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Who doesn’t love a good bedtime story? Settling down to read your whippersnapper to sleep is one of the most joyful parts of being a parent. At least it is for me.
Nothing creates a strong bond between a child and parents like taking adventures into imaginationland together. The shared period of emotion and attention is always an incredibly pleasurable experience for both sides. Not only is reading together fun it also has numerous benefits for the development of your little one’s mind.
Bedtime stories help develop language skills
One study conducted in Scotland found that children who were regularly involved in interactive activities, such as bedtime storytelling, with their parents from an early age developed much more quickly than others, particularly when it came to their ability to process language.
How this work is quite simply, if a book contains pictures that represent certain words, say a cow or a goose, for instance, they will learn to recognize what these words mean quicker through association, helping them to build their vocabulary.
Children in particular love onomatopoeia, that is words that sound like what the thing they describe. The ‘buzzing’ of a bee for example or the ‘tick-tock’ of a clock. You will probably notice when reading to a child that they pick up and attempt to repeat these words first. This is partly just because they actually enjoy the sensation of making the noises with their mouths.
Repetition of these sounds helps the nipper to exercise, strengthen and develop their speech muscles. While this might not help send them into a sleepier state immediately it is definitely playing a very important role in improving their language ability.
Bedtime stories prepare children for real-world events
Now, this may sound far-fetched but bear with me now. Almost without exception children’s stories involve correct behavior. Kids learn about right and wrong and being kind to others in the face of adversity.
While your kid might not be able to see the connection between the actions of Princess Penelope Von Butterflea in their story and the real world, they are in fact subconsciously being fed a good helping of morality by the Princess’ good behavior. Kind of how advertising works on adults, for better or worse.
If after putting junior to bed you struggle to drop off yourself, why not find a happy ending to your own story and check out what the experts have to say could be the matter.
Bedtime stories improve memory skills
Have you noticed how a lot of bedtime stories involve copious amounts of rhyming and repetition? There is a very good reason for this. By hearing you repeat sounds over and over again you are strengthening your kid’s capacity to recognize, remember and repeat words.
Memory works by creating neural pathways between areas in the brain, the more frequently these pathways are used the stronger they become. Repetition is an especially powerful technique in early life as the mind of your child is like a sponge and the brain architecture develops at a rapid rate.
So, even if you are completely making up your bedtime stories always try to build in familiar sounds, characters, and elements. While this may feel a little bit monotonous for you, it is doing wonders for the little one’s memory.
When it comes to storytelling dad is king
Sorry moms, but studies suggest that children whose fathers do most of the bedtime storytelling develop stronger language skills than those kids whose moms are the prime story master.
Why? Well, it is thought that dads are more likely to get creative and improvise than moms. By diverging from common narratives fathers are able to keep the little ones on their toes, encouraging greater creativity and imagination.
Fathers are also more likely to ask open-ended questions of the listener, such as, “what do you think will happen to the prince if he opens the door?” This is in contrast to the more factual question moms prefer, such as, “what is the prince’s name?”
Give me a good bedtime story?
One bedtime story scientifically guaranteed to help your little one drop off to sleep promptly is The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep by Swedish author Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin. Instead of simply coming up with a nice story, author Ehrlin consulted sleep psychologists and therapists to develop a fiendishly smart book that progressively nudges the reader closer and closer to the edge of sleep.
The book makes us of a plethora of linguistic tricks, involving repetition, subliminal suggestions, the use of repeated yawns and the repetition of the child who is reading the book’s name.
Ehrlin claims that “Every word has been carefully chosen to create the magic, as parents sometimes call it”.
Well, there you have it – the multiple benefits of a good bedtime story. And let’s not kid ourselves parents, even if bedtime stories had no developmental benefit at all we would still love putting on the silly voices and making our mini-mes laugh their little faces off.