Bedtime stories for babies and toddlers are very important for their development. It is an excellent opportunity to cultivate their minds and give their subsequent sleeping brain something to digest. This will expand their emotional understanding as they are introduced to the wonderful literary world of fiction and storytelling. It will also introduce them to wider reading later in their lives. Not only is the actual reading important, but the physical act of sitting with your child will create intimate moments. Thus bringing you closer to your child as you begin to understand their likes, loves and passions through literature.
We’ve put together a list of books that are perfect bedtime stories for babies, for more book suggestions for other age groups please see our Bedtime Story Finder.
One of the best bedtime stories for babies is Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? A wonderful introduction to the natural world, this simple but beautiful book abounds with animal sounds! If you’ve ever wondered what noise a flamingo makes, then wonder no more (Answer: they ‘flute’). Eric Carle’s illustrations make for a multi-sensory delight.
2. Clap Hands By Helen Oxenbury
You and your child will love sharing this book together as part of your bed time routine. Little fingers will want to turn over the chunky board pages and you will both find yourselves joining in with the actions of the sweet, cuddly babies and their families as they share noisy fun together. This colourful and attractive book is one of a series of board books by Helen Oxenbury – look out for Say Goodnight as another perfect bed time treat!
3. The Very Hungry Caterpillar By Eric Carle
An all time favourite with generations of children since it was first published back in the late 60s. The perfect interactive book to read with your child at bedtime, indeed at anytime! The life cycle of a caterpillar is brought colourfully to life by fantastic illustrations. We eat our way through a wonderful variety of food: including fruit, chocolate cake and salami until we feel sick. Then that magic moment when the beautiful butterfly emerges from its cocoon on the final page.
4. Penguin By Polly Dunbar
Young Ben, excited to unwrap his present, discovers that he has now become the proud owner of a penguin! But delight soon turns to disappointment when, in spite of Ben’s best efforts, Penguin won’t say a word. It is only when Lion finally appears that we, and Ben, are able to find out what’s really been going on in Penguin’s mind. The illustrations in this book are a joy and the last page is a triumph in itself, proving here that a picture really is worth a thousand words.
5. Peace at Last By Jill Murphy
The hour is late and it is definitely time to sleep. Slowly, very tiredly, you make your way up the stairs and get into bed, ready to fall asleep. But why can’t Mr Bear fall asleep? Mrs Bear is going SNORE, SNORE. Baby Bear is playing aeroplanes: NYAAOW. Will Mr Bear ever get any peace? You’ll love sharing this book, with plenty of noises to get the children joining in, and repetitions that will have them hooked from the youngest age. A book that has stood the test of time, and one that we are confident is here to stay.
6. Shark in the Park By Nick Sharratt
Timothy Pope looks once more through his telescope… and this is what he sees. Timothy is in the park and keeps thinking that somehow he can see a shark! But surely that fin is just a cat, or perhaps dad’s hair? A brilliant book for doing the actions and for getting your little one to join in too. Pages with cut out holes will have children eager to be the one to turn the page, and the first to find out if it really is a shark or not. Just beware of leaving your child overly excited before turning off the light; both my son and I tend to be left a little hoarse from shouting There’s a shark in the park!’
7. Peck Peck Peck By Lucy Cousins
From the creator of Maisy comes the delightful story of a young woodpecker as he journeys through his first day learning to do what woodpeckers do best – peck, peck, peck! After his daddy shows him how, he flies from place to place perfecting his peck, pecking more and more holes right through the pages, until it’s time for bed. The clever rhyming text is a real joy to read aloud and the bright, bold illustrations make this a great book for sharing and interacting with, especially as the holes little woodpecker makes just happen to be the perfect size for little fingers! All the things little woodpecker pecks through will help build vocabulary too and perhaps even inform future reading as he pecks right through a copy of Jane Eyre!
8. Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll
One of the most popular bedtime stories for babies is Meg and Mog. The 1970s Meg and Mog series began with this very first episode in which Meg the witch and her cat, Mog, cast a spell at a Halloween Party, one that goes off with a bang! The simple elements of this particular story, as it follows Meg’s morning routine of dressing and then eating breakfast, are wonderfully brought to life here by the beautifully bold illustrations by Jan Pienkowski. With short little sentences on each page, and loud sound effects almost bursting out of the illustrations, this picture book is still the perfect choice for little ones as they take their first steps in learning to read.
9. Each Peach Pear Plum by Allan and Janet Ahlberg
Each Peach Pear Plum, I spy Tom Thumb!’: so begins this beautifully illustrated, delicately coloured picture book, which is full of lovely and funny little details for you to enjoy and pore over with your baby or toddler. Every page has a rhyme and encourages excited chatter as the challenge is to spy the character hiding somewhere in the picture who then appears on the following page, so after we’ve spotted Tom Thumb we turn over to see: Tom Thumb in the cellar, I spy Cinderella’ and so on. It’s fun to search for the characters together and also to chant the rhymes and there’s a lovely final picture where everyone comes together to eat plum pie and your little one will love spotting everyone. A book you’ll share over and over again, finding something new each time.
10. Monkey Puzzle by Julia Donaldson
Little Monkey, separated from his mum, needs all the help he can get from Butterfly to find her. But can Butterfly work out what she looks like?! Each failed mother match brings an opportunity to laugh at the silliness of the butterfly. A fun read with lovely drawings, and lots of rhyme and repetition, you’ll really enjoy reading this one aloud. The book also exists as a song (see the Big Book edition) which has been stuck in my head since my son turned two; enjoyable, but do be warned else it sticks for you too!
11. Old Macdonald had a Farm by Siobhan Dodds
Last on the list of bedtime stories for babies in Old Macdonald Had A Farm. A great version of a favourite classic with flaps for little fingers to lift on every page to reveal a farm yard animal. You will both be singing along together as you explore Old Macdonald’s farm meeting all his familiar animals: sheep, cows and who knows what else. Charming illustrations provide lots to talk about…ee-i–ee-i-oo!
Have we missed one of your favourite bedtime stories for babies? Please let us know in the comments below!