The Ultimate List of Calming Books for Bedtime

Updated Jan. 19, 2019

Reading at bedtime is a sacred ritual in many households, perhaps because it provides an opportunity to slow down the pace of the day, relax and achieve some semblance of calm before hoping that children nod off to sleep, getting the rest that they (and you!) need. While the benefits of reading (and reading at bedtime) are achievable regardless of what you're reading (snuggles + books = emotional security + calm), as parents we know that some books lend themselves better to calming excess energy than others. For the same reason that I choose to sing calming lullabys to my toddler right before sleep rather than his oft requested Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, here are some wonderfully soothing books to help achieve pre-bedtime peace! While some of these are specifically "bedtime" books, others have different subject matter but are still perfect to slow the pace before heading off for sweet dreams. And don't forget that reading aloud is helpful for older kids too! By reading aloud to them above their reading level, you'll still get the benefits of bonding and you'll improve their vocabulary and comprehension as well.

You Are Special book
#1
You Are Special
Written by Max Lucado and illustrated by Sergio Martinez
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

Every day the small wooden people called Wemmicks do the same thing: stick either gold stars or gray dots on one another. The pretty ones―those with smooth wood and fine paint―always get stars. The talented ones do, too. Others, though, who can do little or who have chipped paint, get ugly gray dots. Like Punchinello. In this heartwarming children's tale from best-selling author Max Lucado, Eli the woodcarver helps Punchinello understand how special he is―no matter what other Wemmicks may think. It's a vital message for children everywhere: that regardless of how the world evaluates them, God cherishes each of them, just as they are. This tale originally appeared within one of the chapters in the award-winning children's bestseller Tell Me the Secrets.

The Secret Garden book
#2
The Secret Garden
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

After losing her parents, young Mary Lennox is sent from India to live in her uncle’s gloomy mansion on the wild English moors. She is lonely and has no one to play with, but one day she learns of a secret garden somewhere in the grounds that no one is allowed to enter. Then Mary uncovers an old key in a flowerbed – and a gust of magic leads her to the hidden door. Slowly she turns the key and enters a world she could never have imagined.

To the Sea book
#3
To the Sea
Written and illustrated by Cale Atkinson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

Sometimes Tim feels invisible at school-until one day, when Tim meets Sam. But Sam isn't just any new friend: he's a blue whale, and he can't find his way home! Returning Sam to the sea is hard work, but Tim is determined to help. After all, it's not every day you meet a new friend! This picture book about the power of friendship by new talent Cale Atkinson is brought to life by charming, dynamic illustrations.

Hop Along Boo, Time for Bed book
#4
Hop Along Boo, Time for Bed
Written by Mark Sperring and illustrated by Mandy Sutcliffe
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This is an AMAZING book that I never get tired of reading and my toddler never gets tired of listening to. He'll ask for this book again and again and again and when we had a couple night stay in the hospital earlier this year, this is one of the three books we grabbed as we ran out the door. The illustrations are peaceful and dreamy (the parades of children in their pajamas are my favorite!) and the rhymes are calming and lullaby-esque.

Join Belle and her bunny, Boo, as they follow ballerinas, cowboys, pirates, and others through dreamy fantasies to a cozy bed of their own. Gentle rhymes and luminous illustrations will help little ones wind down and tuck in for a good night's sleep. This lullaby journey is as captivating and soothing as any parent or child could want — by the end, there won't be an open eye in the house! Belle & Boo is a British lifestyle brand known for original, nostalgic 'story book' illustrations of children. Visit them at belleandboo.com.

The Snatchabook book
#5
The Snatchabook
Written by Helen Docherty and illustrated by Thomas Docherty
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

Where have all the bedtime stories gone? A delightful addition to the picture book canon about the love of reading One dark, dark night in Burrow Down, a rabbit named Eliza Brown found a book and settled down...when a Snatchabook flew into town. It's bedtime in the woods of Burrow Down, and all the animals are ready for their bedtime story. But books are mysteriously disappearing. Eliza Brown decides to to stay awake and catch the book thief. It turns out to be a little creature called the Snatchabook who has no one to read him a bedtime story. All turns out well when the books are returned and the animals take turns reading bedtime stories to the Snatchabook.

More Than Balloons book
#6
More Than Balloons
Written by Lorna Crozier and illustrated by Rachelle Anne Miller
board book
Recommend Ages: 1-4
Thoughts from Grammy

This charming story of the boundless love of a parent for a child makes for ideal bedtime reading. The creative rhymes and consistent meter are remarkable, as are the many details for spying and identifying on each page. There is a great variety of animals rendered in a warm palette of colors participating in a wide range of experiences throughout the seasons of the year. Plenty to discuss, and even use as a springboard for your own adventures.

Balloons love the moon, and a tuba loves a tune, but these don't compare to the love we have for you. Award-winning poet Lorna Crozier uses evocative rhyme, complemented by Rachelle Anne Miller's whimsical imagery, to provide babies and toddlers with common concepts that explain just how great love is.

Sunrise, Moonrise book
#7
Sunrise, Moonrise
Written and illustrated by Betsy Thompson
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

Day turns into night and some animals drift to sleep while others spring to life in this beautiful high-contrast board book. Sun rises. Bird sings. And so the day begins in this beautifully simple board book with bold artwork and lyrical text that shows us the passing of time in the day. Fish swim under a blue sky, squirrels dream as the sun sets, the moon rises as stars blink, and an owl hoots when night falls. With word repetition and a single tree that houses both the bird who sings as the sun rises and the owl who hoots after the moon rises, little ones can begin to understand that the day begins and ends in the same way.

Lion's Lullaby book
#8
Lion's Lullaby
Written by Mij Kelly and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown
picture book
Recommend Ages: 0-2

With the help of hugs and lullabies, a young girl tucks her stuffed animals into bed, one by one, in this cuddly good-night read. Holly Clifton-Brown's soft palette and adorable illustrations paired with Mij Kelly's comforting rhyming text set the perfect tone for bedtime.

Harry and Horsie book
#9
Harry and Horsie
Written by Katie Van Camp and illustrated by Lincoln Agnew
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

When a boy named Harry sneaks out of bed one night with his best friend, Horsie, to play with his Super Duper Bubble Blooper -- an out-of-this-world adventure begins! Illustrated with retro-comic art, this is a charming story about the power of friendship and imagination from a talented new team.

The Storybook Knight book
#10
The Storybook Knight
Written by Helen Docherty and illustrated by Thomas Docherty
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Even dragons love a good story... Leo was a gentle knight in thought and word and deed. While other knights liked fighting, Leo liked to sit and read... When Leo's mom and dad pack him off to fight a dragon, he takes a shield, a sword―and a pile of his favorite books. But can a story be as mighty as a sword?

All the Awake Animals Are Almost Asleep book
#11
All the Awake Animals Are Almost Asleep
Written by Crescent Dragonwagon and illustrated by David McPhail
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

Now in board book format, this lyrical animal ABC book is just right for bedtime--or anytime! From antlered antelope to zzz-ing zebra, all the awake animals are getting sleepy in this abridged board book edition of a favorite bedtime alphabet book, from an acclaimed author and bestselling illustrator. This exquisite celebration of language and nature is perfect for lulling little ones into a cozy, soothing slumber.

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site book
#12
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site
Written by Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

The #1 New York Times bestseller As the sun sets behind the big construction site, all the hardworking trucks get ready to say goodnight. One by one, Crane Truck, Cement Mixer, Dump Truck, Bulldozer, and Excavator finish their work and lie down to rest—so they'll be ready for another day of rough and tough construction play! With irresistible artwork by best-selling illustrator Tom Lichtenheld and sweet, rhyming text, this book will have truck lovers of all ages begging for more.

Baby Bear Sees Blue book
#13
Baby Bear Sees Blue
Written and illustrated by Ashley Wolff
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This is one of my very favorite "color" books—it's calming, highly re-readable, unique and has amazingly illustrations! Plus, the repetition of the structure is great for little "readers".

Leaving the den as the weather warms, Baby Bear discovers blue birds, red strawberries, orange butterflies, and other colorful things in nature.

Can't Sleep Without Sheep book
#14
Can't Sleep Without Sheep
Written by Susanna Leonard Hill and illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

After you read this adorable bedtime book, you definitely will not take counting sheep for granted! Super cute premise, adorable illustrations and a great lesson to be appreciative of those helping you, be they real or imaginary. This book also gets points from me for having a diverse main character .

Whenever Ava can't sleep, she counts sheep. But Ava takes so long to fall asleep, it's the sheep that are growing tired-until finally, they quit! When the sheep promise to find a replacement that Ava can count on, chaos ensues as chickens, cows, pigs, hippos, and more try their hand at jumping over Ava's fence. Finding the perfectly peaceful replacement for sheep might not be so easy after all. With irresistibly adorable art, this delightful take on a familiar sleep tactic is sure to become a bedtime favorite.

Steam Train, Dream Train book
#15
Steam Train, Dream Train
Written by Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

An unabridged board book version of the bestselling hardcover, perfect for small hands! The dream train pulls into the station, and one by one the train cars are loaded: polar bears pack the reefer car with ice cream, elephants fill the tanker cars with paints, tortoises stock the auto rack with race cars, and kangaroos stuff the hopper car with balls (while zebras referee). Dreamy illustrations and gentle rhyming text make this a beloved bedtime favorite for budding train enthusiasts everywhere.

Bear Is Not Tired book
#16
Bear Is Not Tired
Written and illustrated by Ciara Gavin
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Bear and his duck family do everything together. That is, until winter arrives. Bear is supposed to hibernate this time of year, but he doesn’t want to miss out on any of the fun. But can Bear really stay awake all winter long? Gentle humor and endearing illustrations bring a delightful twist to a bedtime routine that children and their parents will easily recognize.

1-2-3, You Love Me book
#17
1-2-3, You Love Me
Written and illustrated by Jill Howarth
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

From one bear hug to twelve pretty red roses, 1-2-3, You Love Me will foster lots of hugs, kisses, and affection between parent and child while teaching young ones to count from one to twelve. With charming love-filled illustrations, sturdy pages, and clever rhyming text, this is the perfect gift for baby for Valentine's Day or any time of year. Sipping on yummy shakes, cuddling puppies, counting the colors in a rainbow, and making music with friends are all ways that children can express their love for their friends and family with Jill Howarth's delightful board book.

Mommy's Best Kisses book
#18
Mommy's Best Kisses
Written by Margaret Anastas and illustrated by Susan Winter
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

Every mother knows that the sweetest way to say "I love you" is with a kiss. This loving book shows that animals know all about a mother's love, too.

Guess How Much I Love You book
#19
Guess How Much I Love You
Written by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-10

Sometimes, when you love someone very, very much, you want to find a way of describing how much you treasure them. But, as Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare discover, love is not an easy thing to measure! For two decades, Sam McBratney’s timelessly endearing story, beautifully rendered in Anita Jeram’s exquisite watercolors, has captured the deep and tender bond between parent and child. Guess How Much I Love You is one of the world’s best-loved picture books.

A Book of Sleep book
#20
A Book of Sleep
Written and illustrated by Il Sung Na
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-7

When the sky grows dark and the moon glows bright, everyone goes to sleep… except for the watchful owl! With a spare, soothing text and beautifully rich and textured illustrations of a starry night, this is the perfect “book of sleep.” Join the owl on his moonlit journey as he watches all the other animals settle in for the night: some sleep standing up, while some sleep on the move! Some sleep peacefully alone, while others sleep all together, huddled close. Il Sung Na makes his American debut with this gorgeous bedtime offering. While each animal rests in its own special way, little ones will also drift off to a cozy sleep.

Sleepyheads book
#21
Sleepyheads
Written by Sandra J. Howatt and illustrated by Joyce Wan
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

Such a sweet bedtime book! I love that this book takes a look at where animals sleep, and I love the sweet ending! Beautiful, soothing rhyme and sweet illustrations.

Get ready for bed with this soothing sleepy story—now available as a Classic Board Book! The sun has set, and sleepyheads all across the land are tucked into their cozy beds. Rabbit is snoozing in the weeds, and Duck is snuggled in the reeds. Bear is nestled in his cave, and Otter is rocking on a wave. But there’s one little sleepyhead who’s not in his bed. Where, oh where, could he be? This sweet and snuggly bedtime book with irresistible illustrations by Joyce Wan is the perfect read-aloud story to prepare little ones for a cozy night’s sleep.

Everyone Sleeps book
#22
Everyone Sleeps
Written and illustrated by Marcellus Hall
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

"A wide-awake dog looks for a friend in a nighttime world full of sleeping animals"--

Rock-a-Bye Farm book
#23
Rock-a-Bye Farm
Written by Diane Johnston Hamm and illustrated by Alexi Natchev
board book
Recommend Ages: 1-4

From a baby to a horse, the farmer is rocking everybody to sleep on this farm! Originally published in 1992, Rock-a-Bye Farm is filled with sweet lullabies. Little Simon is bringing this humorous and touching bedtime story back in a board book format with beautiful new illustrations.

Goodnight Mr. Darcy book
#24
Goodnight Mr. Darcy
Written by Kate Coombs and illustrated by Alli Arnold
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

The adored children's classic Goodnight Moon gets a classic lit makeover in this charming parody of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice novel. All of Austen's much-loved characters are at the Netherfield Ball- In the great ballroom, there was a country dance, and a well-played tune, and Elizabeth Bennett; and Mr. Darcy surprised, by a pair of fine eyes ... And don't forget Jane with a blush and Mr. Bingley turned to mush, and a gossiping mother and father saying hush.

Night Knight book
#25
Night Knight
Written and illustrated by Owen Davey
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

Come on a bedtime adventure with one little knight as he rides through forests to reach his bedroom, battles crocodiles to brush his teeth and climbs the tallest tower to get into bed. This exciting and imaginative bedtime tale is told through Owen Davey's charming and witty words and illustrations — making this a perfect k-nightly read for every young adventurer. Bedtime becomes an unforgettable k-nightly adventure!

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected]!