9 Books for Sleep: New Parents & Story Time

Trying to get kids to bed at night can be a real chore. So many nights parents walk out of their kids’ room high fiving themselves, marveling at how easy it was to get the kids to sleep, only to hear the pitter patter of feet ten minutes later. Western MA parent, Lisa Woods, shares what has worked for her with a newborn, and routines and recommended reading for a toddler to elementary aged children that made bedtime a little easier for her family … and maybe for your family too!

New Parents. Newborn.

The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp was hands down the best book I have ever read for helping calm babies and get them to sleep. Karp talks a lot about re-creating the noises, movement, and snug environment of the womb. The key to success is what he refers to as the “five S’s.”  Swaddle, Side, Shush, Swing, and Suck. These all take practice but will be time well spent. This was real gold for our family when the kids were little. Check out this video to see other vital points Karp writes about in his book:

Also, check out The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley and On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep by Gary Ezzo. I checked all of these out from my local library rather than paying for them until we knew which methods we wanted to try.

Bed Time, Story Time

For toddler through elementary aged children, books that help facilitate sleeping can often be about their ability to make kids feel comfortable, safe and loved. Spending 15 or 20 minutes at the end of the day reading has always helped my children settle down. Before bed, we read a picture book together, give hugs and kisses, and then the light is shut off. The nightlight is turned on, and I read a few chapters of a book (like Charlotte’s Web). Finally, I’ll turn on instrumental classical lullabies (no words, just soothing low sound), and stay 5 -10 minutes. Then I leave the room. This didn’t happen overnight, but it was worth the time invested in helping them get to sleep on their own without tears.

As for the middle of the night, I have a very loose policy on having them come into our bed after a nightmare. They know it needs to be a real problem and it can’t be all the time. However, I have let them sleep with us if need be. They are 9 and 10 now, and they rarely do that anymore and to be honest, it makes me happy and a little sad to know they don’t need me as much.

Five Books to Read Together at Night

This is a funny, silly story about a tiger who keeps interrupting a little boy’s attempts to go to sleep. The boy is exasperated, and the tiger is very apologetic but continues to be noisy with all kinds of funny activities like crunching chips and tap dancing. Finally, the boy finds a solution to the problem, which turns out to be that the tiger is afraid of the dark, and they are both able to rest. My kids always begged for this book to be read before bed and it’s a fun way to end the day.

This is a beautiful book about a farmer whose sheep will come up with any reason not to go to sleep. They come up with lots of excuses and lots of messing around until one day the farmer comes up with a great solution. He buys warm blankets for all of them, and they settle right down to sleep. This book has lovely pictures colored with pastels for a soft look, great for bedtime.

This book has fun pictures and involves all the barn animals. Each one attempts to go to bed but finds another animal in their area. They rudely tell them to “go sleep in your own bed,” and we see the animal sadly walking to their area only to find a different animal in their bed. The words used to describe how they sadly walk to their own beds are funny and interesting. My kids loved reading that part of the book aloud themselves. For example, the chicken walks away “peckedy-droop” and the horse goes “cloppedy-plod.” The only thing I don’t like about this book is how mean the animals are to each other. Each one is trying to sleep in the other animals’ area, and yet each one is rude to the one they find in their own space. Until the end when the cat goes to his bed on the porch only to have the little girl bring him up to her bed. I always felt sad for the other animals who have to sleep alone and that they would be jealous of the cat who got to sleep with the girl. My kids never saw it that way, they loved the pictures, the funny sounds and that the cat got to sleep with the girl. I did use this as a lesson in being kind though. I made sure to point out that it wouldn’t hurt the animals to be kind to each other when asking them to go back to their own beds. We talked about how they would like to be asked and things the animals could do differently.

Here’s an excellent video of a reading of Go Sleep in Your Own Bed. It’s by a young girl who does such a good job reading it that I just had to check out her YouTube channel. I was delighted to find that she has a ton of other great books that she reads aloud.

This is such a fun book, I love that the roles are reversed. The little girl announces that it’s time for mom to go to bed. The mothers pleading for 5 more minutes falls on deaf ears as the girl marches her up for her bath and the rest of the bedtime routine.

This is a quick board book with cute pictures. I like it because it’s not very involved, there are few words, and the kids will get to know it well. My kids asked for this repeatedly. I think they were comforted by the familiar pictures every night. Sandra Boynton has a lot of great books with the same characters, I definitely recommend checking them out.


Lisa Woods

Lisa spent a decade traveling the world for her work before realizing her dream was to create art and write. She now lives in Chicopee, MA with her husband and two children where she homeschooled her kids for the early grades. Lisa has a real passion for books, especially children’s literature, collecting children’s books since the age of fifteen. She is now working on her first children’s book.

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