Best Bedtime Books for Toddlers

Nina is turning into a little bookworm in her own right, and I’ve long been thinking about sharing some of her favourite books here, the ones she requests night after night, day after day even if we’ve already returned them to the library, or just finished reading it seconds before.

This Christmas I’ve been trying to give books more than anything because for me it’s just the gift that gives and gives. Especially picture books, which are more expensive than I was preparing for when I started amassing Nina’s huge collection. Before I realized that the rotating Canada Post strike would change my plans I thought about doing a book advent calendar for Nina, but the books didn’t make it in time so giant pile of books under the tree it is! In any case, here are five fantastic bedtime books for toddlers or young children, give them, get them, love them.


Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Gregory Christie

An entire family scats, sings, taps their youngest member into a sleepy frame of mind. The illustrations are really beautiful and Nina particularly loves the rhythm and rhyme of this story along with the many family members present who she names after our own. The very last page is the baby going to sleep deep, deep, deep—Oh yeah—her favourite line to mimic as drawn out as possible. Lisa Wheeler and Gregory Christie are a winning team, would love to see more from the combo.

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Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Steve Lewis

In this rhyming fairytale a handsome prince and brave knight team up to defeat a terrifying dragon using only their wits and end up falling in love in the process. The prince, in line for the throne had met a number of willing maidens but he knew something wasn’t quite right, when he finds his knight all the pieces fall into place and his parents and the entire kingdom are overjoyed by their love and celebrate their wedding. I love this story and so does Nina, the illustrations are bright and detailed, the rhyming almost perfect. I think it’s important to show her that all love should be celebrated, that it’s as wonderful for two princes or princesses to find love together as it is for anyone. Hopefully it’s one small step in realizing she can love whoever she wants when she gets older too and that that love will be beautiful and worth celebrating.


Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

We live by a train station and since she was a baby Nina has been fascinated with trains. This is her most requested book when I’m the one to put her to bed. A rhyming story of a night train and the animals who load its freight at each stop—ice cream treats, toys and balls, sand, dinosaurs, and rolling beds to snooze in. Each page has a fair amount of words on it, so depending on her attention span I read a few lines only or the entire story, the story works either way which is awesome. The pictures are sleepy, dark and fun and the whole thing ends with a quiet chhhh chhh chhh goodnight.


Snuggle Bunny by Emma Goldhawk, illustrated by Jonathan Lambert

This is my husband’s favourite book to read with Nina before bed, armed with a fluffy bunny puppet and interactive activities like brushing its ears and giving it a bedtime hug, Nina might love this book most of all. At the end of the book she likes to give it a kiss and tuck it away for the night. A very simple concept with great payoff.


How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? By Jane Yolen & Mark Teague

This has been one of Nina’s ride or die bedtime books since I bought it for her on a whim before her dinosaur themed birthday. She loves everything dinosaur and this book with its fun illustrations and simple rhyme scheme (which unfortunately is repeated almost exactly in every other book they write, not exactly original) really appeals to both us and her. It’s a fun book to do voices and actions too and it’s not too long. The illustrations have some fun things hidden in them like each dinosaurs name so I can see it having a lot of growth too and sticking around in our bedtime routine for years.

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