My son and I love reading books together, and I think the books we enjoy the most are the ones I sing to him. These come in handy especially around sleepy-times, before his afternoon nap or bedtime. Nothing soothes us more than snuggling up together with a good book and singing. Besides the comfort it provides us, a variety of benefits have been linked to singing to your child. The National Association for the Education of Young People highlights some of these benefits, including language development, establishing safe transition routines, and bonding with your baby.
Singing stories to my son has become an incredibly bonding experience for us. We giggle, clap, have fun, and feel soothed. We find joy, comfort, and connection in the music. Yes, some of these songs become so ingrained in my mind that I find myself singing them at the most random times during the day. However, even this can become useful, like when my son has a sudden meltdown. Singing a familiar song from one of our favorite books can work wonders in settling him.
I’ve really begun channeling my inner Maria from The Sound of Music with how much I love singing books to my son. Below I’ve compiled a list of books I sing to my little one before sleepy-time. I hope one of these books will help you bond with a baby or tot in your life too (and help them get to sleep!).
Hush! A Thai Lullaby by Minfong Ho and Holly Meade
As a mother puts her baby to sleep, quite a few animals thwart her plans for a quiet evening. The mother hushes each animal in turn, admonishing them by saying, “Can’t you see that baby’s sleeping?” The lyrical rhythm of the words makes them easy to sing, and I love the creative animal noises that Minfong Ho includes, from the “Jeed-jeed,” of the gray mouse to the “Tuk-ghaa, Tuk-ghaa” of the long-tailed lizard. These always make my son and I laugh. We love trying to find the baby in each scene, too, who seems to be doing everything but sleeping.
Silly Lullaby by Sandra Boynton
I had a hard time choosing just one Sandra Boynton book to include; I sing so many of them to my little one. Silly Lullaby has become a favorite of ours because I sing it to my son every night before bed now. It’s become our routine that signals sleepy-time. I’ve sung it enough that my 2-year-old has even started singing along to some of the words too, which is just about the sweetest thing to hear. Sandra Boynton weaves music notes throughout the book, so my rusty middle school band experience helped me find a melody to the words. My runner-up singable Sandra Boynton books include Barnyard Dance and Your Personal Penguin. (If you’re a Monkees fan, I highly recommend listening to this rendition of Your Personal Penguin by Davy Jones.)
Hello, Friend / Hola, Amigo by 123 Andrés and Sara Palacios
This book conveys the most heartwarming message of cross-cultural friendship. The words carry an easy rhythm, having come from the lyrics of one of 123 Andrés’s songs, the singing duo Andrés Salguero and his partner Christina. Written in both English and Spanish, 123 Andrés remarks about this in the Author’s Note, stating: “The two songs are not meant to be exact translations of each other. Instead, they show how, using different languages, we can express similar ideas in different ways through songs and stories.” The sweet words and festive atmosphere of the singing and dancing characters make for a wonderful sing-along story time.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mr. Rogers by Fred Rogers and Luke Flowers
The collection of songs in this book spill over with warmth and heart. Written by Fred Rogers, the music truly commemorates what a special person he was. With songs like “I Like You As You Are,” “What Do You Do With The Mad That You Feel,” and “Everybody’s Shy Sometimes,” Mr. Rogers’s music helps nurture not just my son’s emotional wellbeing, but my own as well. When I sing these songs to my tot, I’m also learning how to talk about emotions with him. As an added perk, singing the song “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” has become the only way my son will let me brush his teeth.
Salsa Lullaby by Jen Arena and Erika Meza
This lullaby picture book became a favorite request from my son before bedtime. Erika Meza’s beautiful illustrations completely mesmerized me. The story follows Mami, Papi, and their dog as they prepare their baby for bed, intermixing Spanish and English together for a bilingual bedtime song. As the family progresses from singing and dancing in the kitchen to gently placing their baby in bed, I could see my son’s eyelids start to flutter in sleepy content.
Little Learners Incy Wincy Spider by Parragon Books
Incy Wincy Spider (so much more fun to say than Itsy Bitsy) includes a finger puppet spider, which my toddler absolutely loves. While I sing this one to him, the finger puppet spider has lots of opportunities to tickle his nose. Just the other day, my little guy sat down next to his basket of books, plucked this one out, and began to sing the song to himself as best he could. I felt so proud of him. I hope singing books together will continue to foster not only his language development, but also his love of reading.
Singing books to my tot before sleepy-times has become the most delightful routine. Whether a lullaby book or a charming sing-along story, these books bring my son and I closer together through music. When I sing to my son, I’m expressing my love. And sometimes, my son sings back.