Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter With Bedtime Stories

Welcome to our March guest blogger, Frances Evesham:

Bedtime stories pack a secret punch. Quiet and relaxing, they tick all the right boxes for your health and that of your child. Take ten minutes to de-stress yourself and help him learn language skills to make him as smart as he can be. Growing Up in Scotland research suggests that children involved in activities like storytelling with their parents at an early age, develop more quickly. 
After his busy day, your child needs plenty of sleep. The daily noise and excitement may leave him over stimulated, agitated and over excited.  A bedtime story provides the perfect opportunity to switch off the TV, stop other busy activity and concentrate on your child. Your child will relax as he listens to the calm sound of your voice and Looks at the pictures in a book.  Even a baby in his first year benefits from this oasis of peaceful tranquillity and he tends to fall asleep more quickly.
From birth, your baby enjoys listening to your voice. He finds it soothing and in his first few weeks, he settles down when you speak to him. Build on these early listening skills with short, repetitive bedtime stories. Your tiny baby’s brain already contains many billions of neurons. Pathways linking these neurons together develop rapidly during his first three years, through repetitive experiences and actions. Read or tell the same story many times over, to help those brain pathways develop.
Vocabulary and speech
Short sentences linked to pictures help your child recognise words and, as he grows older, they help him develop a wide vocabulary. Young children love long words, like “elephant” and “caterpillar”, words that imitate sounds, like “quack” and  “crash” and words that are fun to say, like “tick tock” and “pitter patter”.  As your child makes you repeat them many times, he learns to anticipate every word and insists that the story is identical every time you read.
Speech sounds
Hearing those words often and joining in with you as you say them, encourages him to exercise his speech muscles and try out tricky sound combinations.  Remember, it doesn’t matter that he won’t say all the sounds properly. Avoid the temptation to correct him. When he’s ready, he’ll get them right, and bedtime stories are a time for gentle enjoyment.
You gain as much from bedtime stories as your child does. Those few moments of quiet every day force you to forget household duties or work anxieties.  Aim to enjoy the time. Sit comfortably, with your happy child snuggled against you. Breathe slowly and quietly, noticing how his breathing also slows down.  Let your inner actor free, with your uncritical child as your audience.  Your child grows up and leaves home, and these memories will remain with you forever.
Learning about life
Try making up your own stories. Tell a tale about your child’s teddy and the adventures he has while the family sleeps, or make your child himself the centre of a story. As he grows older, story is a safe way to introduce information on difficult or scary topics, like death, moving house or bullying. Begin storytelling when your baby is small, and you lay down a habit to benefit him for years to come.
Some of my favourites:
We're Going on a Bear Hunt; Michael Rosen; 2003
The Very Hungry Caterpillar; Eric Carle; 1969
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?; Bill Martin Jr; 1996
Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear?; Martin Waddell; 2001
What stories do your children love?
Growing Up in Scotland is following the progress of 5,000 babies born between June 2004 and May 2005.

Frances Evesham worked as a speech and language therapist for many years. Her Kindle eBook, How to help your child talk and grow smarter, explains how your child learns to talk and how you can help. Find out more at http://www.getmeoffthehook.com/speechcontacts/book.html


  1. I can highly recommend Frances' book. If you haven't got a Kindle (like me) you can down load a reader for PC from Amazon.

  2. Reading to my children when they were small was one of my all time favorites. I LOVED THIS ARTICLE and posted it on my facebook wall! GREAT JOB!!!

  3. Thank you!I love reading to mine.... unfortunately, they have to be pursuaded these days now they're 11 and 8!