Occasionally, there is a chasm between the books mini loves and the ones I do. I tire quickly of most of the Mo Willems books, for example, though mini could listen to Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus ad infinitum. (As a side bar, I’m not a huge fan of some of the messages in his books.) Even clever books with interesting rhymes — ones like Pout Pout Fish and Little Blue Truck (both definitely worth owning!) — can occasionally fill me with dread. Both of them run about two or three stanzas too long for my taste, and, if mini weren’t so observant, I’d happily skip a section or two — but she will inevitably point out my “forgetfulness.” Below, I thought I’d share the handful of children’s books I reach for time after time when mini permits me to select a book for our bedtime routine. Note — importantly — that all of these books are great for little children; none last more than a few minutes and most are heavily illustrated. (Who else has tried to read a book with too much text only to have a little paw reach up to turn the page?) Also note that all of these are ideal bedtime books in that most have soothing rhythms or messages about sleep.
Nancy Knows by Cybele Young — a beautifully illustrated book (using hand-folded origami!) that creatively explains memory to children. The writing is lyrical.
The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton — when I misplaced this book, I ordered a replacement copy within hours. This book is blessedly short, covers the basics of bedtime routine, and somehow puts me right to sleep with its closing line: “Rock and rock and rock to sleep…”
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans — a classic, for a reason. Mini knows this book so well that when I skip a word and look at her expectantly, she fills in the blank. We both love the line about saying pooh-pooh to the tigers at the zoo.
The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld — I love how this book explains grappling with emotions and empathy.
All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon — soothing rhymes, beautiful illustrations, and an interesting approach to explaining the vastness and diversity of the world.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Absolutely love the imaginativeness of this book. Mini and I dance and sing together during the multi-page “rumpus” interlude, where there is no text. Plus, the message at the end! It’s a beautiful book in all ways.
Jamberry by Bruce Degen. No substantial message here, but the rhythm is catchy and mini loves the illustrations (and also loves berries, so this is a big hit).
Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? by Nancy White Carlstrom. This book is quiet, soothing poetry that helpfully paints the picture of the cycle of a day. I love the ending, as Jesse Bear lays in bed: “What will you wear at night? / Sleep in my eyes / And stars in the skies / Moon on my bed / And dreams in my head / That’s what I’ll wear tonight.”
The Sleepy Alphabet Book by Judy Sierra.
Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. Something about the words “hush” and “mush” puts me right to sleep. My mother used to read this book to me a lot; I absolutely adore it and its epic illustrations.
When I’m feeling a bit more ambitious, we also both love Drum Dream Girl (incredible illustrations and beautiful writing) and Rosie Revere, Engineer — both books with strong messages of female empowerment, and both slightly longer than the others listed above.
What are your favorite bedtime books for toddlers? Please share in the comments! Always looking for new additions.
+Absolutely DYING (!!!) over this rug. I think it needs to go into micro’s nursery.
+Speaking of micro’s nursery — dream of wallpapering it with this.
+Update: added some new lunchtime finds to my Amazon shopping cart for mini’s school lunch situation after ordering this: slim icepacks, a Thermos for warm items, these sandwich-sized tupperware, a new Camelbak, and a snack-sized Yumbox after so many of you advocated for this brand.
+More great book picks for minis here.
+PSA: RealReal is a great source for buying gently-used Burberry coats for children. Have scored a few barely-worn pieces for mini from there!
+Love (!) this pretty pleated skirt.