father and son read bedtime story flickr / Shane Stroud
Cool Story, Bro

8 Tips For Making The Nightly Bedtime Story Even More Effective

Everyone loves an exciting tale. That’s exactly why your Netflix queue is filled to the brim with war movies about battles fought in places named after messy food stuffs. Your kid is no exception to this rule. They love a good story too. And reading it to them at bedtime is just the way to get them headed in the right direction in life. Plus, it’s way more practical than introducing them to all the explosive decapitations in Enchilada Ridge, or whatever.

While you could just grab a board book and go to town, there’s actually a few ways to make the bedtime story more beneficial for your kid. One of which is to stop reading and make it up your own damn self.

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Benefits Of The Bedtime Story

It might seem pretty ubiquitous, but the bedtime story provides more than just an opportunity to cozy down with your kid before they sleep. In fact, it’s so important that the American Academy Of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends health providers encourage parents to read to their children through kindergarten, at which point they can apparently goodnight their own moon.

The reason for the strong recommendations are numerous. Obviously, bedtime stories help with stuff like vocabulary, general literacy and communications skills. However, there is a whole slate of less obvious benefits. Those include memory development, the deepening of social skills, building a moral understanding and analytical thinking, unless you’re reading them fake news.

There are also physical benefits to the bedtime story. Not the least of which is allowing your little preschool warrior to chill the hell out for a little while and just not think about trying to get ahead in the rat race. Oh yeah, that works for you too.

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How To Do It Better

Just the fact that you’re reading to your kid is pretty great. So if that’s as far as you want to go, then, awesome. However, if you want to kick up the benefits here are some tips to go next level:

Add Your Kid: Switch out the main character’s name and switch in your kid’s. It’ll let their imagination stretch even further.

Bring It Home: Connect the world of the story to the one they live in. Is there a funny dog in the story? Ask if they know a funny dog. Pray it’s not one of McGruff’s pals.

Get Emotional: In emotional stories, like those of the Llama Llama series, ask your kid how they might feel in a similar situation. Chat it out.

Put It On Repeat: Especially when kids are young, reading the same story over and over (and over) again, might make you want to remove your eyeballs. However, it’s incredibly helpful to your kid. So get into it.

How To Do It Yourself

If you’re truly adventurous, you may decide to take the story by the horns and make one up yourself. You may not be the next J.K. Rowling but you don’t need to be. Turns out that your kid’s brain already has it’s own Chamber of Secrets. You just have to unlock it.

Telling a story, collaboratively, with your kid has it’s own amazing benefits. It amps up the creative factor and gives you some awesome insight into their psyche. Here’s how to make it happen:

Use A Familiar Character: Bring a favorite stuffed animal alive. Or make the family pet the hero. If they’re old enough to talk, let them decide who the characters are. Be prepared for it to get weird.

Pick A Setting: Is it your neighborhood? Or maybe your neighborhood in an alternate reality? Maybe it’s a foreign land? Or the land of D.C. Comics universe if you’re feeling Goth-am.

Build A Story Spine: It includes a “once upon a time,” a portion where things are status quo, an “until one day” section which starts the adventure, a major plot twist and, of course, a happy ending.

Don’t Give Up: The first night is probably going to suck, but if you keep it up, you’ll get into the story flow.

You can switch between stories that you read and stories you make up yourself, but the import part is that you’re spending time with your kid. In the end, that’s what really matters. Well that, and priming them for their first viewing of the great war epic Meatball Sub Valley.