Bedtime stories for a young child are incredibly important for their development. Whether intellectually or emotionally, your child is bound to benefit from the act of you sitting down with them and reading a story full of imagination.
We’ve put together a list of books that are perfect for anybody looking for early years bedtime stories, for more book suggestions for other age groups please see our dedicated bedtime story topic page.
Related: The Toddler Bed Guide
Up and Down by Oliver Jeffers
Picking up the story from Lost and Found of the newfound friendship shared by a boy and a penguin, the lovely illustrations in Oliver Jeffers’ sequel, Up and Down, help to tell of the latest journey our penguin is keen to embark upon: now it is all about learning to fly! For anyone who has ever wanted to prove the impossible, this is a tale of the appeal of adventure; of the ups and downs which can often come with a friendship, and of how we might lose and yet still find one another once more.
The Animal Boogie by Debbie Harter
This brilliant rhyming story is great for getting children singing and dancing, learning through music and movement, and having a chance to burn some of their exuberant energy (hopefully reminding you of yours!). Deep in the Indian jungle, children from all over the world have come together to jump, hop, shake and flap. Joining the animals, the children will soon know how to boogie just like them! With songs that are easy to read, and bright illustrations to enjoy, this book cannot fail to engage your fun-loving little ones!
Mia’s Story by Michael Foreman
A delicately realised story, beautifully conveying the power of family and community, and the possibility of hope – even in the most difficult of circumstances. Living in a house made of the city’s discarded refuse, Mia has been given a dog found by her father, but when Poco runs away, Mia is led all the way up to the peaks of the snowy South American mountains in search of him. It is there that she makes a wondrous discovery; marking the start of a new venture, and the beginning of a new life for both Mia and her family.
The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew it Was None of His Business by Werner Holzwarth
It’s one thing to have a pigeon poop on your head from above, but it’s a total shocker for the Little Mole, whom upon poking his head from his burrow one morning, is hit on the head by a lump of brown, smelly ‘business’. Quite outraged by the incident, the Little Mole makes it his business to find out who the poo belongs to. From rabbit pellets to steaming patties no animal’s excrement is left unidentified. Join Little Mole on his quest to find the perpetrator and take stinking revenge.
Handa’s Surprise by Eileen Browne
Gorgeously illustrated, and spectacularly colourful, Handa’s Surprise offers to take you and your child on a delightful Kenyan journey as Handa makes her way to a friend’s village to share some fruit with her. With cheeky stealth, a host of creatures take the opportunity to help themselves to Handa’s fruit, but at the end of the book she is to receive a lovely surprise … An engaging celebration of diverse cultures, of friendship and of nature in all it’s glory, your children won’t be able to help joining in and trying to tell Handa what’s behind her!
The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett
All the birds had laid an egg. All except for Duck.’ Not to be outdone, Duck makes sure he finds one of his own, but whilst this huge egg is in his eyes beautiful, all speckled with green spots, it is most certainly not a duck egg, and the other birds are less than impressed. Eventually the day arrives when each of the eggs begins, one by one, to creak and crack open…A beautifully-drawn and suspenseful story, with a delightful cast of various different birds, an exciting surprise reveal and a fetching knitted scarf. The illustration on the last page says it all, and will have you squeakily trying out the voice of the newly hatched little creature.
Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton
A captivating little tale of George the dog and his struggle to be good, when all he really wants to do is eat cake and chase cats! Full of detailed, emotion-filled pictures, and a plot which you’ll love involving your little one in and chatting about, the book finally finishes up with a dramatic cliff-hanger ending. Perfect for reading aloud together.
The Slightly Annoying Elephant by David Walliams
With plenty to amuse both parent and child, David Walliams’ book comes in a large hardback with vivid colours and big elephant-sized pictures. It tells the story of a persistent elephant whose visit causes mayhem, but who is still loveable nonetheless. A delightful read with younger children, and a gift for those who at the end of the day might need to be nudged into a smile.
Sharing a Shell by Julia Donaldson
Take a sunny trip to the seaside, where you can delve into the wonderful world of shells and the colourful creatures who nestle inside them. This heart-warming story tells of a loveable, if somewhat reclusive, hermit crab who is overjoyed when he finds a new shell to make his home in, but much less happy about the idea of having to share it with others. For our hermit crab it is a difficult thing to learn but he soon comes to discover that sharing is a much better option than having to face the world alone. The book helped me and my four year old speak about why having friends and sharing with them are really good things to do; I recommend it!
The Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl
Over thirty years on, Roald Dahl’s characteristically witty narrative, and weird and wonderful sense of humour still retains a timeless appeal. A nasty crocodile plans ways of disguising himself so that he can get to gobble up some children, but is repeatedly scuppered to great comic effect by other more friendly, and impressively valiant jungle animals. Dahl’s masterful combination of prose and rhyme is accompanied once more by Quentin Blake’s trademark illustrations, giving this story a classic finish.
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
The very definition of a modern classic, The Gruffalo tells the story of a cunning mouse who hatches a plan to escape from the clutches of some hungry forest animals, keen to have him on their menu. Scaring them away by describing the worst creature of them all, the much-feared (but imaginary) Gruffalo, the mouse thinks he has the last laugh. But the Gruffalo could be more real than he thought…
Have we missed your favourite Early Years bedtime stories? Please let us know in the comments below!