Children love stories. They especially love to hear a story from their mother or father, just before bedtime. Reading bedtime stories to children is a wonderful way to bond with them and encourages a love for reading. Reading to children makes them love books and become readers themselves. It also sharpens memory, improves language, and strengthens their creative thinking. Here are 15 of the best bedtime stories for children.
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Best Bedtime Stories for Children
Children are always active, and it can be hard to put them to sleep at times. This is when a good story can come to your aid. It helps you prepare your kids for bedtime, and they’ll even look forward to it if there are good stories to hear. Below, are some of the stories that you could read out to them.
1. The Ugly Duckling
This is one of the classic bedtime stories for kids. The story starts on a farm, where a duck sits on a clutch of eggs to make them hatch. The eggs hatch one by one, and soon, there are six yellow-feathered ducklings, chirping excitedly. The last egg takes longer to hatch, and from it emerges a strange looking duckling with grey feathers. Everybody finds the grey duckling ugly, including its own mother. The dejected duckling runs away and lives alone in a swamp until winter comes. Seeing the duckling starving in winter, a farmer takes pity on the ugly duckling and gives it food and shelter at home. However, the duckling is afraid of the farmer’s noisy children and flees to a cave by a frozen lake. When spring comes, a flock of beautiful swans descend on the lake, and the duckling, which is now fully grown, but lonely, approaches the swans, fully expecting to be rejected. To his surprise, the swans welcome him. He looks at his reflection in the water and realises that he is not an ugly duckling anymore, but a beautiful swan. The swan joins this flock and flies off with his new family.
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2. Midas and the Golden touch
The story of Midas is another classic bedtime tale for kids. This ancient story from Greece describes King Midas as a greedy and discontented man, who loved gold more than anything else. Once, he did a good deed for someone, and a Greek God appeared before him, saying that he will be granted his heart’s desire for doing the good deed. Midas wished that everything he touched should turn into gold, instantly. The God granted his wish. Midas was very excited and went about touching random objects, turning everything he touched into gold. After a while, he became hungry. However, when he touched his food, it turned to gold, and he could not eat it. He was starving and dismayed that he could not eat. Seeing him troubled, his loving daughter threw her arms around him to comfort him, and she, too, turned to gold. Midas was horrified that his daughter had become a statue of gold. He regretted asking for the Golden Touch and realised that he had been greedy and that gold was not the most precious thing in the world. He cried and begged the God to take back his wish. The God took pity on him and asked him to take a dip in the river by his palace, and then fill a pitcher of water from the river and sprinkle it on all the things he wanted to change back. He followed the instructions and changed his daughter back to normal. He was very happy to get his beloved daughter back and stopped being greedy from that moment.
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3. The Boy Who Cried Wolf
This story is from Aesop’s Fables and impresses the importance of being truthful. It is the story of a shepherd boy who watched a flock of sheep near his village. The area was known to have a wolf that was infamous for raiding the sheep flock and making away with a couple of sheep. Every villager knew of the menace and was always ready to come to the aid of anyone who had a problem with the wolf. But the boy overlooked this helpful nature of the villagers, and in fact, ridiculed it. For his amusement, he brought out the villagers, three times, by crying out for help, saying “Wolf! Wolf!”. The ever-vigilant villagers immediately came to help him, only to find the shepherd boy having a hearty laugh. They were naturally upset when he laughed at them for getting fooled. One day, however, a wolf actually came and started killing and eating his sheep. This time, when he cried for help, none of the villagers came to his aid, as they thought he was playing a prank on them again. As a result, the wolf destroyed the shepherd’s flock. The moral of the story is that no one believes a liar, even when he tells the truth.
4. The Ant and the Grasshopper
This is another tale from Aesop’s Fables, and talks about the importance of hard work and planning for the future. The story tells of a grasshopper that spends the summer singing and idling away his time. Meanwhile, his neighbours, a colony of ants, work hard throughout the summer to store food for the winter. The grasshopper laughs at the ants and tells them that they should enjoy the summer. The ants tell the grasshopper that he should store food for the winter or he will starve when everything is frozen. When winter comes, the ants are in their nest, resting and surviving on the food that they stored. The grasshopper comes to their door, hungry and cold. He begs the ants for food and says he realised the error of his ways. The ants share their food with him and make him promise to work hard, next summer, to gather and store food.
5. Beauty and the Beast
This is a famous fairy tale that tells us that we should look past outward appearances and give more importance to a person’s good nature. There once was a merchant who got lost in a storm and took shelter in a castle that he found. While leaving, he plucked a rose from the garden to gift to his daughter Belle. The castle belonged to a hideous beast, who imprisoned the merchant for trying to steal the rose. The merchant begged to be set free and told the beast he only wanted the rose for his daughter Belle. The Beast let him go, on the condition that his daughter will take his place and live in the castle. The merchant returned home and told Belle everything. Belle went to live in the castle with the Beast, in place of her father. The Beast fell in love with the beautiful Belle, who realised that the Beast was very good natured and not vicious. One day, Belle asked permission to go see her father. When she left, the Beast felt heartbroken. Belle returned to the castle, to see that the Beast was dying. She held the Beast and cried, admitting that she loves him. All of a sudden, the Beast turned into a handsome prince. He was cursed by a witch that he would remain a Beast, until a woman truly loved him, despite his hideous looks. When Belle said she loved the beast, the witch’s curse was broken. The prince and Belle got married and lived happily ever after.
Cinderella is another fairy tale full of magic and adventure. Once, a beautiful girl named Cinderella lived with her wicked stepmother and two stepsisters. The stepmother made her do all the housework and was very cruel to her. One day, the stepmother and stepsisters went to a ball in the King’s palace, leaving Cinderella behind. Cinderella really wanted to attend the ball and felt very sad that she had been left behind. Suddenly, a fairy godmother appeared in a burst of light, and she used her magic to transform Cinderella into a princess, wearing a lovely dress and glass slippers. She also turned a pumpkin and some mice into a carriage and horses, respectively. Cinderella could now attend the ball. The fairy godmother warned her that the magic will wear off at midnight and that Cinderella should return home before that. When Cinderella arrived at the ball, the prince saw her, and they fell in love. They danced together until midnight. When the clock struck twelve, Cinderella rushed to her carriage, leaving one of her glass slippers behind. The prince searched every house in town for the mysterious girl whose foot fit into the glass slipper. He reached the wicked stepmother’s house and found that the shoe belonged to Cinderella. Thus, the prince and Cinderella got married and lived happily ever after.
7. The Hungry Mouse
This is among the short bedtime stories for kids. It talks about how greed can get people into bad situations. There once was a mouse that was starving and had not eaten in days. He had grown really thin. After a lot of searching, the mouse found a basket full of corn. There was a tiny hole in the basket, through which he could just fit in. So, he crept into the basket and ate his fill of corn. However, he did not stop eating, once he was full. The mouse ate more and more, even though he was feeling full. Now, the mouse had grown larger from all that food and could no longer fit through the hole to get out. He was worried and wondered how to escape. A rat that was passing by heard the mouse and told him that he had to wait until he had grown thin again, in order to get out through that hole. The mouse regretted being greedy and overeating.
8. I’m Bored
This is another short bedtime story for kids. The story is about a girl who whines about boredom until she meets a potato. The potato tells her that kids are boring. The little girl is surprised and tells the potato that kids are not boring, and are actually a lot of fun. The potato asks the girl to prove this. The little girl tells the potato all the things children do to have fun. She tells the potato that kids can play games, do cartwheels, skip, walk on their hands, have a race, and play on the swing. She also tells the potato that better than everything else, kids can imagine. This story is a way to remind children of all the fun things they can do when they are bored. This story can also be interactive if you ask your child to recount all the fun things that he/she likes to do.
9. The Emperor’s New Clothes
This is a funny bedtime story for kids. A proud and boastful emperor only cares about displaying himself in beautiful clothes and finery. He hires two weavers and promises them a reward if they make for him the best suit of clothes ever worn by anyone. The weavers are con-men who tell the king that they are using a special fabric that is invisible to anyone who is stupid or unfit for his position. The weavers are actually tricking the king, by only pretending to stitch the clothes, by miming making clothes. Thus, even though no one, including the emperor and his ministers, can actually see the clothes, nobody admits it, for fear of being called stupid or unfit for his position. The weavers claim to have finished the suit and mime dressing the emperor, who then marches before his subjects to show off his new clothes. The townspeople go along with this, as they do not want to admit that the king is naked and risk being called stupid. Then, a child who is watching the procession screams that the emperor has no clothes. The child does not understand the reason to keep up the pretence. Hearing the child, others in the crowd also join the child in saying that the emperor is naked. The emperor is very embarrassed. He realises that his pride and foolishness put him in a situation where he became the object of ridicule.
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10. Aladdin and the Magic Lamp
This is a story from The Arabian Nights: One Thousand and One Nights. It is a story full of magical adventures. It tells the tale of Aladdin, a poor tailor’s son. After his father dies, Aladdin’s mother earns money by spinning cotton. One day, a wicked magician comes to Aladdin and says he will pay him money for doing a small job. He also gifts him a ring as a token of advance. He then takes him to a hidden cave and asks him to go inside and bring him a lamp. The cave is full of gold and treasures. Aladdin finds the lamp and brings it to the opening of the cave. The magician asks Aladdin to give him the lamp, but Aladdin asks him to help him climb out of the cave, first. The magician gets angry and says magic words that trap Aladdin inside the cave. A desperate Aladdin absently rubs the ring on his finger, and a genie magically appears, saying it will grant him any wish. Aladdin asks the genie to help him get out. He then takes the lamp and goes home. He tells his mother everything. The next day, his mother rubs the lamp while cleaning it, and again, a genie appears. It grants Aladdin and his mother anything they wish for. They now become rich and live in comfort. Aladdin also marries the princess of the land and lives luxuriously in a palace built for them, by the genie. Meanwhile, the magician disguises himself as a lamp seller and comes to the palace, claiming to exchange new lamps for old. The princess gives away the magic lamp, not knowing what it really is. The magician then takes uses the genie of the lamp to take away Aladdin’s riches, palace and even the princess. Aladdin is in despair and tries to find a way to get everything back. He suddenly remembers the magic ring and uses the genie of the ring to bring back his palace, the lamp, and the princess. Aladdin then sets the genies of the lamp and ring free and lives happily ever after with the princess.
11. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
This is one of those lovely bedtime storybooks with pictures, for kids. This book has colourful illustrations and differently shaped pages, with holes showing the caterpillar’s trail through various foods. The story goes that one Sunday morning, a red-faced caterpillar hatches from an egg on a leaf and begins to look for food. He eats a leaf, but is very hungry. He then eats through various foods, in increasing quantities, over the next five days. The caterpillar eats through one apple on Monday, two pears on Tuesday, three plums on Wednesday, four strawberries on Thursday, and five oranges on Friday. Then, on Saturday, the caterpillar has a huge feast of one piece each, of a chocolate cake, ice-cream cone, pickle, Swiss cheese, salami, lollipop, cherry pie, sausage, cupcake and watermelon. After this, the caterpillar gets a bad stomach ache from eating too much food. The caterpillar feels better on Sunday after he returns to his usual diet of a large green leaf. He then spins a cocoon around himself, in which he remains for two weeks. After two weeks, the caterpillar emerges from the cocoon, as a beautiful butterfly with colourful wings. This book teaches little children about numbers, names of various foods, days of the week, and the life cycle of a butterfly.
12. Goodnight Moon
This is a lovely picture book for children. It features a bunny saying goodnight to everything around it. The sentences form a rhyming poem and describe how the bunny says goodnight to various living and inanimate objects around it, such as a red balloon, a dollhouse, two kittens, the moon, and so on. It goes “Goodnight room, Goodnight moon, Goodnight cow jumping over the moon, Goodnight light, and the red balloon. Little children love the rhymes and the soothing rhythm of the story quickly lulls them to sleep.
13. Interrupting Chicken
This story is about a red chicken who is so excited to finish a story, that he interrupts it every time, much to the exasperation of his dad. Papa chicken is putting the little red chicken to bed. Papa chicken agrees to read a bedtime story to the red chicken and tells his son not to interrupt. The father starts reading Hansel and Gretel after the red chicken agrees. As the story nears the end, the little red chicken gets excited, interrupts the story, and finishes telling it on his own. The red chicken, then, interrupts again, when his dad reads him the stories of Little Red Riding Hood and Chicken Little. Finally, Papa chicken runs out of stories and asks the little one to read to him instead. Little red chicken starts reading a story, and within minutes, the dad is fast asleep, snoring in the little one’s bed.
14. Is it Bedtime, Wibbly Pig?
This story is in a question and answer format. The narrator asks Wibbly Pig if it is bedtime already, and each time, Wibbly Pig gives amusing excuses to avoid going to bed. Wibbly Pig is taking a shower when the narrator asks if it is bedtime. Wibbly Pig replies that it is not, since she is still in the bath. When asked if she has finished the bath, she says she is still drying her toes. The story goes on, with Wibbly Pig coming up with various excuses to avoid bedtime. The story ends when Wibbly finally falls asleep with her cuddly toys, Dimple the teddy bear, Pigley the pig, and Flop, the bunny.
15. Oh, the Places You’ll Go
This is a book full of rhyming verses and colourful illustrations. It tells children that life is a balance of both, good and bad things, but can be fun if you want it to be. Each verse tells children about different stages of life and the choices they can make to deal with the various situations they face. It teaches the children that they have to decide where to go and what to do in life. It also says that life is not always going to be easy, but the children can face any situation and keep moving ahead.
Tips on Making Story Time Interesting
Love for reading begins at home. Here’s how you can make story time the most looked forward to part of your child’s day:
1. Use different voices for each character, and change tempo and pitch as you read. This keeps your kids interested in the story and builds engagement.
2. Make your child trail over the words with his/her finger as you read. This helps in identification of alphabets and words and boosts progress in reading.
3. Spend 5-10 minutes after the story time talking about the story you just read. You can ask your child what he/she learnt or would do if put in the situation of one of the characters. Doing so boosts imagination and builds strategic thinking.
4. Another way to boost imagination is by asking your child to continue the story or add a character that doesn’t exist in the story. This is fun and may prove to be entertaining for both, you and your kid.
5. Break a long story in several parts and read one part each day. This keeps your child’s attention focused, little at a time, and builds suspense as well.
Reading bedtime stories to children is a great way to teach them good manners, right from wrong, and respect for others. They develop moral values and a civic sense. Apart from that, there are many gains in cognitive development as well. This nighttime routine helps you gain awareness about your child’s viewpoint and way of thinking. Hearing bedtime stories also helps a child build vocabulary and attain mastery in the language. To further encourage creative and imaginative abilities in your child, you can consider buying a kid’s activity kit; it will encourage your child to cultivate an active imagination and open a doorway to writing, as well as reading more.