For parents and children alike, few moments are more memorable and special than bedtime stories, as you and your little one snuggle together under the covers, listening to a great story as it unfolds.
Reading offers a whole host of benefits. It will improve your little one’s understanding of words, do more than anything else to build to their vocabulary, and help address and better explain things that happen in the world.
In this post, we take a closer look at a few tips and tricks you can use to enhance the bedtime story experience, perfect for use with children of all ages, whether for toddlers, preschoolers, and even older children.
9 tips to make bedtime stories more fun and engaging
So, let’s jump into why you’re here – our 9 tips that you can use to make your bedtime storytelling both more fun and engaging for your little one.
1. It’s never too early to start reading to your little ones before bedtime!
You can start reading to your little one at any age – in fact, the earlier you start reading to them, the better. There’s also a school of thought that reading to them before they’ve even left the womb and entering the world is beneficial, both in educational terms and for better bonding.
The sooner you start reading to your little one, the quicker they’ll start picking up new words – whether it’s shapes, numbers, or the names of colors and dinosaurs – building their vocabulary early will give them a significant head start when it comes to starting big school.
And it’s not just the educational benefits – kids love storytime, and it’s arguably one of the best ways to bond with your child. It also won’t last for long as kids grow up so fast, so make sure to enjoy this quality activity with your little one, as before you know it, they’ll be moody teenagers glued to their smartphones and locked away in their bedrooms.
2. Bedtime stories don’t have to be told in bed. A cozy reading nook is just as good, if not better!
Many parents think of storytime as something that takes place strictly at night, as a cornerstone of any putting to bed ritual. But why limit yourself? Anytime is a great time to spend some quality time reading to your child – and this means that it doesn’t have to happen in bed; you can read to your little one anywhere.
If you’re unfamiliar – a reading nook is essentially nothing more than a dedicated space set up for reading – typically in the corner of a room, with good access to natural light. It’s a pretty easy thing to do – provided you’ve got the room – and can help turn storytime into a magical getaway.
There’s no need to overthink it – maybe set up a dino play tent, throw in a few plush dinosaur blankets or a kid’s dino sleeping bag, and a dinosaur lamp for night-time reading, and you’re all set. There are no rules here – provided you’ve got comfort and lighting checked off, you can do pretty much whatever else you like with your nook – so go nuts with the decorating!
3. Keep a wide and varied kids book collection on hand
It should go without saying – but nevertheless, we will – the single, most straightforward way to keep storytime fun is to have enough different books at home, enabling you to mix your choice of stories up nightly, to keep things as interesting as possible.
You don’t want to keep re-reading the same, tired old stories – as this is a surefire way to suck all the fun out of bedtime stories, turning it into a stale, non-event that your little one will become disengaged from.
While you’re not going to be able to keep a whole library’s worth of books in between your dinosaur bookends, with a little bit of planning and organizing, you can keep a pretty decent selection at home, providing your little one with plenty of variety to choose from.
4. Let your child pick out the books you read them
While variety is vital, you’ll also want to get your little one involved in the process of picking out a book each night when it comes to storytime. This one is a no-brainer, really – they’re obviously going to be more engaged and interested if they’ve picked out the book.
Depending on your storage options, it might not be practical to pick out a book themselves physically. Maybe you keep yours on a shelf or bookcase that’s out of reach, or, like most parents, you just don’t want to deal with the mess as they rummage through all the books, pulling them out and chucking them all over the place as they go.
The easiest approach is to pick out a few yourself – say 3 or 4 options – presenting these choices to your little one to make the final decision. This will avoid any mess or difficulty in accessing your books and likely make the process of picking a book far quicker.
5. If you’re not putting on a silly voice for each character, you’re doing it wrong!
Nothing is going to ruin a bedtime story more than a monotone, flat-voiced delivery. This makes it essential to give your characters fun and silly voices, adding whimsical sounds for effect as you go.
You’ll also want to modulate your voice, raising and lowing pitch to better distinguish between different characters – something which will make it easier for your little one to follow the story.
Doing these things will make your stories a whole lot more fun and will keep your child engaged with every word as you read to them. And don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself; you’re not out in public – you’re at home, enjoying precious quality time with your little one. In short – read like to your child like nobody’s watching!
6. Do your best to set the scene before jumping into a story
Perhaps the biggest difference between great storytellers and not-so-great ones is their ability to set the scene properly, creating an atmosphere that sucks you in as they tell a story.
Before you dive right in, reading the words off of the page – discuss what might happen in the story, create a backstory for the characters, or a series of other, made-up events that will help your little one to better connect with these characters, and ultimately, the story itself.
You could also try to tie these into reality, using everyday reference points to make the story more believable. Don’t overdo it – it’s always best to keep it simple. Maybe Little Red Riding Hood wasn’t just visiting her grandmother; perhaps she was picking up her shopping from Walmart. Or maybe Rapunzel’s hair wasn’t long because she was trapped in a tower – perhaps she just couldn’t get out to the hair salon because it was shut during the pandemic. It might sound silly at first, but it can be a pretty useful tool for explaining current events in a digestible, easy-to-understand way for young children.
7. Don’t read at them – read with them!
The best thing about reading to your little one – and why, despite all the on-demand content and media devices that surround us today, it remains so popular – is that as a medium, bedtime stories are two-way.
This means that it’s important not to read at them; you must read with them – engaging with and communicating with them throughout, not just reading the words off of the page.
Take the time to include ample pauses when you read, allowing your little one to ask questions, or include their own comments or take on the story as it unfolds. These are vital in helping them build a greater understanding of both the words themselves and the various social topics and interactions they include.
8. Bring your stories to life with props, making them more engaging
Let’s be completely honest – even if you’re the world’s best living storytelling – everything gets stale after a while, which is why it’s so important to do what you can to keep your little one engaged. There are also only so many books you’ve got space for between your dino bookends – so props can also help keep these same stories fresh, taking classics into new and exciting directions.
One way to do this is to through some props into the mix – things like dino hand puppets and dinosaur finger puppets are great – but you don’t have to go out and spend any money; pretty much anything already in their dino toy box can make a great prop.
Whether plush dinosaur toys, figures or indeed, pretty much any type of dinosaur toys – these all make great props, helping to bring your stories to life. They can also help introduce your child to acting and role-play, letting them take over various roles from the story, enacting their own take on events by taking the props in their hands to take the story where they want it to go.
9. You don’t have to wait until bedtime. Read to your children anywhere, anytime!
Many parents make the mistake of limiting their storytelling to bedtime, restricting this essential activity to a set time each day. But whether at breakfast, before a nap, or even just sunny days lazing around the local park – whatever time of day it is, or wherever you are, it’s always a good time for a good story.
While you may not think it at first, just taking 10-15 minutes out of your day to read with your child makes a world of difference; having a compounding effect over time that will help give them an edge over other children when it comes to language skills once they reach school age.
And you don’t have to carry around a stack of books with you everywhere you go, just in case of an impromptu story – you can get kids stories on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop – so there really is no reason not to bring up a story to read to your little one, as and when the opportunity arises.
Reading is great. It’s a fun activity that all the family can enjoy while offering a host of educational and developmental benefits along the way.
It helps build vocabulary and language skills, improve understanding of a range of topics and issues, as laid out in story form, and above all else, it’s a lot of fun for parent and child alike.
It’s also important to remember that our kids won’t stay little forever – in fact, they grow up much faster than you think.
So, make the most of the time you have, building stronger bonds and creating cherished memories that will last a lifetime.