Here is a collection of some of the best bedtime stories for kids, with links to read-alouds on YouTube.
Some are classics that have been rewritten many times, and some are newer stories that are so enjoyable, that they have earned their place among the classics.
I have linked to read-alouds of the physical books, as opposed to animated versions, so as to keep the bedtime story as a listening activity, without turning it into passive screen time. Mute the videos if you’d prefer to read them out yourself.
Take it a step further and tell your children some of these classics in your own words, without the video or book. They will love it!
1. The Three Little Pigs
Mommy Pig tells her three sons that it’s time they leave home and build their own houses. One pig builds his house out of straw, one builds it out of sticks and the third pig builds his out of bricks.
When the Big Bad Wolf comes around to each house, asking to be let in and then threatening to blow the house down, only the brick house manages to stay standing, showing that patience, planning and hard work pay off.
Cinderella is a classic story about finding your prince charming, and succeeding in the face of adversity.
Cinderella lives with her evil stepmother and step sisters, who won’t allow her to attend the royal ball. Her fairy godmother makes all her dreams come true and sends her off to the ball in a beautiful gown and pumpkin coach so she can meet her prince charming.
She loses her glass slipper when she leaves, but the prince eventually finds her by trying the slipper on all the ladies in the land.
3. The Worst Princess
A modern retake on the damsel in distress being rescued by a prince, this one is a cracker.
Susan doesn’t like being trapped in a tower and teams up with a dragon to get up to mischief.
She really is The Worst Princess.
This story shows that people are unique and there’s more than one way to have a happily ever after!
4. Little Red Riding Hood
Little Red Riding Hood is sent with a basket of goodies to visit her granny in the woods. She meets a wolf along the way and tells him where she is going.
The wolf beats her to granny’s house and jumps into the bed, pretending to be the granny, in an attempt to fool Little Red Riding Hood and eat her up.
This story teaches kids about safety and stranger danger.
5. The Gruffalo
The Gruffalo is one of Julia Donaldson’s most popular books.
A little mouse outsmarts all the predators it comes across while walking through the wood by telling them he’s meeting up with a scary-looking Gruffalo.
6. The Gruffalo’s Child
In the sequel to the previous book, The Gruffalo’s Child is curious to find the Big Bad Mouse. He comes across the snake, the owl and the fox, who are terrified when they hear he is looking for the mouse.
7. The Gingerbread Man
The Gingerbread Man is a classic with lots of fun repetition for younger children.
A little old lady bakes a gingerbread man who escapes and runs away from all the animals, shouting “Run, run, as fast as you can. You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!”
Eventually, he gets outsmarted by a sly fox.
This version teaches kids about measurement as it explains the process of baking the gingerbread man.
8. Goldilocks and the Three Bears
Goldilocks and the Three Bears is an all-time favourite for young kids.
This great story, about a young girl who enters a bear’s house while the family are out and tries their porridge, chairs and beds, teaches kids about the concepts of small, medium and large (and seriation).
9. The Three Billy Goats Gruff
The Three Billy Goats Gruff is a story about three goats who cross a bridge over the river where a troll lives. The troll wants to eat them, but they manage to get away unscathed.
10. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
The Dr Seuss series of books are some of my favourites. They are entertaining and so educational.
Rapunzel is the story of a young girl who grows up held captive by a witch in a tall tower.
Every day the witch gets into the tower by calling “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair” and climbs up her very long hair to reach the top.
12. Oi Frog!
The Oi series of books by Kes Gray and Jim Field is a great way to teach kids about rhyming words. They are silly and fun.
In Oi Frog, the cat tells the frog that he should sit on a log, even though the frog finds it uncomfortable. They discuss various animals and what they sit on – cats sit on mats, hares sit on chairs, mules sit on stools, etc.
This story is good for developing vocabulary.
13. The Tortoise and the Hare
The Tortoise and the Hare teaches a lesson about how hard work and determination can pay off, even if you don’t have the upper hand.
Tortoise challenges Hare to a race and Hare is amused by the challenge. When they race, Hare is so overconfident that he stops for a nap along the way, and then loses the race.
14. Alice in Wonderland
Based on the original story by Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland tells the tale of a young girl who meets and has fun interactions with an array of interesting characters in Wonderland, like a white rabbit, a fierce queen of hearts and a smoking caterpillar.
15. We’re Going on A Bear Hunt
We’re Going on A Bear Hunt isn’t the kind of story you just read out. It should be dramatized, actions and all.
This fun sing-along story about a family going on a bear hunt is full of actions – swishing through grass, splashing through water, squelching through mud and more!
It teaches positional language and rhythm.
16. Hansel and Gretel
There are many classic stories and fairy tales that have quite a dark theme or origin. Hansel and Gretel is one of these.
The siblings have an evil stepmother, they’re abandoned in the woods, the birds eat all the breadcrumbs they dropped to find their way home, and they’re kidnapped by a witch!
Nevertheless, it’s still a classic. The witch’s house is made of sweets and they outsmart her in the end.
17. Room on the Broom
Room on the Broom, by Julia Donaldson, is a cute rhyming story about a witch and cat flying around on a broom. Along the way, they meet a dog, a bird and a frog who ask if there is room on the broom for them.
The four animals eventually save the witch from a fiery dragon.
18. Jack and the Beanstalk
Jack and the Beanstalk is a classic bedtime story about a poor boy who trades his cow for some beans, which then grow into a beanstalk that reaches into the clouds.
Jack meets the giant and his wife, who live at the top of the beanstalk. The giant has a golden harp and a hen that lays golden eggs.
Kids will enjoy pretending to be the giant and chanting along to “Fee, fi, fo, fum!”
This is another one of those stories that has been tweaked over the years and has less “grinding of bones” than the original version.
19. The Ugly Duckling
The Ugly Duckling is a kids’ story that teaches the lesson of not judging a book by its cover, and appreciating someone for their good qualities.
It’s about a duckling who is clumsy and ugly compared to his siblings and gets teased by all the other animals. He eventually grows into a beautiful swan.
20. The Smartest Giant in Town
The Smartest Giant in Town, by Julia Donaldson, is about a scruffy giant who buys himself a new outfit and shoes.
On his way home he meets a few animals in need who he helps by giving them items of his clothing. For example, his tie becomes a scarf for a cold giraffe and his shoe becomes a house for a little white mouse.
21. The Little Red Hen
The Little Red Hen is a great story with a moral.
While the hen works hard – planting and cutting the wheat, taking it to the mill to be ground into flour and making a cake – the cat, the dog and the mouse refuse to help her.
They learn their lesson when the hen eats the cake all by herself at the end, and from then on they always offer to help her with the chores!
22. Little Miss Curious
Little Miss is a series of books by Roger Hargreaves and is an extension of the Mr Men books. These cute, tiny books follow the stories of various characters and personalities, such as Miss Chatterbox, Mr. Grumpy, Mr. Greedy, etc.
Little Miss Curious asks a lot of questions as she goes about her day. Why do flowers live in beds but never sleep? Why do sandwiches have no sand in them?
23. The Town Mouse and The Country Mouse
The Town Mouse and The Country Mouse tells a tale of two mice from very different backgrounds. The Town Mouse visits the Country Mouse’s home and the Country Mouse then reciprocates and visits the Town Mouse in the dangerous, busy town.
The accepted moral of this story is that a quiet, safer life is better than a life of excess, but perhaps it is also about “each to their own” and accepting that people are different.
24. A Squash and a Squeeze
Another awesome story from Julia Donaldson, A Squash and a Squeeze is about an old lady who tells a wise old man that her house is too small. He advises her to let her farm animals into the house with her, and when she finally lets them out again, her house feels spacious.
This is a good lesson in perspective and seeing things from a different angle. The story has lots of fun repetition and is good for building memory skills.
25. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
It tells the series of events that will happen if you give a mouse a cookie: He’ll ask for a glass of milk, then a straw, then a napkin, and he’ll do many other things until he realises he’s thirsty and wants a glass of milk again…and a cookie!
There are several fun books in this series, such as If You Give a Pig a Party, and If You Give a Moose a Muffin.
26. Beauty and the Beast
Beauty and the Beast is a story about a young girl who is captured by a horrible beast. The beast is actually a prince who had a spell cast upon him many years ago.
Beauty softens the beast’s heart and she also learns to love him and look beyond his scary appearance.
27. The Boy Who Cried Wolf
The Boy Who Cried Wolf is a story of a young shepherd who keeps yelling “wolf” to get the attention of the townsmen so they can help him find the wolf that is supposedly trying to kill the sheep.
After he misleads them a second time, he loses the trust of the townspeople and they don’t come to help him when some wolves really do come after his sheep.
This is a lesson in how you will lose people’s trust through dishonesty.
28. What the Ladybird Heard
Young children will love this book about a ladybird who hatches a plan to stop two thieves from stealing a fine prize cow from a farm.
Julia Donaldson’s What the Ladybird Heard is filled with animal sounds and repetition.
29. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” is the question the Queen asks her magic mirror every day. One day the mirror tells her that Snow White is the fairest.
Snow White lands up banished in the woods and moves in with seven dwarfs – Dopey, Bashful, Grumpy, Sneezy, Sleepy, Happy and Doc.
30. The Fisherman and His Wife
The Fisherman and His Wife is a story about greed and being grateful for what you have.
A fisherman tosses an enchanted fish back into the water and is granted three wishes, but his wife is too greedy and they eventually end up losing everything.
31. The Enormous Crocodile
No list of bedtime stories would be complete without the Roald Dahl stories, even though some are more suitable for older children.
The Enormous Crocodile is a fun story to listen to, even if you do it over two or three nights. The crocodile wants to eat a child and has thought up secret plans and clever tricks!
Pinocchio is a little wooden puppet created by an old man, Geppetto, who wishes he was a real boy.
A fairy makes him come to life, but she warns him that he must be brave, truthful and unselfish if he is to be forever turned into a real boy. He tells a few lies, making his nose grow as long as lies tend to, but he eventually proves himself.
33. Peter Pan
Peter Pan lives in Neverland and gets up to adventures with his pixie Tinkerbell and his friends Wendy, John and Michael.
He frees Tiger Lily from Captain Hook but then Tinkerbell gets captured!
34. The Rainbow Fish
The Rainbow Fish is the most beautiful fish in the ocean but he never plays with any of the other fish because he thinks he’s too beautiful for them. He becomes lonely as the other fish start to avoid him.
The wise octopus suggests he shares his beautiful scales with the other fish. The more he gives his scales away and watches how it makes the other fish happy, the happier he feels.
The read-aloud also discusses the lessons of being humble, sharing and feeling genuine happiness.
35. Sleeping Beauty
This version of Sleeping Beauty has a lovely musical soundtrack.
Following a spell from the wicked Maleficent, Princess Aurora pricks her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and falls into a deep sleep, waiting for the kiss of true love to wake her.
Aladdin falls for Princess Jasmine but what chance does a poor boy have to marry a princess?
He finds a magic lamp in a cave and a genie pops out of it when he rubs it. With the wishes granted by the magic Genie, Aladdin’s fate begins to change.
37. The Frog Prince
In The Frog Prince, a young princess meets a frog at the pond who asks to become her friend in exchange for helping her find her lost ball.
The princess grows fond of the frog and one day he turns into a prince, revealing that the princess’s kindness broke the spell cast upon him by an evil witch.
38. Tyrannosaurus Drip
The last book on this list by Julia Donaldson, Tyrannosaurus Drip is one of my favourites and tells a lesson in fitting in and finding your tribe.
A duck-billed dinosaur is mistakenly born into a family of Tyrannosaurus Rexes and doesn’t fit in with his siblings – with his vegetarian diet and lack of fierceness.
It’s fantastically funny and entertaining, and filled with repetition and rhyme.
39. The Elves and the Shoemaker
The Elves and the Shoemaker is about a poor shoemaker whose fortune changes when elves sneak into his workshop every night to make beautiful pairs of shoes for him to sell.
Eventually, the shoemaker and his wife repay the elves’ kindness by making them new outfits to wear.
40. Be Kind
A young girl tries to show kindness when a peer at school spills her juice and everyone laughs at her. Throughout the book, she ponders what it means to be kind.
There is a printout of these eight stories in the downloadable pack at the end of this post.
There are many benefits of reading bedtime stories, including developing kids’ vocabulary and listening skills.
Some of these stories teach rhyming, sound awareness, values, counting and much more!
Disclaimer: This is a collection of some of the most popular bedtime stories that have been told and retold over the years. Some of them may have original – or current – versions that do not tie in with your morals and values, or they may seem sombre or harsh.
I myself do not love reading stories to my daughter about girls finding their ‘happily ever after’ just by marrying the first prince who comes along, for example. I try to balance what I read, and I often change words or phrases when I feel it’s appropriate.
Choose your favourites and skim over those you’d prefer not to expose your kids to.
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