Episode 25: Helping Our Kids and Ourselves Find Sleep and Rest

In this episode, we discuss great bedtime stories to help our kids go to sleep, some excellent resources for parents trying to help their kids sleep through the night, and other resources for parents to take time to rest in God’s presence.

Books Discussed in This Episode

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Welcome to “Books that Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids. I have some fun books to share with you today. I want to talk about bedtime stories and books that will help our kids fall to sleep. As we come up on the Christmas season, one of the things I find difficult sometimes is to help children fall asleep on Christmas Eve when they’re so excited for Christmas day. And I know when I was a child that was practically an impossible feat to get me to go to sleep. So I thought it would be fun to look at some fun stories or some special stories that will help our children sleep.

I have to go back to my favorites from my friend, Deb Gruelle. She has two wonderful books out, one that just came out this year is called Sleepy Time Colors, and it’s a lift-the-flap book. It is actually the second one in her series. The first one is Ten Little Night Stars. They’re both board books. I want to take just a minute and read a little bit from these books to you. Ten Little Night Stars: This one is about a little elephant who is getting ready for bed. It goes through the numbers. “One, One little night star twinkling in deep blue. I run inside to take my bath. And then there are two. Two little night’s stars shining bright to see. I stand up tall to brush my teeth, and then there are three. And it continues on with getting ready for bed. All the little nighttime routines, including reading a story and praying. And then, of course, the kiss good night and tucking in. It’s just such a cute book, kind of builds that routine for bedtime. That’s one of the most important things that we do as parents is help our kids to develop that routine at bedtime. And that also helps the children to settle down and get sleepy and go to bed. That’s the first book.

The second one is her second book that is in this series, and this is Sleepy Time Colors. Like I said, it’s a lift-the-flap book, and this one has its main character as a little bear. It says, “I love to put my jammies on at night, so I can rest. They’re colorful and cozy and warm. PJ’s are the best.” And then the first one’s a little elephant, and he’s putting on his little dinosaur jammies. “These Dinosaurs are bright blue. Roar! They March across my top. So when it’s finally time for bed, I find them and bebop. What is your favorite color?” And then you lift the flap, and you see blue. And so it shows how to spell the word and shows the color. Each character in this story is putting on their jammies, talking about the colors that they like, or the design that they like on their pajamas, the pattern that’s on it. And it talks about each of the colors. And each page has a little flap where you can lift and see the word written for that color. So this one is also just really cute. Both of these were published by Zonderkidz and are written by Deb Gruelle and illustrated by Gabi Murphy.

The next book, I really, really love because it’s ironic because it’s using reverse psychology. It’s called Don’t Close Your Eyes: A Silly Bedtime Story by Bob Hostetler and illustrated by Mark Chambers. It starts out, “The sun is sinking in the sky. The moon is sneaking out. But you don’t want to close your eyes. You have much to think about. This world is spinning round and round. Stars sparkle way up high. As nighttime falls without a sound, don’t close one sleepy eye. The squirrels are fully squirreled away. The gophers gophered out. Young horses, stop all horsey play, and pigs sleep tail to snout. The birds are nestled in their nest. Crickets chirp their lullabies. And busy bees lie down to rest, but do not, do not close your eyes.” And then it goes on through the whole time telling the child don’t close your eyes. And it’s just really, really cute. Those three are all board books.

There are some other books that are regular picture books about sleep. And another really cute one is called The Sheep Who Wouldn’t Sleep: A Story That Teaches Self-Soothing and Mindfulness by Susan Rich Brooke, I was a little concerned with the mindfulness thing. I didn’t know if it would all be weird or what, but no, it was super cute. Really a neat little story. So I recommend it. It’s quite funny and cute and silly. All the sheep are sleeping except for one; he’s just not ready to settle down. All these other animals are giving the sheep advice on how they go to sleep. And he keeps trying to go to sleep where they go to sleep and then the way they go to sleep. And of course it doesn’t work because he’s a sheep. And so he finally goes to sleep. It’s just really cute. And it shows different ways that these animals find comfort and sooth themselves and that they have to try different things. And so that one’s really cute.

Now, of course, I’ve interviewed Glenys Nellist on here. Many of her books are really appropriate for bedtime stories. She has a lot of board books for little children, and she has the whole snuggle time series that are really good for bedtime stories. And so those are some really good books to check out.

And then there’s one really beautiful story that is called Woodland Dreams. So this is really cute. It’s a picture book. It’s called Woodland Dreams by Karen Jameson and illustrated by Marc Boutavant. In this story, you’re saying goodnight to each of the Woodland creatures as they go to sleep. And so what it does is it pairs the, you know, basic bedtime routines of saying good night and fixing your bed and going to sleep and all these different things, but it puts it in the elements of the different Woodland creatures. And it does deal with non-fiction elements. It’s not like the board books that make all the little animals personified, more human characteristics. This one is a little more true to the animal’s actual habits and habitats. For instance, let me just read a little bit from here. This is talking about a bear. It says, “Berry picker, honey trickster, shadows deepen in the Glen. Lumber back inside your den.” The other thing I like is the poetic language that is used for each animal. For a moose. It says antlered swimmer pondweed skimmer daylights fleeting way to shore bed down in the great outdoors, just goes through all the different creatures, the deer and all of the different creatures in the Woodland and telling them goodnight. And it’s just really pretty. The illustrations are nice. The language is poetic, but it’s a little bit older book for a little bit older child and just very nicely done.

Now, when we’re talking about bedtime stories, sometimes the best bedtime story is just the story that your child is most excited about. And as we come up to Christmas, there are so many fun, comforting, special stories that we can read at bedtime. Glenys Nellist comes to mind. Again, she has Twas the Evening of Christmas, illustrated by Elena Selivanova. And this one is just beautiful. We have her Love Letters from God, and of course all her Snuggle Time books. There’s also The Night of His Birth by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Lisa Aisato. This one is a really special retelling of the birth of Jesus. It’s just got beautiful illustrations, and it would be really fun to read.

There’s The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado with Jenna, Andrea and Sarah Lucado and illustrated by Liz Bonham. And this is a beautiful fable made up, added to the Christmas story. That is about a little crippled lamb who helps keep baby Jesus warm in the manger. And it’s a really special story and would be a wonderful bedtime story, leaving some good feelings and making people feel.

Another bedtime storybook that is specifically written for bedtime, and it’s called Good Night, Sleep Tight by Tia Wren. And this book is very cute. It’s got very simple pictures and very simple sentences. A child would probably be able to read this to themselves fairly early. I like how almost stark the pictures are because they are almost pictures that a child could draw. I think that children would enjoy reading this book. It’s not as colorful as some books. It’s more muted tones, but it’s really cute.

And then I wanted to share a couple of books that I feel are a blessing to parents. One of them is called My Child. Won’t Sleep: A Quick Guide for the Sleep Deprived Parent by Sujay Kansagra, MD, who is the director at Duke pediatric neurology and sleep medicine program. And this book, the reason I like it better than some of the other books is, it doesn’t just deal with one method and one way to help a child to sleep through the night. It gives you several overviews of several different methods, several resources as well. And so it’s just a great resource in general, for parents who are dealing with this issue, it helps them to find ways and to try different ways to help a child to get the rest he needs, and to help the parent get the rest they need. And it also is broken up within years. Maybe they slept through the night as a baby, but now, they’re having anxiety as an older child, and you don’t know how to help them. Well, this book deals with up through 18 years old. It’s a great, like I said, a great resource and overview for many different methods, many different ways to establish a routine, how much sleep a child needs at every age of development and how many naps they need at every age of development. And so I really think it’s a great resource. It’s very clear. It’s easy to read, easy to understand. That way it’s not just giving you one idea, and if you don’t agree with that idea, then you’re stuck. This one has lots of different ideas and outlines each step for how to use that method. And so I really like that. It also deals with how the parent feels as a reaction to what they’ve decided to use and the method they’re trying. You know, sometimes we feel guilty. We feel frustrated because we just don’t know if it’s going to work. Or we feel bad for what’s happened. Especially if our child got really upset and wound up throwing up or something. We feel guilty then like we’re a terrible parent. And so it deals with those issues as well. So that’s really nice. This is a great resource. I think for those who are in the stage of life where they’re, whatever that stage may be, where their child is having trouble sleeping through the night.

Then another book that I just find really encouraging. And I had it years ago and it’s been reprinted. It actually came out most recently in 2000, it’s called Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World: Finding Intimacy with God in the Busyness of Life, by Joanna Weaver. And I love this book. It is so well-written, and just speaks to the heart of a woman who is busy with life and trying to juggle everything. And she says this in the beginning of the book, as Christian women, we’re not looking for more head knowledge to understand what the Bible says or to gain more theology or whatever. We want intimacy with God. And we need to find ways to sit at the feet of Jesus and still get done what we need to get done. So I think it really speaks to the heart of the busy woman, a woman who loves her job and loves her family and loves all she’s doing, but still needs that time with God and learning how to balance those issues in her life. And so this, this book is just really an answer to that. There’s also some supplements you can use with it. There’s other books that are sequels to it, but it’s just a really, really nicely written book.

I mentioned another book in one of my other episodes that is written by Carol Brazo, it’s called No Ordinary Home, and it is out of print, but you can find used copies of it. But I love, love, love this book. It helps us to bring the sacred into the ordinary of our home, and to help create those memories and traditions that have meaning for our family, that help us to draw closer to God. The ideas that she shares in this book are so meaningful, but it’s just such a good book. And so many great ideas for every time during the year, every season, every celebration, just great ways to make that more meaningful for your family, for your children.

And of course, when we’re talking about nighttime stories, bedtime stories, some of us like to do our devotionals with our family first thing in the morning at the breakfast table. And that’s awesome. But if you’re like us, we liked to pray with our kids and do a devotional time in the evening as they were growing up. And so that was our preferred time, most of the time during their years of growing up. So I mentioned some devotional books and devotional Bibles in other episodes–the ones I did with my husband early on. And you can look back at those, but just to give you some ideas, one is by Louie Giglio and it’s about science and the Bible. And it’s really neat. Some of the ones I shared were very hands-on, which would not be appropriate for bedtime, of course, but one I really liked for the younger children is the One-Year Bible’s Devotions for Preschoolers it’s Little Blessings. It’s written by Elena [inaudible] and Crystal Bowman. I really think this is well done. Let me read just a couple devotionals for you. They’re so well done and very appropriate for three to six year olds. For instance, on January 1st, it’s called “Happy Faces.” “Jack likes to play outdoors. He thinks winter is lots of fun. Jack made a great big snowman, and put a happy smile on the snowman’s face. Are you wearing a happy smile today? A smile on the outside means that you are happy on the inside. God gives us many reasons to be happy. He loves us. He cares for us, and he is our friend. God can help us be happy inside and out.” And then it has “My Bible Verse.” “A happy heart makes a face look cheerful, Proverbs 15:13” from the NIrV. And then “My Prayer” “Help me, God, to be happy today as I work and as I play.” Then January 2nd, “Practice, Practice, Practice.” “Zoe likes to learn new things. She is learning to play her violin, but sometimes it’s hard to do. Do you think she should keep practicing? If she does, she can learn to play a new song. God created us so we can learn new things. And he promises to help us. When we try, there are many things that are fun to learn, but everything takes practice. Do you want to ride a bike or hit a baseball or play the piano? You can learn to do many things. If you practice practice, practice.” And the Bible verse is “I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need. Philippians 4:13” from the New Living Translation and “My Prayer.” “When I’m learning something new, Lord, I get my strength from you.” That’s just the pattern for each day. And I just think it’s so cute. The pictures are beautiful. They’re adorable. The children will love seeing them. And I think this is just an excellent devotional for three to six year olds.

If your child is younger than three, I recommend that you just pray with them and maybe share Bible thoughts with them. I will try to post a list of some Bible thoughts, which are Bible verses that are abbreviated for the really young children. I’ll try to post that in this episode that you can download for free. Also check for the other free downloads that I’ll have on this episode as well. One of the free downloads I’m offering for this episode is a book I’ve written, and it’s not the illustrations with it. It’s just the text of the book where I’ve taken the scripture, “Be still and know that I am God” and made it, hopefully, accessible for little kids. I hope for it to be a picture book someday, but you’re free to download that and share it with your children. And, you know, let me know if you enjoy it. If it blesses, you I’ve even thought of making an adult picture book version of it too because I think it’s such a powerful thing we need to learn–to be still in God’s presence and recognize who he is, and to rest in his presence and spend time at his feet.

I’m going to end this by reading. As you know, one of my books, I really enjoy is Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd Jones and illustrated by Jago. In this book, on page 77, it’s called “Resting and Relying.” “When you were little, did someone big ever carry you? Did you rest your head on his shoulder? Lean your whole weight on him? Faith is leaning your whole weight on God, resting your head on his shoulder. Faith means resting, relying, not on who we are or what we can do or how we feel or what we know. Faith is resting in who God is and what he has done. And he has done everything. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. 1 John 4:16 from the NIV.” And of course I’m reminded of the verse that says, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy Laden, and I will give you rest.” God calls us to be restful and trusting and at peace. He is the Prince of Peace. And especially during this season of Christmas, to hold onto that peace, to rest in that joy that he gives us, and to really find time during this busyness to rest and rely on him is such a blessing–to take the time for ourselves as well as for our kids and our family to just rest, to just be still and know that he is God. What a blessing that is, and what a lesson it is to teach our children. We need to teach them to be still and know he is God and he is in control and life is in his hands. And so we can rest and we can sleep in peace each evening and each night.

Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” a podcast, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions. I hope our discussion will spark meaningful conversations with the children in your life. Please check out my website at TerrieHellardBrown.com. When you sign up for my mailing list, you receive several freebies, and joining my mailing list, you will get one to two emails typically per week–one when the podcast posts, and one when I put up a blog post. This podcast posts each Tuesday morning; a blog post usually goes up each Thursday. And right now, if you go to my blog or to the show notes for this episode, you will find a link to download the Advent Calendar listing Christmas books to read each day through December. And you’ll also find a 25 Acts of Kindness file that you can use for ideas to do COVID-friendly activities with your children, with your family. It’s a free download. Both of them are free downloads for anybody who’s interested. I tried to choose activities that are COVID friendly and safe for you and your family to do together.

I’m also doing a quick giveaway. It will be, I will draw the winner at 11:59 PST on December 20th, and I will be giving away my Spark a Conversation cards. It’s a deck of cards, 52 cards with ideas to start conversations with your children, and it can be used as a fun game night activity where you take 30 minutes to an hour to ask each other some of the questions and answer them. Some of the questions are silly, some are serious, but it’s very enlightening to hear the answers that everyone shares. The other thing that some people do is just take one question a day and then they ask that question at one of the mealtimes you have together as a family. And so that’s another way they can be used, but I’m giving away one of those decks of cards on the 20th to whomever has their name drawn. You can enter three ways. You can enter by commenting on my blog. You can enter by sharing about my blog or podcast with your friends on social media, or if you share through email or however you want to share, just let me know that you shared, and that will get you entered a second time. And then you can also comment on the social media posts that talk about this giveaway and let me know that you’ve shared there as well. And that will give you another entry into the contest. And like I said, I’ll do the drawing at midnight, 11:59 on December 20th and get those mailed out to the lucky winner on the 21st.

I hope that you and your family enjoy the books I’ve shared. I hope that you can have wonderful memories made as you make a bedtime routine and encourage your children to quiet themselves down and sleep well. Sleep is so important for our health. Every doctor, every scientist tells us that, and most of us don’t get enough rest. That’s what I pray for all of us, that we will have rest and peace and enjoy this wonderful season of joy and peace more than we ever have before, because Jesus is truly our Prince of Peace, God with Us.

Your Host:

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.

For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

Disclaimer: Although Terrie majored in psychology and sociology for her bachelor’s degree and has taught AP Psychology, she is NOT a licensed therapist. She sometimes mentions items in her blog and podcast that could be considered comments on psychology, but these comments are based on ministry experience and ministering to people through the missions and church work she’s done for the past 36 years. If you have questions about psychological disorders or counseling needs, please consider finding a reputable, licensed counselor in your area. Terrie’s comments should be seen as anecdotal and ministry-experience-related or scripture-based. Thank you!

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