How many parents struggle to get their children to go to sleep at night?
My husband and I are very fortunate that our children are now very good sleepers who give us very little problems at bedtime.
But this was not always the case!
After adopting our daughter, I spent many sleepless nights getting kicked all night long while sharing a bed with her. We spent years with extra mattresses on the floor of our bedroom so our kids could sleep in our room. And there were many, many nights when we waited with the kids for what seemed like hours until they fell asleep.
So with those memories still alive in my mind, I set out to find and review more than 25 children’s books about bedtime that I hope your kids will enjoy,
A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na
When the sun goes down and the night time comes, everyone goes to sleep except for the watchful owl. This book features spare text and whimsical illustrations, showing the watchful owl looking in on many different animals during the night to see how they sleep. Some, like the koalas, sleep in peace and quiet. Others, like the elephants, make lots of noise. And others, like the penguins, sleep huddled close together. At the end of the book, a new day dawns bright and everyone wakes up. . . except for the tired owl, of course, who has fallen asleep. Kids ages 2-7 will enjoy this bedtime book showing how there are many different ways to sleep at night.
Dogs on the Bed by Elizabeth Bluemle
This book will delight dog lovers, and children who share a bed with the family pet will recognize the sneaky tricks dogs use to wiggle their way into bed with people. This book uses lively text and laugh-out-loud illustrations to show the perils and rewards of sharing a bed with dogs. As the family in the book comes to realize, they make very good portable heaters! Ages 3 to 7.
Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book by Dr. Seuss
A small bug named Van Vleck is getting sleepy, and his yawning is contagious. Soon, Van Vleck’s friends are yawning, and then other creatures across the land start yawning. This rhyming bedtime book in Dr. Seuss’s classic style will have little ones heading to dreamland by the end of the story. Ages 5 to 10.
Go Sleep in Your Own Bed by Candace Fleming
It is nighttime on the farm, and pig is toddling to his sty to settle in for a good night’s rest. But when he plops down, he sits on Cow! Pig tells Cow, “Go sleep in your own bed!” So Cow goes to her stall and lays down, but who does she find? It’s Chicken! Cow tells Chicken, “Go sleep in your own bed!” This continues through all the animals on the farm. But finally, the human girl who lives in the farmhouse invites one animal to share her bed. Who will it be? This delightful book will warm the hearts of children ages 3 to 7.
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
No list of books about bedtime would be complete without mentioning this classic book from Margaret Wise Brown. In this story, a young rabbit gently wishes all the things in the room a goodnight. He says goodnight to every object in sight and within earshot, including the “red balloon” and the “quiet old lady whispering hush.” Young children will enjoy finding the items mentioned throughout the book in the pictures. And parents will appreciate that this story helps lull little ones to sleep. This book is perfect for ages 1 to 4.
How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? by Jane Yolen
This book is a bedtime favorite due to the wonderful illustrations and preposterous behavior of the dinosaurs who are supposed to be going to bed. But are dinosaurs really so ill behaved? Perhaps dinosaurs aren’t so ill-mannered after all. Maybe they just want one more hug and kiss before closing their eyes. Dinosaurs lovers will note that each page features a different dinosaur, and the type of dinosaur can be discovered in the illustrations. Ages 3 to 7.
Hush Little Polar Bear by Jeff Mack
In this story told in gentle rhyme, a young girl talks to her stuffed polar bear and tells him to go to sleep and “dream of the places where sleeping bears go.” We then follow the polar bear through all sorts of adventures, from riding on the back of a while, creeping through a cave, climbing a tall mountain, and flying through the sky. In the end, the girl directs her little polar bear to “pretend that you’re sleeping and dreaming like me. Then look right beside you, and that’s where I’ll be.” Ages 3 to 6.
I Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go to Bed by Lauren Child
Charlie is an older brother to his younger sister, Lola. Sometimes Charlie’s mom and dad ask him to put Lola to bed, but every time he tries, Lola says, “I am not sleepy and I will not go to bed.” Charlie is a sweet older brother though, and does everything he can to coax and appease Lola to get her into bed. When he offers her a bedtime drink, Lola says the “tigers” need a drink too. So Charlie makes three more drinks. When it’s time for Lola to take a bath, she tells Charlie she can’t because there’s a whale in the bathtub. Charlie helps Lola shoo the “whale” down the drain. Eventually, with patience and determination, Charlie gets Lola into bed and turns off the lights. Ages 4 to 8.
I Dare You Not to Yawn by Helene Boudreau
This books speaks to the annoyance kids feel when they show the slightest bit of fatigue and their parents quickly rush them into bed. The narrator, a young boy whose parents send him to bed whenever he begins to yawn, cautions other kids to avoid yawning at all costs so they will not be sent to bed against their wishes. The funny thing is that while reading it, I couldn’t help but keep yawning myself! Ages 4 to 8.
I’m Not Sleepy! by Jonathan Allen
Morning has come, which means it’s time for owls to go to sleep. Despite that fact that Baby Owl is obviously tired, he insists he isn’t sleepy. That stretch he gives? Just a way to prepare his wings to fly. That big yawn? He’s just bored. The longer the story goes on, the crankier Baby Owl gets, which will delight children and amuse parents who have probably recognized similar behavior with their own kids. This book will be most enjoyed by kids ages 2 to 6.
Kiss Good Night by Amy Hest
This book holds a sentimental place in my heart, as it is the one my husband used to read to our son every night when we first adopted him. Mrs. Bear is putting Sam to bed. The two clearly have a whole bedtime routine. Mrs. Bear gives Sam his book, his blanket, his friends (stuffed animals), and his bedtime milk. But is Sam ready for bed? Not yet! Sam can’t go to sleep until he gets his kiss good night. Ages 3 to 7.
Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat, Are You Going to Sleep? by Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson
Kitty Cat is supposed to be getting read for bed, but instead she wants to play peekaboo, pretend to visit outer space, play with her toes, etc. What will poor Mother Cat do? Thankfully, Mother Cat has a nice bedtime routine that gets Kitty Cat ready for sleep. Ages 3 to 7.
Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
It’s bedtime for baby llama. Mama llama reads him a story, kisses his hair, and then leaves him to fall asleep by himself. But baby llama feels alone without his mama, and decides to ask for a drink. When mama llama doesn’t come right away, baby llama gets worried, thens starts to moan and pout. Eventually he begins wailing and mama llama comes running. Will baby llama go to sleep now? Told in a simple rhyme and with expressive illustrations, young children will identify with the desire to have a parent reassure them as they fall asleep at night. Ages 4 to 8.
Little Owl’s Night by Divya Srinivasan
This book flips the typical bedtime story on its head, reversing day and night to accommodate the habits of a nocturnal owl. In this story, Little Owl spends the night watching the possum family waddle, a hedgehog sniff, a skunk eat berries, and a turtle hide in her shell. Little Owl visits his friend the raccoon, then tries, unsuccessfully, to wake a sleeping bear to show him the moon and stars. Little Owl just loves the night! At the end of the night, Little Owl heads home to his mama and says to her, “Tell me again how night ends.” And his mama describes how the moon and stars fade to ghosts, dewdrops sparkle on leaves, morning glories open, the sky brightens from black to blue, and the rooster crows. But Little Owl does not hear the end of his mama’s story, as he has already fallen fast asleep! Ages 4 to 8.
Nighty Night! by Margaret Wild
It is bedtime on the farm, and the baby animals are playing tricks instead of going to bed. The mama sheep says goodnight to her lambs, but only finds some baby chicks. The father duck says goodnight to his ducklings, but only finds some piglets. Finally, all the mothers and fathers round up their own children, but everyone wants one more thing before bed. The lambs want a story, the ducklings want kisses, and the chicks wants something to drink. Will the baby animals ever settle down to sleep? Ages 3 to 7.
Rock-a-Bye Room by Susan Meyers
This is a sweet and tender story about a mom helping her daughter go to sleep. Children will feel soothed as they follow the mother and child saying goodnight to the things the child holds dear, including her rocking horse, her trains, her dollies, and more. The mother then reads her daughter a story before tucking her into her “rock-a-bye bed” with her “rock-a-bye blankie” with a “rock-a-bye pillow” tucked under her head. The wonderful, lilting rhyme of the story is accompanied by peaceful pencil and watercolor illustrations that portray the tenderness of the mother-daughter relationship in the story. Ages 3 to 5.
Shhhhh! Everybody’s Sleeping by Julie Markes
With very simple text and delightful illustrations, this book shows little kids that everyone, and I mean everyone, goes to sleep at night. Teachers sleep when school is done for the day. The police officer sleeps when all is right in the community. The doctor sleeps when his patients are well. The baker sleeps when her bread has been baked. Even the president sleeps, no matter how much there is to do! The story ends with a plea to young children: “And you know who SHOULD be sleeping, just like the sun? Good night, sleep tight, my sweet little one.” Ages 4 to 8.
Race You to Bed by Bob Shea
Little Bunny is racing to bed. Up, down, and all around. On boats, past alligators, through poison ivy. . . Little Bunny is still racing to bed. This is the perfect bedtime book for all those kids who find a million excuses to avoid getting into bed each night, but who can be coaxed to bed by a little competition. Ages 3-7.
Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue
A little girl who does not want to go to sleep wonders if all the other animals in the world sleep. As she resists going to bed, her parents describe how the family dog and cat sleep, how bats sleep, how bears sleep, how a whale sleeps, and more. Eventually, the young girl succumbs to the pull of sleep, mimicking the sleeping habits of the various animals her parents had discussed with her. The illustrations lend a beautiful, dream-like quality to the text. Ages 4 to 7.
Sleep Tight, Charlie by Michael Escoffier
Charlie is getting ready for bed. He gets his water, puts his slippers on the rug, checks for monsters under the bed, hugs his teddy bear, and then falls asleep. But suddenly, he hears a loud tapping noise outside! He discovers a bird outside him home tapping on a tree. Charlie tells the bird he is trying to sleep, and the bird flies away. But will that be the end of Charlie’s problems getting a good night’s rest? This delightful book will appeal to children ages 3 to 8, especially those with set routines they follow before bedtime.
Sleepyheads by Sandra J. Howatt
As the moon comes out, this soothing book invites young children on a journey to look for “little beds” where “little ones lay their sleepy heads.” We see a bird sleepyhead cuddled in a nest. We visit a squirrel sleepyhead curled up in a hole. We peek in on a bear sleepyhead asleep in a cave. We also spot several sleepyheads in a house, where the dog sleepyhead is staying warm by the fireplace and a cat sleepyhead has curled up on a chair. Finally, we peek into a bedroom where the teddy bear, pillow, and bed are ready. But where is the child sleepyhead? Asleep in Mama’s arms, of course! This is a sweet bedtime book for kids ages 3 to 7.
Someone’s Sleepy by Deborah Lee Rose
This book takes us through a child’s evening bedtime routine as she takes her bath, puts on her pajamas, brushes her teeth, gets tucked into bed, and eventually falls asleep. The illustrations portray a mother’s tender love for her sleepy child, and parents will appreciate the book’s portrayal of the wonderful moment when their sleepy children drift off to sleep. Ages 3 to 5.
Tell Me About Your Day Today by Mem Fox
This book features a young boy who loves bedtime. He loves the last kiss, the last story, and the last goodnight. But most of all, he loves being in the company of his stuffed animal friends and getting to have a conversation with them each evening. After getting into bed, the boy asks each animal in turn about their day. He learns the who, what, why, and way of how each animal spent their day through a series of pictures, and how everything turned out okay. After hearing from each of his animals, the animals then ask the boy to tell them about his day. He, too, shares the who, what, why, and way of his day, and happily realizes it turned out okay! In the last image, we see the boy snuggled tight with his animals as he drifts off to sleep. This book will be most enjoyed by kids ages 3 to 7.
Ten Little Sleepyheads by Elizabeth Provost
This counting book uses rhyming text to tell a delightful tale of 10 little sleepyheaded bugs who are getting ready for bed. One falls asleep in the middle of the noise. One falls asleep on a crumbly cracker stack. And one falls asleep with a dreamy little smile. Finally, only one sleepyhead is still awake. Will he go to sleep now? Ages 3 to 6.
The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
Author Sandra Boynton has such a fun and quirky style, and this was one of our favorite bedtime books when my kids were younger. In rhyming text and silly illustrations, she shows a group of animals getting ready for bed. They exercise, they brush their teeth, and finally they go below to rest for the night. This is a great book for children ages 2 to 5.
The Prince Won’t Go to Bed! by Dayle Ann Dodds
Children ages 4 to 8, especially those who are particular about their bedtime routine, will enjoy this tale of a spoiled young prince who will not go to bed. The king and queen are away, and the staff at the castle are trying to put the prince to bed. But no matter what they do for him, he wails, “Waa! Waa! Waa! I will not go to bed!” The prince doesn’t need fluffy pillows or a bath or music to fall asleep. Fortunately, his sister comes to the rescue, knowing exactly what the prince needs so he can fall asleep: a goodnight kiss!
Time for Bed by Mem Fox
In this calming, rhyming book, we bid good night to little mouse, little goose, little cat, little calf, and many more animals before finally wishing a young boy sweet dreams and a good night as he climbs into bed. This book reassures kids that bedtime is not only for the child, but also for animals all over. This is a wonderful book for children ages 2 to 5.
What! Cried Granny: An Almost Bedtime Story by Kate Lum
Patrick is having his first sleep-over at his Granny’s house, but when bedtime rolls around, Patrick tells his Granny he doesn’t have a bed to sleep in. “What?!” she cries. And she runs to her yard to chop down a tree so she can build him a bed. Next Patrick tells his Granny he doesn’t have a pillow. “What?!” she cries. And she runs to the henhouse to collect feathers for a fine pillow. He also doesn’t have a blanket. Or a teddy bear. But by the time Granny has finished all this work, it’s no longer bedtime – it’s morning time! Ages 3 to 6.