Bedtime routines can be a minefield. With toys strewn across the floor and tantrums before the lights go down, it can be a nightmare to say the least. However, books can be the best way to create a calm and loving way to end the day.
If you're anything like me, having rushed to nursery pick up, brushed teeth and managed to get something resembling pyjamas on, the idea of having some much needed quiet time is tempting. However, just a few minutes of reading can have a huge impact on your child…and you.
- Children’s books offer a world of imagination. By reading a short story (we love Thomas the Tank Engine and Room on the Broom), you are inviting little stories and ideas to swirl round your child’s imagination long after you leave the room. They might lay there for a few minutes and wonder how a witch can fly, or why Gordon is always so grumpy. New questions are formed and links made that may not have existed a few minutes earlier.
- This links to a wider vocabulary. Books offer words that we may not use everyday (storm, fright, kangaroo, twirling). When children see and hear these words, especially when stories are repeated, they widen their vocabulary and also gain confidence when using those words as they have understood the context. Another day to day bonus of helping your child to develop and widen their use of vocabulary through bedtime reading is that it can help them to explain their feelings and emotions. A wider range of vocabulary is often cited as a great way to help reduce toddler frustration and tantrums as they can try to articulate their worry or needs through their words.
- It gives your child what they want: you. Our little ones want attention from us. We should take it as a compliment; they clearly think we are fantastic and worth spending lots of time with. Spending those few precious minutes with them and giving them undivided attention will create a very special bond. Think about it, at what other point in the day is it just the two of you without any other distraction or device?
- ...and a few minutes away from mobile devices, laptops, work files and general stresses of the day is surely no bad thing for us. Reading is actually proven to reduce stress levels!
- Another win is that you’re helping them grow without having to do too much. As a generation of parents who are only too aware of the power of education, we do so much for our little ones. From baby sensory to language lessons, we want to expand their horizons and give them every opportunity to understand the complicated world around them. But reading is a free (join your local library) and fun way to expand their minds. And the best thing is, you don’t need to leave the house. It’s free and easy. Parenting win with minimum effort.
These points are just from my experience as a mum, teacher and avid reader and I know only too well that reading every night with voices that rival Stephen Fry's and enthusiasm to embarrass Mr Tumbles is unrealistic. There are some nights I am so monotone with tiredness that my partner thinks Kevin Costner is reading to our daughter. What's important is that we bring her a fun story, cheeky characters and one-to-one time every night.
Another great point to remember is that quality is far more important than quantity. Rather than speed reading your way through The Cat in the Hat, just focus on a couple of pages each night. Explore the characters, ask questions like 'Can cats really walk upright?', and have a conversation about colours, words...anything you like. It's better to engage with a couple of pages than complete the whole book for the sake of it.
Everyone needs to find their own reading journey but I promise you this: reading a story with your child will give them memories and words that will last a lifetime.