Ideas & Inspiration:

Why Bedtime Stories Are So Important

This article originally appeared on kidspot.com.au. Kidspot and Fantastic Furniture have joined to help you create magical family memories.

There are many benefits to bedtime stories, however, it’s not just limited to creating magical memories and forming part of a routine that will help lull your cherubs to sleep.

In fact, bedtime stories are proven to help foster a bond between parents and children, lower kids’ stress levels and reinforce their literacy skills and mastery of language.

“We know now, because we have brain imaging studies, there’s a difference in the reading and cognitive skills of kids whose parents sit with them and read. The difference has nothing to do with things like family background, their home environment or socioeconomic status, but how frequently an adult sits and reads with the child,” says psychologist Collett Smart, a mother-of-three who has 20 years of experience as a classroom teacher.

“If you haven’t started reading to them prior to school, it’s OK. It’s about those early years starting with children around four or five years old, and when kids are read to every day there’s a significant positive impact on their reading skills and cognitive skills, like numeracy. We see benefits in their development right up until about the age of 11, and those benefits last later in life.”

Why are bedtime stories so beneficial for young kids?

Collett says studies show three main differences in the visual activity of children whose parents read aloud to them and children who lie in bed and read by themselves.
The first big one is increased ability in visual processing and imagination.

“Kids get better at imagining things because they have to interpret a story when it’s read aloud. Children learn the power of their imagination which helps them become independent readers later on with books that don’t have pictures because their imaginations are developed enough to draw them in,” she explains.

The next big advantage is in children’s mastery of language skills, because books typically use a greater diversity of words than just everyday vocabulary.
Collett says: “We tend to use the same vocabulary all the time so children learn a more sophisticated vocabulary if they read widely from different genres of books”.
Finally, reading helps develop your child’s curiosity by teaching them about the world.

“They become more inquisitive. Reading promotes more reading because they start to want to find other books that have stories that invoke their imaginations. Children can also ask and answer questions when you’re sitting and reading to them, so it stimulates new conversations. Children start to learn about their world and they can understand life events. Sometimes, scary things might worry them, but they can understand it in safe ways when they learn through characters.”

What makes a perfect bedtime story?

“The book itself is important because it must engage the child, but it’s more than that. If you’re sitting with your child and spending time with them, of course it draws them into the story, but really, it’s the relationship that counts,” says Collett.

She explains there are some interesting studies with kids aged 6-11 who said they enjoyed having books read aloud to them because it meant they were getting special time with their parents.

“Most kids value that one-on-one time with their parents, so it’s good to invest in that time without the distraction of technology or your own work. They know it’s their time and that’s really precious.”

Aside from picking a good story, she says it’s important to sit close to your child as many love to snuggle and they probably also find listening to their parent’s voice to be quite soothing. This also gives you an opportunity to bond with your child even if you’re at a tricky patch in your relationship.

“If you’re struggling to connect with a child, it actually gives you something in common, either a character or a series you can talk about and research,” she says.

How can you set your child’s bedroom up for success?

“Setting up a bedroom for a young child can be a super fun and colourful experience,” says Will Dance, father-of-two and senior brand manager at Fantastic Furniture.

“With a bit of planning, your child is sure to love their bedroom space. To keep it safe, comfortable and functional, include a warm bed that they love, plenty of storage for their clothes and toys, somewhere for them to decorate and display their achievements and a place for them to play.”

As kids transition from preschool to kindy and primary school, they’re also often moving up to their first “big kid” bed, so he says it’s important to remember it’s a real stage of transition. Along with taking advantage of the extra room to sit and snuggle with your child, it’s important to remember that a consistent bedtime routine, including a story, will help your kids feel secure.

“Having a character bed they love is also a great way to encourage them throughout the process. You should ensure the mattress is firm and supportive, but still comfy for the little ones, and a trundle bed can be a great option for storing a bit of extra sleeping space for their first sleepovers.”