WE LOVE BOOKS
Especially books that help children with sleep
As a teacher, I’m slightly biased when I say that books are powerful learning tools for all children, no matter how old the child is. Sure, your baby may not understand all the words you are reading, but I guarantee they will be absorbing the sounds and words you are saying. All parents and caregivers are capable of being their child’s first and most influencing teacher. What an honour!
Hearing words when young helps to build new synapses in a baby’s brain that eventually lead to formation of words. Kids whose parents talk and read to them often know more words by the time they go to kindy than children who have not been read to and kids who are read to during very early years, can more easily pick up the skills of reading when it comes to formal schooling.
If you have ever visited an early years classroom, you might have noticed they have ‘big books’ displayed. These are basically oversized books that are visually stimulating and rich in detail; designed to engage the reader, encourage conversation and invite intrigue. If you want to establish a great bedtime routine for your child, THINK BIG.
The benefits of reading to your baby
- Your baby hears you using a variety of emotions and expressive sounds which supports their social development, emotional development and language learning
- It encourages your baby to look, point, touch, and respond with facial expression and vocal sounds which can help with social development, thinking and skills of communication
- Your baby improves their language skills by copying sounds, recognising pictures, and learning words
I do wish to clarify and I feel strongly that books don’t have to be sourced from commercial book stores. Homemade books can actually be cheaper, more endearing and they are often more effective in the development of brain connections and learning.
One idea that I find really effective and fun for older children is to create a ‘Bedtime Book’ that personalises your child’s bedtime routine experience, by including printed photos or drawings that depict your child and the bedtime routine steps that you expect. There are many online photo processing businesses that can help you with this, or you could print photos from your home printer; quality isn’t important. You could always buy a simple scrap book, jot down ‘doing and feeling’ words and have your child help you draw relevant pictures that depict their bedtime routine. Then rip out the pages and staple them into a book. You could get even more creative with this idea and make it a fun, progressive activity by making your own ‘BEDTIME ROUTINE BIG BOOK’
Instructions for making a Bedtime Routine Big Book
STEP 1. Start by setting up an easel and pin up butcher’s paper or sketch paper and gather together collage materials, paints, drawing materials and glue/tape. The thicker the paper the better. If you don’t have an easel, just use the floor or a large bench space covered in newspaper to protect the surface. You can involve your child in this ‘hunter gatherer’ stage. Wander around the house or head outdoors with a bucket each and gather anything your child finds interesting that can be used in collage.
STEP 2. Prepare a mental list, or write down, all the steps that make up your desired child’s bedtime routine
1. bath 2. get dressed in PJ’s 3. teeth 4. toilet 5. say ‘night night’ to toys in the room 6. read the Bedtime Big Book 7. get into bed 8. two more stories 8. cuddle and kiss goodnight 9. tuck in and lights out.
Be specific. e.g. 2 x stories (not unlimited)
STEP 3. Start a new routine with your child in the late afternoon or evening. Put aside five to ten minutes being creative with your child with drawing, painting, collage or a combo. Be prepared to get creative and be flexible. Talk about the bedtime routine and aim to focus on each one of your bedtime routine steps at a time each afternoon. Think about the sequence and work on one step per night. You could even Incorporate this activity into your current bedtime routine. Note: your child might be too tired in the late afternoon or evening for this activity, in which case, switch it to earlier in the day.
STEP 4. After about a week, when you and your child have creatively exhausted all the bedtime routine steps you have decided on, you are up to the fun part! Spread out all of your child’s artistic creations on the floor and help your child sequence the pictures and put them in order according to the anticipated new bedtime routine. Expect a bit of ‘rough stuff’ and don’t stress about a rip or tear here and there; your child’s artwork may become slightly damaged in translation but they won’t notice and they won’t care. What they will thrive on is spending fun one on one time with you before bed and learning what is expected at bedtime by ‘osmosis’.
STEP 5. Once your child has ordered the pictures in sequence (with your help), gather the pages together and staple and tape them together (this step might actually take more than one day). You could even make a ‘cover page’ with your child. After all is said and done, your child should now have their very own ‘Bedtime Routine Big Book’ that they have ownership of, because they helped decide on the content and they created it themselves. Every night thereafter, your child can pull out their Bedtime Routine Big Book and lie it on the floor in their bedroom. You can ‘read’ it together, sitting on the floor and incorporate it as part of their new bedtime routine. You can also role play and encourage your child to ‘read’ the bedtime book to a teddy or comforter, which would further reinforce the bedtime routine for your child.
Best ever commercial books that reinforce the bedtime routine
There are many benefits to bedtime stories, which are not just limited to creating magical memories and forming part of a routine that will help lull your little ones to sleep. Bedtime stories are proven to help foster a bond between parents and children, lower kids’ stress levels and reinforce literacy skills and mastery of language. For example, when you read Margaret Wise Brown’s classic bedtime story, Goodnight Moon to your baby, you will exaggerate the oo sound in moon and draw out the word hush, which means you’re stimulating connections in the part of his brain that handles language sounds (the auditory cortex).
1.Goodnight Moon – by Margaret Wise Brown
Summary: Little Bunny says “goodnight” to all the things in his room, before peacefully drifting off to sleep himself.
Why we love it: Saying goodnight to the things in your child’s room can be part of the bedtime routine. It’s a cue that it’s time to go to sleep and for your child to feel positive about going to sleep, because everything in the room is going to sleep too. The story has repetition and lulling rhythms that are easy to memorise, so after a few nights you can ‘read’ the story without really reading it. The illustrations are simple and the use of primary colours appeal to little ones.
2. Shhh! This book is sleeping – by Cédric Ramadier
Summary: A little pink mouse asks the reader to help with the book’s bedtime routine, everything from making sure it’s been to the toilet, to reading a story, pulling up the blanket and a kiss goodnight.
Why we love it: It invites your child to actually ‘tuck the book in’, just as you do with your child at bedtime, similar to using role-play to teach a concept. The illustrations are simple with calming colours, with the focus being a giant, blue face that changes expression on each page, as it ‘gets sleepier’. It helps the child feel positive about his or her own bedtime routine.
3. Where do Diggers Sleep at Night? – by Brianna Caplan Sayres
Summary: Little fire engines, tractors, and monster trucks ask for one more story while their mummy trucks tuck them in, and their daddy trucks sing a goodnight song.
Why we love it: The bedtime rituals of these little diggers and dump trucks will be quite familiar to kids saying goodnight, especially little fans of anything with wheels. Children identify with the endearing, happy faces of the vehicles, which helps them easily relate the bedtime routine in the story with their own.
4. Time for Bed – by Mem Fox
Summary: A variety of baby animals get ready for bed with gentle encouragement from their parents; finally a human mother tucks her child into bed.
Why we love it: This book is ideal for reading before bedtime as a way to help calm your child and prepare them for sleep. We love the hypnotic dreamy rhythm of the text and the soft and gentle illustrations that have a lovely calming effect on children.
5. The Going to Bed Book – by Sandra Boynton
Summary: A variety of animals on a boat complete the steps of their bedtime routine such as taking a bath, putting on their pyjamas, brushing teeth, and doing some exercise before going to bed.
Why we love it: A hardy, simple board book easy to hold in one hand whilst you also hold your little one. The rhymes are upbeat and catchy, as well as being super silly, just what children love. The story encourages the idea of a bedtime ritual and all the usual steps that go with it and finally ends in sleep. The story reinforces children’s understanding that sleep will follow their own bedtime routine.
One of the best things you can do to encourage your child to sleep well, no matter how old they are, is to establish a predictable bedtime routine. This is a short sequence of predictable events that your child will get used to before lights go out for the night. It’s a time to wind down, relax and the opportunity to spend quality one – one time with your child after a busy day. It’s a cue for your child that sleep is coming, that they are safe, loved and it’s Ok to go to bed. You can read their home made big book on the floor together, reread it to your child’s teddies and toys (do not be afraid of reading over and over; this is good) then have a cuddle together before hopping in to bed to read one or two of the commercial books mentioned above. Then all you need to do is tuck your little one in, say goodnight and leave the room knowing you have given your child love, attention and that they understand what is expected of them at bedtime.