How to tell a great bedtime story

Our top tips to telling bedtime tales your children will remember.

Tips for great bedtime storytelling

By Colleen Reid,, Friday 22nd July

Story time is arguably baby’s favourite time of day. It’s a chance to get snuggled in with mum and dad and hear great tales of monsters, princesses and magical lands.

Picking up a book with great illustrations can capture the imagination of little ones but it’s home grown stories that are made up from scratch that really impact them.

The characters created from mum and dad’s stories will stay with your child through to adulthood and can then be passed on to their children in turn.

Telling great bedtime stories is something that comes with practice. For those who tend to reach for a book instead of summoning up a tale, here are some helpful tips to make you an excellent story teller.

  1. Keep your routine
  2. Familiarity
  3. Ask them
  4. Developing characters
  5. Length
  6. Tone
  7. Breathe life into your story
  8. Promise them another

Keep your routine

Make sure your little one knows when to expect story time. After putting on pyjamas and brushing teeth, it’s time to get snuggled up in bed and be told a great bed time story. By keeping a routine, your little one will look forward to story time even more.


Each and every story you tell can be as exciting or imaginative as you like, but your child follows it best if they can relate to aspects of the story. Beginning the story with something like, ‘There was once a boy with brown hair and freckles…’ will immediately have them thinking, ‘I have brown hair and freckles!’. Or perhaps the character happens to have the same pet, favourite colour or the same baby brother as your child does. The more your child can relate to the story, the better the image in their head. Anything to link them into the story will keep them hanging on every word.

Ask them

By asking your child what they want the story to be about, you will keep them engaged and they will feel like they’ve helped build the story. You’ll be amazed at how creative their imagination is already! If they want the story to be about a talking chair that went to play at the park, then deliver that story! Go with their ideas and they will love every second!

Developing characters

The main character in your story is what will keep your child interested. The character can mirror your child (i.e. a small boy with brown hair and freckles) but should never simply be your child. Keep them imagining that it could be them, without telling them so.

A memorable character is a great way to tell new adventures every night without having to put too much thought into the tale. Once you have created a memorable character, bedtime stories can reuse the character over and over and your child will always want to know what has happened to them next. After describing the character in the first tale, add different characteristics, such as a crooked nose, into the each tale. This will help your child build a vivid picture.


Remember, the main reasoning behind a bedtime story is to put your child to sleep. The story should be exciting enough to engage them without getting them too hyperactive to be able to sleep. The length of the story is important as your child will be disappointed if they fall asleep before the ending of the story, resolve all mishaps or trouble your characters might have gotten into before your little one falls asleep. If you see your child starting to drift off, quickly change direction of the story and end it. Your child will stop fighting their tiredness if they think the story has finished now.


Telling stories is a great way to develop your child’s understanding of emotion and feelings. Your character can go through a range of different emotions throughout the tale – a mix of sad to happy, scared to safe, serious to funny all make a great story, but remember to end it on a light note! Your child’s imagination is active and can run away with its self – don’t end with the little boy in the tale being snatched by a witch…you or your little one won’t get a wink of sleep! End your story with the character climbing into bed, getting tucked in and getting a kiss from their mum – you can tuck your child in and kiss them at the same time as an indication of the story being finished.

Breathe life into your story

When making up a story, you are your own tool. You must be able to create a believable story to keep your child interested. Use plenty of facial gestures (happy, sad, shocked) to help them understand the emotion your characters are feeling. You can ask them to participate by pulling a sad face too.

Using different voices is not only good fun for your child, it’s a great way to differentiate characters. Don’t worry if you feel this doesn’t come naturally to you, your audience already adores you!

Promise them another one

After the story is over, promise your little one that they can hear another tale tomorrow evening at bedtime. By giving into telling another, you’ll end up telling stories for hours!

Photography: Lars Ploughmann@Flickr

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