Establishing a nightly routine to put baby to rest is a crucial step in making bedtime easy. Books are the lavender of scholars, capable of calming a soul for sleep, but what books does a child who cannot even speak want to read or be read? I explain why books for bedtime will change the way you put your baby to sleep and suggest a few favorites.
According to my infant-informer, when it comes to reading, baby cares about two items only.
Mommy or Daddy reads the book to me.
I am comfy.
(At least, I’m pretty sure that’s what a baby would say.)
Infants crave attention from their caretakers. No matter how many hours they were held, fed, bathed, or played with all day long, they seek emotional and physical connection to the most important adults in their lives – most often mothers and fathers. A nighttime reading session fulfills baby’s need for emotional connection by giving him undivided attention, without the distractions of daytime chores. A parent who reads to her child radiates love with each word, because she is taking time out of her hectic schedule to cuddle with her most important charge.
Note, too, that the physical closeness of parent and child during a bedtime story is a benefit that is often overlooked. Imagine a baby who is unceremoniously laid into his crib for the night immediately after having his diaper changed: He is most likely a bit irritated from the unexpected cold of a baby wipe, but he forgives you. The joy of being free of a damp bottom is overwhelming him anyway, and he thinks it should be celebrated by kicking his feet and otherwise writhing around in the crib!
Contrast that nightmare with this scenario: You change baby’s diaper one last time for the day. He is kicking, like above, so you securely wrap him in a soft, light swaddling blanket. This position reminds him of the gentle pressure and warmth of his prenatal days, so he starts to quiet down a little. You scoop him back into your arms for a comfortable embrace. While you read tonight’s short story, your voice practically puts him into a trance. By the end of the book, baby can barely keep his eyelids open, and with a smile of relief, he gets laid to bed.
Books for the win! Even if the latter scenario is a tad idealistic, the five minutes it takes to read a children’s book to your baby is still a five minutes well spent. The combination of comfort and the cadence of his parent’s voice gives baby a sense of security that tells him it’s okay to relax. Incorporating it into the bedtime lineup will only help the process.
As promised, I’ve included several of my favorites for little ones.
- Dr. Seuss Collection. When I was five, my mother was pregnant with my sister. I read The Foot Book every single time I accompanied her to the OBGYN. Reading the same books to your baby is a great idea, because it introduces them to simple words again and again. Hearing basic terms repeated often will help them develop their own speech skills.
- Eric Carle. Infants might not understand the words that you read to them, but they can appreciate the beauty of pictures. Carle’s wonderfully-illustrated books, including a classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and a brand new one, The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse, have paintings that both your child and you can enjoy.
- Karen Katz. While Katz’s books are not as recognizable as Dr. Seuss’ or The Very Hungry Caterpillar, I recommend her work for their variety of lessons. Her short stories cover all ranges of baby experiences, from My First Chinese New Year to How Does Baby Feel? which introduces little ones to various emotions. These lift-the-flap books are fun for little guys and might inspire parents, too.
Do you have any favorites to read to your baby yet? Please share in the comments.