A bedtime story habit has many benefits for a child and yet some parents may find it a challenge to find time or feel intimidated by reading aloud to their kids. If you grew up without getting bedtime stories yourself it might also feel strange to start doing so for your own child and sometimes getting to the end of the day has been such a struggle that a bedtime story is the last thing you want to do. Bedtimes stories are your friend however, they offer your children a chance to improve their vocabulary and imagination and are a great way of connecting with your child. The following ten tips are designed to encourage any parent who wishes to give bedtime stories a go or to make telling a bedtimes story a regular habit.
1. Make it Part of Your Routine
For many parents this will already be the case. Time with a book is a great way to wind down at the end of the day and to signal that it is now time to go to sleep. Being part of the routine is also important if you want the bedtime story to be a regular feature of your day. I used to read a bedtime story to my son but fell out of the habit when my daughter arrived. Suddenly it was too easy to forget and I quickly went back to making it a part of our family bedtime routine. If you don’t already have a regular bedtime story then why not make it part of your bedtime ritual? Once you start I can guarantee you won’t want to stop.
2. Use it as Bonding Time
There are so many distractions in our lives these days that it can be hard sometimes to get one on one time with our children. A bedtime story can be a great way to simply connect with your child without distractions such as the TV. Some of my favourite times with my children have been snuggled up on the bed at the end of the day. I get to tell myself that I have survived another day as a parent and I can feel myself relax as we share a story together.
3. Use Voices
So you didn’t train at RADA and you aren’t the next Judi Dench or Morgan Freeman. I can promise you that your child will not care. Simple ways to change your voice include slowing it down or speeding it up or changing the pitch to a higher or lower one than your own. Playing around with daft accents can also be a lot of fun. Children love silly voices and they will love them even more if you are the one making them.
4. Or Don’t
If the thought of doing voices freaks you out then don’t sweat it. Your child wants your voice more than any other at the end of the day. Let yourself off the hook and dig in. The important thing is to share the story, voices are just bells and whistles and there is a lot to be said for simple storytelling.
5. Read Books You Loved as a Child
Remember your favourite story as a child? Why not dig it out and share it with your own children? You will get to relive the happy memories while your child discovers the story for the first time. I loved re-reading The Magic Faraway Tree with my son when we first moved onto chapter books. It was a lovely way to take that step as I got to share all my own happy memories of reading the book myself and he enjoyed that he was hearing my favorite story from when I was his age.
6. Use Your Library!
Your Library is a goldmine of undiscovered adventures. Visit the Library and as well as picking up books by authors you know commit to picking up a book by someone random each week. You’ll discover new favourites in no time at all and be introduced to different styles and stories. We always check out the Just In section in our library to see what’s just arrived. You can also ask your librarian for recommendations or do what we do and just pick something random from the shelves and hope for the best! 9 times out of 10 we find something we love.
7. Use the Classics
They may be done to death and you might have heard them a million times but they are told and retold for a reason. They are also totally new to your child. It is easy to be so used to traditional tales such as Snow White and Jack and the Beanstalk that we forget our children are coming across them for the very first time. Be the one to introduce them to some of the biggest and most long lasting stories of all time.
8. Invent Your Own Stories
If you fancy a change from the traditional tales then why not try making up your own stories to share at bedtime. Make your son or daughter the star of the story and take them on adventures to the moon and stars, the seven wonders of the world or just the local park. The stories don’t need to be brilliantly crafted, your child will love hearing something that you have made especially for them and by creating your own tales you can easily incorporate familiar objects, people and family jokes. Who knows, perhaps your stories will turn into a series and then turn into a best seller! Tolkien’s The Hobbit started off as a bedtime story for his children!
9. Don’t be Afraid to Push Them a Little
I have always enjoyed reading to my children but I would be lying if I said that the repetition didn’t sometimes wear me down. Now repetition of favourite books is an important part of a child’s reading journey and if you have good books in the house or from the library then actually repeating them isn’t a major chore. Having said that it can be good to encourage your children to try out new things. I moved my son onto chapter books at quite a young age. I felt he could handle them and I knew that I would enjoy sharing a longer and more detailed story with him. Now he loves chapter books and bedtime is great fun as I get to discover loads of fantastic children’s literature.
10, Watch This Video
Here Michael Rosen share his own tips for reading bedtime stories. It’s a lovely little video which you should check out because Michael Rosen is great and a true champion of children’s literature.
My favourite part of that video is when he talks about you being a bridge between the story and the child. That is the magic of reading to your child, you can be the bridge to a whole new world.
Do you have a bedtime story routine? How important is it to you? Got any more tips? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.