That place between sleep and awake: Why the bedtime story is so important for your kids

From sleeping princesses in castles to napping home invaders who find a bed that’s “just right”, having a good rest features quite heavily in fairy tales. And, it’s not surprising to find so much snoozing going on in these enchanted tales, either. After all, sleep is the most magical moment in the day, where our brains have free reign to conjure up whatever dreams they like, so it’s only natural that storytellers go out of their way to include it.

But, the relation between stories and sleep is a two-way street, and you might be surprised how impactful a good story can be on a good night’s rest, especially for children. With Tell A Fairy Tale Day falling on the 26th February this year, we thought it would be a great opportunity to take a closer look at why sharing a bedtime story with your kids is well worth the time and effort.

The benefits of the bedtime story

Telling a bedtime story to a child is a tradition that goes back hundreds — if not thousands — of years, and it’s still a fixture in the day-to-day lives of many families. While it’s easy to take telling a simple story for granted, if you stop and take a look at the act itself, you’ll soon realise that it can be a powerful influence on children and can have a range of wide-ranging benefits.

Establishes a bedtime routine

One of the most important benefits of sharing a bedtime story with your child is that it can help to establish a routine that gets them ready for sleep.

Biologically, we humans are creatures of habit who’re most comfortable when we have a framework that our body clocks can rely upon. This reliance counts more for kids as they’re not as adaptable as adults. Making sure that you read your child a bedtime story every night can help to strengthen that framework by providing their brain with an essential signal to get ready for rest.

A story can also have a positive emotional impact on sleep. If your kids really enjoy your stories, it’s probably one of the highlights of their day, so they’re much more likely to look forward to bedtime. Some children can develop a love-hate relationship with being told to go to sleep, so anything you can do to help them perceive it in a positive light will be helpful.

Develops good behaviour and imaginative thinking

Another benefit of the bedtime story is the impact it can have on the way your children behave and think. For instance, a 2018 study by New York University School of Medicine found that kids whose parents read to them were less hyperactive and aggressive, as well as having longer attention spans. This can also have a knock-on effect when bedtime rolls around, as your child will be much more likely to drift off peacefully and with little conflict.

And, if you want your child to be imaginative, then reading together is definitely a routine you should establish. Much research, such as this study, has been done over the years into the effects of sharing a bedtime story, and its been found that children who are read to have a much better vocabulary and are able to think creatively than those who don’t.  

Adds a sense of security

Any parent would want their child to feel secure in their own bed, especially at an early age when nightmares are more common. Thankfully, spending time together at the end of the day reading or telling your kids a story can help them to associate their bed with a feeling of safety. Not only does the act of sharing a book at their bedside reinforce a sense of closeness as they drift off, but you can also use your story to communicate a positive message that will help them to relax. So, as long as you’re not reading them the latest horror bestseller before bed, your child should sleep more soundly after you’ve told one of their favourite tales.

Boosts parent-child bonding

We’ve already mentioned how a bedtime story can build a sense of closeness between you and your child, but it can also help you to build an emotional connection. Whether you develop a little joke about a story or make reference to a particular character you both laughed about during the day, there are plenty of opportunities to continue sharing your experience.

And, just because you little one is getting a little older doesn’t mean you need to give up story time. For instance, you could share your love of sci-fi or fantasy with your son or daughter, and that shared tale has the potential to be a positive influence in the rest of your relationship. You might even help to develop a passion for reading the same kind of books that they’ll enjoy for the rest of their lives.

We hope you consider the benefits of reading to your child and start your own bedtime adventures together. You really won’t regret it!

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