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7 best bedtime books for toddlers every parent needs on their bookshelf

Looking for great bedtime books for babies? Picking out the perfect bedtime book is easier said than done. You want something that’s enriching and nurturing for your small child, who might not quite yet get the whole concept of books. You likely want something that’s on the shorter side. You also probably want something that’s going to be soothing, versus exciting, to help your child get to sleep.

There are plenty of wonderful books out there to choose from, but we’ve narrowed it down to a list of seven that no parent should be without.

reading to toddler in bed
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Goodnight stories for babies

To help you choose your next nighttime nursery read, we’ve picked out seven of the best bedtime books for toddlers that every parent needs on their bookshelf. 

Goodnight Moon 

How could you not include Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown on your list of must-have baby books for your new nursery? This classic tale is one you likely remember from your own childhood and is a lovely nighttime tradition to begin anew with your little one. But it’s not just the moon theme that makes this book an ideal fit for nighttime reading. The language, the repetition, the rhymes — it all makes for a soothing experience that babies are sure to love. You might just find it makes you yawn a bit, too! 

Guess How Much I Love You

Another classic nursery tale, Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney is a gorgeous keepsake nighttime book with beautiful illustrations from Anita Jeram. (Seriously, you could create an entire nursery theme around her whimsical and enchanting art style.) This is also a fantastic book for fathers to read to their children as it focuses on Little Hare and his daddy and how much they love each other. You might also find that this book inspires you and your children — even the older tots — to start similar ‘I love you’ comparisons, with everyone sweetly trying to outdo the other family members with their declarations of love. 

Go the F**k to Sleep 

This is a bedtime book that you’re literally only going to be able to get away with while your child is still too young to understand (and repeat) profanity. A fun story for parents who like to relieve a little stress with a bit of dramatics and strong language, this book looks like all the other children’s boards books on your nursery shelf, but it’s all satire, as the normally docile storybook animals beg a wakeful child to just go the f**k to sleep. Your tot will like the illustrations and you and your co-parent might get a chuckle or two out of the reading experience. (Okay, you’ll definitely get a chuckle or two out of it.) 

The Going to Bed Book

Do you anticipate that going to bed is going to be a bit of trial for your child, going into their toddler years? Make bedtime a fun routine that kids can get behind, right from the start, in infancy. Begin reading to them from this classic book from Sandra Boynton (a prolific children’s author and illustrator whose work you might recognize; in fact, this book came out in 1982, so it’s had a long, illustrious run that’s still going). Fun, with rhymes, colorful characters, and an upbeat mood, it’s just exciting enough to keep your child engaged with the idea of bedtime, before they actually need to settle down. 

A Book of Sleep 

This small, short book is a newer one (at least new compared to Sandra Boynton’s work) and came out in 2011, so it’s not one that you’ll remember from your own childhood, but it will quickly become a favorite in your nursery. With wonderfully enchanting illustrations, the book follows a wakeful, watchful owl around the world as he shows you and your child a range of animals and how they sleep. The book is educational, without being overly text-heavy or dense. It’s just the thing for nighttime nature lovers — and, as mentioned, you really can’t beat these gorgeous illustrations. 

Llama Llama Red Pajama 

Who doesn’t love llamas? This fun book has quickly become a parent (and child!) favorite, thanks to its easy, fun rhyming. The book is suitable for children age 1 and up, but you’ll find that even older, preschool-age kids will like this one. One of the coolest parts? If you find that your family quickly grows to love Llama Llama, Mama Llama, and the whole literary crew, you can find a Llama Llama-inspired show on Netflix for the kids to watch during their next screen time session. There are also more Llama Llama books in the Llama Llama series, so you can round out your nursery library with the entire set. 

I Love You to the Moon and Back 

Written by Amelia Hepworth and illustrated by Tim Warnes, I Love You to the Moon and Back will appeal to families who enjoyed both Goodnight Moon and Guess How Much I Love You, but who are looking for something new to read. The book follows the day in the life of a bear and its cub, showing all the fun they have together and all the ways they love one another before the book finally follows them to bedtime. If you like this book and the lovely little bears that inhabit it, you can find even more books based on the same bears, including a holiday version called I Love You More Than Christmas. 

Encourage a love of reading early

Round out your nursery library with these seven must-have books for children under the age of 2. Even though they are unable to read or might not fully understand books directly from the womb, that doesn’t mean that your baby won’t learn to love the special nighttime routine of reading with a parent. These books are just the thing to relax and soothe while introducing toddlers to some of childhood’s literary greats. 

Editors' Recommendations

Holly Riddle
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Holly Riddle is a freelance food, travel and lifestyle journalist, who also dabbles in copywriting, ghostwriting and fiction…
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