Daylight saving time is upon us, and brighter evening skies can certainly boost our moods and signal warmer days ahead. But if you’re a parent or caregiver, daylight saving time can also make bedtime MUCH more challenging! Any changes in sleep routine can be super disruptive for kids, and “springing forward” can result in grumpiness and sleep deprivation that lingers for days.
Pediatricians and sleep experts stress that creating and sticking to a nightly routine is crucial as the days stretch longer. For many families, this routine is capped off with a bedtime story. On those bleak nights when sleep seems so far away, a blissful bedtime read may just be the perfect remedy for rambunctious little ones and stressed-out caregivers alike. For this list, I went in search of books with gentle rhymes, dreamy illustrations and sweet sentiments for saying “good night.”
“Pillowland” by Laurie Berkner
Based on Laurie Berkner’s lullaby of the same name, “Pillowland” captures all the magic of bedtime as three children drift off to a faraway kingdom. In Pillowland, you can sail a feather sea, ride a rocking horse and even meet the kindly king and queen. I’m absolutely blown away by artist Camille Garoche’s gorgeous mixed-media illustrations which bring the lyrics to life. 3D paper cutouts overlay gauzy blankets and sheets, while a bedside lamp casts all the pages in a warm, yellow glow. Dim the lights and sing along to “Pillowland” as your little one is carried off to a dream world all their own.
“Touch the Brightest Star” by Christie Matheson
“Touch the Brightest Star” is ideal for toddlers who have graduated from board books but still enjoy interacting with text and illustrations. Each page offers some simple, meditative instructions, like tapping lightning bugs, blowing a gentle breeze or connecting the stars in a constellation. Swiping the sky then turning the page to reveal a shooting star? Simply magical! All the while, the sky grows darker as dusk turns to nightfall, and nocturnal creatures and plants emerge from their daytime slumber. A sweet and simple read-aloud perfect for creating some calm before bed.
“Just Because” by Mac Barnett
What is it about crawling into bed that makes us want to solve the mysteries of the universe? In a tale all parents and caregivers can recognize, a curious little girl is plagued with big questions right before bed, much to her father’s amusement. “Why do the leaves change color?” she asks, and instead of offering up some flimsy explanation involving science-y words like chlorophyll, her father has something much more imaginative in mind. The darkness of the girl’s simple bedroom contrasts beautifully with the colorful hues and creative details to be found as her father reveals the secrets of seasons, dinosaurs and space. As her eyes begin to droop, the girl’s final question is sure to inspire sweet dreams.
“Bedtime for Sweet Creatures” by Nikki Grimes
If you’ve got a chronic bedtime procrastinator on your hands, this animal-inspired romp is a surefire way to get the wiggles out! A stubborn “sweet creature” clad in footie pajamas curls up under the covers like a snake, roars like a lion to scare off monsters and stalks to the kitchen in search of water like a thirsty wolf. But what happens when the whole menagerie winds up in Mom and Dad’s bedroom? Nikki Grimes’ lively prose pairs effortlessly with illustrator Elizabeth Zunon’s West African-inspired prints. The end result reads like a modern folktale.
“You Be Mommy” by Karla Clark
Being a parent or caregiver is one of the hardest jobs out there. Who wouldn’t feel like taking a break from bedtime duties once in a while? In this adorable role reversal, a sleepy, stressed-out mom offers this responsibility to her little girl. After a long day of working and caregiving, Mommy wants nothing more than to be tucked in herself for once. Don’t let the premise fool you into thinking there’s any resentment or guilt at play here, only a sweet lesson in empathy and the importance of caring for one another. “You Be Daddy” by the same author features a boy and his father and makes slight alterations to the rhyming prose, but the core sentiment remains the same: celebrating the special bond between parent and child.
“Snoozefest at the Nuzzledome” by Samantha Berger
Who can resist a picture book that’s just as much fun for grown-ups as it is for kids? “Snoozefest at the Nuzzledome” imagines a music festival celebrating all things sleep! A drowsy sloth aptly named Snuggleford Cuddlebun packs her suitcase with pajamas, bedtime stories and her beloved blanket and heads off for the dreamiest event of the year. The festival-goers snuggle up in hammocks and sleeping bags, the food trucks serve warm milk with honey and everyone rocks out — or rather, dozes off — to lullabies performed by the likes of the Chamomile Rage and Deep Hiber-Nation. This book’s silliness and creativity is a treat. Or in the words of the author, the story is totally “wumphy,” “naptacular” and “tire-ific!”