Reading bedtime stories is important for many reasons. For family bonding, exposing kids to new ideas, and even helping them calm down before bed.
It was one of the proudest moments of my short career as a mother.
My firstborn daughter was 6 months old and, earlier that week, she’d already learned to give a kiss.
I mean really, where do you go from there?
I’ll never forget the evening when, as we sat and read Go, Dog, Go, she learned to turn the pages of the book.
Countless books, countless pages later we are still reading. Often during the day and regularly as part of our bedtime routine. It is a cherished time for our kids and us that we all value.
The kids always ask for bedtime stories and, unless we are really strapped for time, it’s the one part of bedtime routine we try not to let slide.
Our bedtime routine goes something like this:
- Leave the dinner table and run around with siblings screaming in the ecstasy that only comes pre-bedtime
- Take a bath or shower (not every single night)
- Brush teeth
- Go to individual room and wait for mom and dad to come, read, and have some snuggle time (psst… it’s actually good for their brains!)
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Reasons reading bedtime stories is important for kids
Every family is different and there is no cookie cutter mold. Still, research shows the undeniable benefits of reading with your toddlers and preschoolers at night before bed.
You get and give lots of cuddles while reading bedtime stories
We already know that cuddling is good for our children’s brains. It’s also good for our brains. And our relationship together.
Children can sit in your lap, beside you on the chair, or you can even lay in bed with them and read. We often read in my daughter’s room with this jumbo flashlight.
You know, cause it makes things more fun.
This is a time when my children who aren’t normally big cuddlers without cause will snuggle up, play with my hair, and consent to being tickled for a time. They love both reading and the closeness it brings.
Reading at night is a great wind down
Since the hour preceding bedtime is Crazy Town over here, it’s necessary for us to have wind-down routines in place.
It’s one of the best ways to get your little ones to go to sleep without fighting, screaming, and refusing. Reading books is an excellent way to help the wind-down.
Tots will usually sit still and pay attention, which is enough to help their heart rates slow. A parent’s words are very calming to children so the mere fact you are reading – even using silly voices – can help children feel safe.
You can choose books that speak to current life events
The other day my mother mentioned that my two middle boys don’t greet people well when spoken to. Someone will say “hello” and the boys will just stare at them blankly.
While they aren’t being purposefully “rude,” this goes against societal norms. We have an entire book series on manners, and bedtime story time is the perfect opportunity to break them out.
We’ve done this for other issues as well such as body parts, watching too much TV, why it’s important to eat healthy, and sharing.
If I know something is going on with a child, I’ll choose a book that speaks to that issue and then engage them in conversation throughout.
Bedtime is a great opportunity for individual time
If you have multiple children at home you know the struggle to find time to spend with your children individually. They want it. You want it. It’s undeniably beneficial, and yet it’s hard to fit in.
Because of that, we do bedtime routines for each child individually.
My husband and I divide and conquer. We rotate who gets who depending on the night and which parent the child asks for.
This means that if we had a super busy day, there are at least 15+ minutes a day where the child gets a parent’s undivided attention. It may not seem like much, but our kids eat it up.
Bedtime is the calmest and quiet part of the day
While we will read during other parts of the day, it’s often difficult for the kids to pay attention and concentrate. Right before a meal or snack, kids are hungry. Right after an intense playtime, they may be wound up.
This is true, especially if they don’t have a Quiet Time in their daily routine.
At night, however, their own drive to sleep calms them down. As soon the door closes, the lights dim, and we sit in the chair or lay on the bed calmness starts to reign.
Their fidgeting and wiggles start to lessen and they pay attention to what’s happening. Okay, maybe 2-year-olds never fully calm down, but even toddlers will lay their heads back on your shoulder and get into the groove.
In our home, the bedtime read is one of calmest and most enjoyable times of the day.