Sophie studied History at the University of Sheffield and has been in journalism for 16 years. 

Other contributors

Lorna White - Digital Writer

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