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10 Short Bedtime Stories: Helping Children Sleep

Help your child wind down with these 10 gentle and short bedtime stories.

Bedtime can be a real challenge, especially for toddlers who will do anything to avoid going to sleep. But don’t worry, you’re not alone! We understand how tough it can be to wind down your little ones for the night.

Reading bedtime stories signals to your child that it’s time to rest and helps them ease into a peaceful sleep. We’ve gathered 10 great short bedtime stories that are perfect for busy schedules and for adults who are too exhausted to read long chapters.

These quick bedtime stories can be read in just 5 minutes, giving you and your child the perfect opportunity to bond before they drift off to dreamland.

Short Bedtime Stories

Whether you’re looking for something for girls or boys, something for 5 year olds or infants, here are 10 lovely books to add to your shelf. All of these books can be found online or perhaps even at your local library for free.

Goodnight Moon

Nighttime sky with clouds and bright full moon

Goodnight Moon is a famous bedtime story, complete with reassuring and cozy illustrations, making for a soft and gentle night time story.

In the great green room, there was a telephone, a red balloon, and a picture of…

We see a small bunny cozied up in its own bed inside a lovely green room. Comforted by an old lady in a rocking chair, the bunny slowly says goodnight to all the objects in the bedroom.

We see the picture of the cow jumping over the moon and three little bears sitting on chairs. Two kittens, and a pair of mittens, and a little toy house, and a young mouse.

Each page reveals a new object to say goodnight to, reminding children that everything — even parents — needs to wind down for the night. We say goodnight to the room, goodnight to the moon, goodnight to the photos, and all the objects in the room. This book inspires children to say goodnight to their rooms, favorite toys, and objects, learning to wind down for the night as the little bunny does.

At the end of some editions of this book, there is a helpful list of tips for parents struggling to put their child to sleep.

Cave Baby

Underground cave with artificial lights

This story tells the tale of an artistic baby who wants to have fun and play before winding down to bed. It is one of the short bedtime stories that serves as a great reminder to parents that sometimes all their child wants is some time to be mischievous.

Cave Baby is lucky: he lives in a cave with his brave dad and his talented mom. But he’s bored because nobody will play with him. One day, he finds a paintbrush and creates graffiti all over his mother’s paintings of hares, bears, hyenas, and tigers.

His parents are furious! They angrily clean up the mess, and his dad reminds him that if he’s not a good boy, a mammoth will come and throw him to the big brown bear.

That night, Cave Baby can’t get to sleep as he overthinks his father’s threat. And as expected, a mammoth swoops in and takes the baby from his bed. They head out into the dark night, and Cave Baby wonders if he will meet the bear. They pass through a dark forest, and the beautiful illustrations suggest that animals are following them.

Finally, they come to a cave. Cave Baby creeps in, worried, but what he sees before him calms him down. The Mammoth pops a paintbrush in his hand!

Cave Baby is free to draw, splattering colors against the wall: five legs on a tiger, horns on a hyena, and a beard on the bear. When the Mammoth wakes his family, they’re all so excited to see what the baby has drawn! After painting, they play in the river, making big splashes.

As the sun is coming up, the mammoth takes him back to his cave. Back in bed, Cave Baby is happy and has pleasant dreams, tired after a fun time.


This one might be a bit scary for some kids, especially if they have pre-existing fears. My son has loved this book since before he was two, but he’s never been scared of the dark, monsters, or nighttime. If your child is already a bit anxious, I would wait until they’re a bit older to enjoy this one.

Sing to the Moon

Silhouette of little boy against night sky with moon

A beautiful, gentle story, told through poetry, that explores the power of family, being grateful for what we do have, and how important books are, especially on a rainy day.

A young Ugandan boy explains that if he had one wish, he would travel through the stars straight to Mars. His grandfather tells him he should ‘sing to the moon’ and his wish might come true.

The beautiful illustrations guide us through the boy’s fantasies as he dreams of what he would do with another wish. This time, he dreams about crossing the ocean on a dhow before adventuring through spice markets as the sun sets.

But in reality, he is stuck indoors as it rains outside. The small boy is bored, watching the rain patter against the window. However, his grandfather has different plans — a way to turn his day around.

Together, they go to the storeroom and pack away peas. His grandfather tells him about his childhood and his best friend, Kirabo. Next, they clear the veranda as his grandfather continues to reminisce about his childhood. This time, he tells the boy about climbing guava trees. They continue with chores together, and his grandfather tells him exciting stories.

As the day draws to an end, the grandfather reminds him that even though it’s nighttime, there are still more adventures to come — through the power of books. The boy and his grandfather delve into the books, showing the excitement between the pages. Before bedtime, they head outside to look at the stars, and the grandfather reminds the boy how loved he is.

The boy realizes nothing can compare to the joy of family, quality time, and reading amazing books, even on a rainy day.

Time for Bed

Kittens sleeping on a fur blanket

A perfect quick read, especially for babies and one-year-olds, following cute animals as they get ready for bed.

Complete with simple rhymes and beautiful watercolor illustrations, the story follows various animals as they get ready for bed. We begin with a mouse getting ready for bed as darkness falls over the house. Next, we see a mother goose pull her child into bed.

Then it’s time for the cats to wind down, snuggling in, before the cows settle for sleep. We say goodnight to a foal, then a fish, and finally, a sheep, reminding little ones that the whole world is going to bed.

Then it’s time for the birds to sleep, closing their eyes, whispering not another word. The bees are off to sleep as they exchange ‘I love you’s’ with their parents. Next, a snake, then a puppy, a deer, and finally, a small child is put to bed by their mother. The final page shows the child fast asleep in their bed, encouraging little ones to follow the pattern of all the creatures in the world, winding down for bed.

Counting Kisses

Mother carrying her infant baby

The perfect goodnight story for showing your little one affection before they fall asleep, reminding them how loved they are, and working hugs and kisses into your bedtime routine. This is a great one for preschool kids and babies.

The book begins with an overtired and sad baby. The mother asks the baby if she needs a kiss and proceeds to give her 10 kisses, one on each toe.

Then, the father gives the baby nine laughing kisses on her feet, followed by eight squishy kisses on the baby’s knees. Next, we see a grandmother giving the baby seven kisses on the baby’s belly button.

A dog gives the baby six tickly kisses on the baby’s chin. The illustrations show how happy the baby is now. Next, the baby gets five quick kisses on her nose, followed by four warm kisses on her hands.

It’s time for three fuzzy kisses on the baby’s ears, two gentle kisses on the baby’s tired eyes, and finally, the mother gives the baby one last kiss on the baby’s head. It’s time for the baby to go to bed, and we see one final illustration of the baby fast asleep in her own bed, surrounded by all the people who love her.

The Going to Bed Book

The Going to Bed Book

A masterpiece for children who like to laugh and play before bed, this hilarious story follows a group of wild animals preparing for bedtime together.

The sun has set, and a group of animals — a bear, mouse, lion, and more — go below deck on their boat to have a bubble bath together. After their bath, they dry themselves before hanging their towels on the wall and climbing into their pajamas.

The illustrations show funny images of the animals squeezed together in front of the sink, brushing their teeth with big smiles on their faces. When the moon comes up, they all go up to do one more exercise before bed.

After that, they finally head back downstairs for bedtime. They say goodnight, and someone turns off the light. The boat gently rocks them to sleep, and we see a lovely photo of the boat on the waves in the dim night.

Dragons Love Tacos

Dragons Love Tacos

Dragons Love Tacos is a great way to get giggles out before bedtime, especially for kids who don’t want to read about other people going to bed but want a funny story to put them in a good mood.

The book begins with a boy speaking straight to the reader, asking your little one if they knew that dragons love tacos. If you want to befriend a dragon, you need tacos!

However, there’s a twist. Even though dragons are big taco fans, they hate spicy salsa. All kinds of spicy salsa. Why? Spicy salsa makes a dragon’s ears smoke, their snort sparks, and it gives them a sore belly.

The boy prepares tacos for dragons, using only mild ingredients like cheese and lettuce. But never spicy salsa!

The book then explains that dragons also love all kinds of parties – especially taco parties! If you want to make a dragon happy, fill a boat with tacos and throw a party. But don’t forget… get rid of all the spicy salsa before the dragon taco party.

The dragons are enjoying the taco party, the music, the decorations, and especially the tacos. But! There’s one jar of salsa, and uh-oh, it contains spicy jalapeno peppers. The boy tells the dragons not to eat the tacos anymore because they all contain this super spicy salsa.

But it’s too late. The dragons start breathing out huge flames, and the whole house burns down. Oops!

In the end, the dragons help rebuild the house. Perhaps they want to help, feel bad or are just here for the taco breaks.

Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night

Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night

Colorful illustrations explore the bedtime routines of vehicles like diggers, fire engines, and trucks. Quick bedtime stories with repetitive questions encourage your child to consider their own bedtime rituals, such as getting hugs, brushing their teeth, or having a bath.

It’s nighttime, but where do diggers sleep at night? Do they sleep in a hole? Do they get goodnight hugs?

Where do dump trucks sleep at night? Do they have a giant truck toy box?

What about garbage trucks? Do they have a bath?

Where do monster trucks sleep? Do they find a puddle for brushing their teeth?

The illustrations show all kinds of vehicles winding down to sleep, including fire engines. Where do they sleep? Do they sleep with a red night light?

Where do snow plows sleep at night? Does their mommy help them wind down before another busy day?

The book continues with more kinds of vehicles, including car transporters, tow trucks, and giant cranes. And what about tractors? Do their dads sing them ‘Old Truckdonald’ to fall asleep?

Where do all the trucks sleep? Do they go to a truck stop? Do they ask for another story, kiss, or hug?

Finally, the book asks where your toy trucks sleep at night, reminding kids they are waiting for you in their toy box, and in the morning, you can play again.

Little Unicorn’s Birthday (10 Minutes to Bed)

Unicorns at sunset

Written to help kids wind down for bed, the 10 Minutes to Bed series is sparkly and delightful. Watch as characters go on one final adventure before settling down to sleep.

It’s Twinkle the Unicorn’s birthday party, and her dad has thrown her a fun bash in the magical glade. The party starts with running through the woods with a very excited birthday girl. When her friends arrive from near and far, they race around in a party game and play hide and seek.

Packed to the brim with colorful and sweet illustrations, Twinkle opens a pile of gifts. Each page reminds kids how many minutes until bedtime (counting down from 10), letting them know that sleep will come soon.

After a marvelous feast, Twinkle and her friends go on a treasure hunt, where they find a big shiny balloon. Next, it’s time for a delicious birthday cake before Flicker the Dragon puts on a fireworks display.

When the sun sets, Dad tucks everyone in and begins reading a story. It’s his bedtime soon, too, but each friend is already fast asleep under the moon.

Although it’s called 10 Minutes to Bed, the story only takes five minutes or so to read.

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales

Lady baking in the kitchen

Choose from a selection of silly fairy tales, including one about a stinky cheese man. This is also great for older kids, especially those between four and eight.

Once upon a time, a man and a lady lived together in an old house. Feeling bored, the woman made a man out of stinky cheese. With bacon for a mouth and olives for eyes, she cooked him in the oven. When she opened the oven, the terrible odor knocked her back. The stinky cheese man jumped from the oven and ran out the door, taunting the old lady.

The old lady and man decided they weren’t that hungry or lonely after all. They decided not to chase after the stinky cheese man. On his adventures, the stinky cheese man met a cow eating grass. Disturbed by his smell, the cow asks, “What’s that smell?”

The stinky cheese man taunts the cow to follow him, but the cow doesn’t want to follow the stinky cheese man. The stinky cheese man finds kids next, and they, too, are disgusted by his smell.

He taunts them to follow him, but the kids don’t want to follow the stinky cheese man either. The stinky cheese man eventually came to a river with no bridge. Wondering how he might cross the river, he meets a sly fox. He asks the stinky cheese man to hop on his back for a lift across the river.

Worried that the fox will eat the cheese man, the fox has to convince the stinky cheese man to trust him, but the fox has other plans. When the fox reaches the middle of the river, he notices the disgusting smell of the cheese man. He coughs, gags, and sneezes, launching the stinky cheese man into the river, where he falls apart!

How To Tell a Fun Bedtime Story

You don’t have to be an actor or an amazing reader to tell a fun bedtime story. Below are 10 tips for telling an engaging bedtime story for your kids:

  • Keep it short: Don’t choose a super long, wordy book for bedtime. Not only will your little ones disengage, but parents — you probably will, too. Instead of choosing one long book, we like to choose three to four short ones to keep our son interested.
  • Let the kids choose: Allow your child to choose the bedtime story as it keeps them engaged and interested, even if it’s a story they’ve read every night for six months.
  • Do the book last: In your bedtime routine, start with a bath, teeth, and pajamas before reading the book last to help your child wind down and get ready for sleep.
  • Let your child decide where to sit: Although I always imagined cuddling my son in his bed or the rocking chair for a book, he actually prefers to sit on his bedroom rug. Let your child choose where to sit to listen to the bedtime story.
  • Get into character: Reading a funny book? Do funny voices. Lots of characters? Choose a different voice for each! Be dramatic, be silly, make facial expressions, and act it out. Kids love it!
  • Ask questions: Ask fun questions to your child while reading a book. Nothing too difficult — we are winding down for bed, after all. But fun questions like, “What do you think will happen next?” or “Can you spot a red bird?” make for an engaging experience.
  • Put your kid in the book: Swap out the main character with your child’s name. Reading them a book all about them makes the whole experience more exciting.
  • Choose good books: Next time you head to the library or bookstore, choose some classics. They’re classics for a reason! Read the books first to make sure you’ll enjoy it, too. Nothing is more exhausting than rereading a book you can’t stand.
  • Encourage imagination: Encourage your child to use their imagination to add new plot twists or imagine a different ending. You can even get your child to act out certain parts of the book, such as flying or hunting for treasure.
  • Read according to age level: Try to avoid older books for infants and baby books for older kids. Eventually, they’ll get bored and lose interest.


Why Are Bedtime Stories Important?

Reading quick bedtime stories — and daytime ones, too — has a myriad of benefits.

Research has found that reading to or with your child helps them learn better language skills, encourages imagination, teaches empathy, and helps children learn about conversation (1). But it’s also an avenue for having fun.

Reading with your child allows you to be silly and share exciting stories together. It also offers a safe, quiet, and lovely place to slow down together at the end of a busy day.

Nursery rhymes and singing songs are also great for improving your child’s language skills and bonding with your little one. So, if you don’t have time for a book, a rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle, or Wheels on the Bus is a great option.

Are There Bedtime Stories for Adults?

Reading before bed is important for adults, too. It can improve sleep, alleviate stress, and replace looking at your phone, which is known for disturbing sleep due to blue light (2).

There are many books that are great for helping you drift off to sleep. Spotify even has a playlist to help you relax with gentle books, such as Little Women and The Blue Castle.

Other books to consider include:

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Headshot of Beth McCallum

About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a Scottish freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism and English literature. She is a mum to a young boy, and believes that it truly takes a village. When she’s not parenting, writing about parenting, or working, she can be found reading, working on her novel, taking photos, playing board games or wandering through the countryside with her family.