How you can get the most out of bedtime: Tips for reading stories before bed

Bedtime story time is one of our favourite times of the day! Make the most of your evening time with your little one with Amelia Cunningham’s fantastic ideas on how to make it as relaxing and fun as possible…

Stories can take us on brilliant and sometimes even unforgettable journeys. We are immersed into an unfamiliar world, we meet different people, and discover new places. Doing this before bed helps us to relax and unwind, and it’s exactly the same for our children. 

Reading a story with your child is a special, nightly habit which should resonate with us all from memories of our own childhood. Now we have the role of the parent, it’s important to remember that the activity of reading is a crucial part of growing up. Reading before bedtime gets you extra quality time with your child and makes for the perfect bonding activity – guaranteed to give them sweet dreams! 

There is tonnes of fun and learning to be had from stories and you will begin to see glimmers of new personality traits while your child begins to dip into new interests, likes/dislikes, and as your child starts to recognise emotions of their own through the medium of fiction. 

Whether you are wanting to establish a bedtime routine, trying to encourage more literacy skills, or simply want some reading ideas, here is how you can make the most out of  reading before bedtime…

Making the time 

As parents we are busy, busy busy and sometimes, finding the time to sit down and relax is hard. But, making the time to read a story to your child before bed will not only give you that breather you’ve been searching for all day, but will be a special bonding time for you and your child. Prioritising 20-30 minutes a day before bedtime to read a story together will give you both something to look forward to and your child will begin to recognise their bedtime, and in time, establishing a great routine. Unwinding before bedtime will not only relax your child but it will also set you up for a more calming evening ahead.  

Get the room ready 

Tucked up next to their favourite cuddly toy and a soft light may be all you need to set a calming atmosphere for your bedtime story. However you do it, ensuring the room is peaceful and calm will give your child the confirmation that this is all part of their bedtime routine. It’s important that your child is nice and relaxed in a soothing and calming environment before bedtime as you will find your child will fall asleep easier and maybe even for longer, with potentially less wake ups throughout the night (…here’s to hoping!) You could even try soft background music from a night light or radio too.

Encourage your child to choose

Allowing your child to choose a story each night before bedtime will give them an exciting sense of responsibility. Your child will love being in charge of story time which will make reading before bed a really enjoyable activity. Encouraging your child to choose stories will build confidence and self esteem and your child will begin to discover what sort of stories they enjoy the most and which ones they don’t enjoy so much. 

You may even find that your child already has a favourite due to character recognition which is a great start!

Read together & let your child join in 

Letting your child join in as much as possible is another great way to build confidence. Even for parents with small babies, talk as you read, point to the pictures and try to give lots of eye contact. If your child is older, you could do all of the above, but also ask what your child can see and encourage them to describe what’s on the page by pointing to the pictures. The more your child feels a part of story, the more they will enjoy it and the more they will learn.

Encourage your child to speak about the story afterwards 

Depending on your child’s age you should try to speak to your child about what you have just read. You could ask your child questions about the story, what happened, what was their favourite part, and who was their favourite character. Talking about all these things will help your child reflect on the story and give them the confidence to form their own opinions about what they have just read. This is a great task which in time should help set them up for future literacy tasks.

Bring the fun! 

Most importantly, don’t forget to make it fun. Reading shouldn’t be a chore and should be something enjoyable for the both of you. If you have a tent, you could try decorating it with fairy lights and fill it with soft cushions and blankets making into into their very own ‘reading den’. This is a simple thing but will really bring the fun factor to your bedtime stories. You could even try to do lots of funny character voices and even actions to bring the story to life!

Sweet dreams! 

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