As you know, I’m a huge advocate of reading bedtime stories to kids. So today I wanted to share the best picture book bedtimes stories for kids that are actually ABOUT bedtime and sleeping!!
Bedtime can be tricky for many kids. From fears to restlessness to I’d-rather-be-playing, it’s not always a smooth transition to sleep.
Maybe these (meta) books make the perfect companions to your read aloud time just before turning off the lights and settling in for the night and help your energetic kids get sleepy and ready for dream time. 🙂
Put on your pajamas and get ready for a meta bedtime story experience as you create a calm nighttime ritual and head off to sleep with plenty of sweet dreams…
Also, it goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway,–almost any book at bedtime makes for a good bedtime story. Reading anything to your kids out loud on a daily basis is what matters most!
Bedtime Stories for Toddlers (ages 2 – 4)
The Napping House by Audrey Wood and Don Wood
One of the most beloved picture books EVER, certainly by my family if not the world, The Napping House is a gentle, rhythmic story about the inhabitants in a sleepy house slowly falling into slumber– then, waking back up again.
Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
As each vehicle at the construction site finishes its job for the day, there is one last thing to do, and then they’ll say goodnight. Gentle rhymes and soft-colored pictures of favorite trucks are the perfect way to lull any child into sweet dreams.
Go Sleep In Your Own Bed! by Candace Fleming and Lori Nichols
Kids will love this funny bedtime tale. Each animal goes to bed and finds another animal sleeping in the wrong bed. “Go sleep in your own bed!” the pig orders the cow, the cow orders the chicken, the chicken tells the horse, well, you get the picture. What will happen with the kitten? She gets to stay and cuddle in the little girl’s bed.
Forty Winks: A Bedtime Adventure by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Lita Judge
This large mouse family’s bedtime routine feels familiar and sweet. They get ready with rituals of reading books, whispering prayers, tucking in tight, goofing around, and procrastinating and it’s a read-aloud delight!
Goodnight, Butterfly by Ross Burach
Butterfly meets a nocturnal animal and he has SO MANY questions…which are hilarious to us and annoying to his new porcupine friend who prefers quiet. To help Butterfly sleep, Porcupine suggests a good book. It doesn’t work. Then, he recommends Butterfly think calming thoughts. Eventually, Butterfly goes to sleep, but his snoring wakes up all the other butterflies. A delightful read-aloud for bedtime or anytime!
Bedtime for Sweet Creatures by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
Parents, you’ll love this relatable story about the production of going to bed — for a little boy and all his cuddly plush sweet creatures. The tireless mother helps all the stuffed animals go to bed first, then the little boy. Lots of rich imagery plus brightly colored collage illustrations make this a wonderful choice to read to children at bedtime, rich with family, imagination, and love.
Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
Lucy yawns while her mother reads her a bedtime story and soon drifts off to sleep. Later, she wakes up in the dark, realizing that she doesn’t have her special stuffed bear Molasses. As she makes her way back to bed with Molasses and her other plush friends, readers will help count her yawns. Beautiful illustrations perfectly set the tone for this cozy, comforting bedtime story.
Everyone’s Awake by Colin Meloy, illustrated by Shawn Harris
What a crazy night! The entire family is awake and doing all sorts of imaginative, random things. “Grandma’s at her needlework. Dad is baking bread. My brother’s making laundry lists of every book he’s read.” Rollicking, rhythmic verses plus neon-bright action-packed illustrations capture the exuberance and activity of this busy night.
Pillowland by Laurie Berkner, illustrated by Camille Garoche
Sail in your blanket boat on a feather ocean. Meet the king and queen and have a pillow fight. Pillowland is perfect to share with children when they’re tucked in tight, ready for bed and hugs and snuggles.
Goodnight, Good Dog by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Rebecca Malone
I love the picture illustrations and simple text that capture a dog remembering his day and his children, then wishing himself good-night. Sweet and perfect for younger ages.
Goodnight, Grizzle Grump! by Aaron Blecha
Grizzle Grump just can’t find a good place to take his long winter nap. Every place he tries has very noisy animals! (No wonder he’s grumpy!) He finds the perfect winter cave where he snores so loudly now it’s the other animals who are bothered. A darling bedtime story!
Help Wanted, Must Love Books by Janet Sumner Johnson, illustrated by Courtney Dawson
When Shelly’s dad gets a new job, he’s too sleepy to read bedtime books without falling asleep. So Shelly puts up a Help Wanted sign to recruit a new bedtime reader. Soon fairy tale characters arrive for interviews –with hilariously disastrous results.
One Sheep, Two Sheep by Tami Sauer, illustrated by Troy Cummings
The other silly farm animals interfere with the rooster trying to count sheep to fall asleep. Poor rooster. He’s frustrated and it’s hilarious!
Bedtime for Batman by Michael Dahl, illustrated by Ethen Beavers
As the stars come out and shadows lengthen, the hero gets a signal. Batman prepares the Batmobile. Our hero gets ready for bed including cleaning up the daily grime just like Batman cleans up the town’s villains. Add this to your bedtime stories if you want to make bedtime cool!
Naptime with Theo and Beau by Jessica Shyba
You’ll ooh and aah at these darling photographs of Beau and his puppy named Theo (a rescue puppy) who hops up on the bed after Beau falls asleep for nap time. Gorgeous photos and sweet cuddles. Sleep tight!
Good Night! Good Night! by Carin Berger
You’ll love this bedtime story’s sweet good-night list of things to do including stories, songs, hugs, and kisses and the surprising, funny additions like dances, monsters, and tickles. The collage, paper-cut artwork in this picture book makes this very visually appealing.
Little Bear Dreams by Paul Schmid
What do polar bears dream about? Short phrases with succinct graphic art deliver a cozy bedtime atmosphere in a sweet polar bear story. Did you know that polar bears dream about hot chocolate, cold pizza… short tails, and tall hats…and…?
Good Night, Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Excellent rhyming just like the entire series tells the sweet story of friends seeing shelter from a big storm — all with Blue Truck and Frog in the garage. After the storm passes, Frog and Blue Truck drive the animals home for bedtime.
It’s So Quiet: A Not-Quite-Going-to-Bed Book by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tony Fucile
Mouse can’t go to sleep because it’s too QUIET. His mom helps him listen to the many sounds of the night. But when Mouse opens his window, it’s very loud…too loud! Exasperated, Mouse bellows for the night noises to be quiet so he can fall asleep…and eventually it gets quiet and Mouse falls alseep.
Best Bedtime Stories for Preschoolers and Elementary Ages (ages 4 – 8)
(Preschool, Early Elementary)
Sleepy the Goodnight Buddy by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Scott Campbell
This kid, Roderick, has impressive sleep stalling strategies. His parents get him a stuffed animal named Sleepy. Who talks. Who is even more of an expert in sleep stalling strategies than Roderick! In a hilarious role reversal, Roderick gets Sleepy a glass of water, reads him a great story, checks the closet, and does all the things that Roderick’s parents used to do for him…until Roderick is exasperated. With that, Roderick falls asleep.
The Tossy-Turny Princess and the Pesky Pea: A Fairy Tale to Help You Fall Asleep by Susan Verde, illustrated by Jay Fleck
This princess loves sleeping. But one day, a pea slips under her mattress and it ruins her sleep! She gets advice from many people to help her sleep. That night, the princess implements the advice and soon, she falls fast asleep.
Can You Yawn Like a Fawn! by Monica Sweeney with Lauren Yelvington, illustrated by Laura Watkins
This gorgeous sleepy time story book prompts your child to do the same — sharing the nighttime rituals of baby animals and asking if the reader can yawn like them. It’s so perfect for bedtime, I’m already sleepy myself. Yawn along with this highly recommended bedtime story.
Arlo The Lion Who Couldn’t Sleep by Catherine Rayner
One of the best bedtime stories, this wonderful picture book gives visualization exercises when Owl tries to help his grumpy lion friend at bedtime. Arlo listens to the song and imagines bounding up mountains, wading in rivers, climbing enormous trees, and he finally falls asleep. He feels excited to tell Owl and accidentally wakes up his friend but Arlo sings Owl back to sleep! And as Arlo sings, Owl imagines flying over waters, soaring high and fast, and gliding through wild forests.
Sloth Wasn’t Sleepy by Kate Messner, illustrated by Valentina Toro
Sloth’s mom helps him with strategies to sleep and release his worries. They listen to the trees. “Shush-rush” and feel the wind in their fur…They close their eyes and count to four, the breath out for four. It makes Sloth feel quiet Mama shows Sloth how to imagine her worries and lay it gently on a leaf and set it free. Sloth eventually falls into a peaceful sleep. (Also read: Mindfulness Books for Kids.)
Ella’s Night Lights by Lucy Fleming
Ella brings bright night light to help others not be afraid. She befriends a fox and an owl and they play together but she always has to return home during the day to protect her wings. Then, her friends make her a den of darkness where she can see out and watch the sunrise. So sweet.
Everybody in the Red Brick Building by Anne Wynter, illustrated by Oge Mora
In this building, noisy kids and cats and parrots wake each other up–then slowly everyone falls back asleep. The noises give us a lovely atmospheric feel and we get a strong sense of relationships and community. This is an onomatopoeia bedtime story that begs to be read aloud!
Good Night Owl by Greg Pizzoli
SO FUNNY! Owl tears up his house to find the “noise” that is preventing his sleep which we soon see is a cute little squeaky mouse. Soon the roof is off, the walls are down, and Owl’s lying in wait to get that noise…
Noisy Night by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Brian Biggs
From the bottom floor to every floor above it, the residents of this apartment building are making lots of noise! A man is singing opera, a baby is cooing, cowboys are laughing, a crow is squawking, and that’s not even all. Bright, eye-catching illustrations show just who is on the floor above. Keep turning to find out who is at the top and how he makes everyone BE QUIET so they all can go to bed. Funny and wonderful, this bedtime story will be a great addition to your evening ritual.
Dad and the Dinosaur by Gennifer Choldenko, illustrated by Dan Santat
Nicholas is afraid of the dark and other things but his toy dinosaur makes him feel as brave as his dad, even fearless. So he takes his dinosaur everywhere — swimming, soccer, outside in the dark. When his beloved toy gets lost, his fear returns and Nicholas has bad dreams. In a sweet, dad-rocks kind of ending, Nick’s dad takes him to look for the dinosaur.
Everybody Sleeps (But Not Fred) by Josh Schneider
The animals on the farm, in the ocean, and everywhere relax and sleep. But not Fred. He’s busy jumping, testing his horn collection, and hunting the legendary Sasquatch. Will Fred ever sleep? We sure hope so!
Duck, Duck, Dinosaur and the Noise at Night by Kallie George, illustrated by Oriol Vidal
On their first night on their own without their mama, Feather, Flap, and Spike are woken by a frightening noise. No matter where they move or what they do, the noise keeps returning and they just can’t sleep. Finally, they realize it’s Spike’s snoring. What a fun surprise! After that, the dinosaur siblings can sleep soundly the rest of the night.
Boris and the Worrisome Wakies by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
Boris the badger goes to bed but doesn’t sleep because his mind goes non-stop. At school, he misses out on all the fun — field day, the school play, and being line leader — because he’s very tired. That’s when Boris decides to find a solution for each worry so he can go to bed, get to sleep, and not miss a minute more of his day.
Stop that Yawn! by Caron Levis, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Gabby and Granny are on a quest to stay up late — but they must stop that yawn!! They have an exuberant adventure through the city streets with pitch-perfect repetition: “Grit your teeth, seal your lips, we have to stop that– YAWN.” But we all know that yawns are catching and eventually, the yawn makes everyone sleepy, even fall asleep, even Gabby.
The Night Monster by Sushree Mishra, illustrated by Sanket Pethkar
His sister suggests that Avi write the scary night monster a letter. To his surprise, the monster (actually the big sister) writes back. Avi soon realizes that the night is not a monster. In fact, he waits for the night to bring him sweet dreams. This story reminds me that knowledge can be so helpful for kids. Knowing about nocturnal animals, for example, alleviated some of Avi’s fears.
There’s a Dinosaur on the 13th Floor by Wade Bradford, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
Fans of silly stories will enjoy watching a sleepy man named Mr. Snore look for an EMPTY hotel room where he can finally sleep. Room after room already has a guest in it — a mouse, a pig, a giraffe, spiders, … so where will he sleep? Mr. Snore finally finds a room — or does he? Ultimately, Mr. Snore gets a surprising but satisfying ending.
I’ll Meet You in Your Dreams by Jessica Young, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Don’t miss this reassuring, loving bedtime reminder to a child showing that the mother will be with the child no matter what…“...you’ll be an eagle and I’ll be a hawk. When soft winds sing and treetops rock, we’ll spread our wings and soar until we reach the shore.” Beautiful illustrations and rich imagery.
Dreamland by Noah Klocek
Luminous illustrations depict a little girl is on a bedtime journey to find her dreams and restful sleep. I know that my own daughter can relate as she has struggled to fall asleep night after night. “Marching, dancing, and traveling, Amelie finally finds herself in her favorite dreams.