Bedtime Stories

Bonding and Becoming a Child’s Best Self

To grow into their best selves, children need safety, predictability and love. To nurture their imaginations, they need stories they can engage with and adults who help them to confront their normal childhood fears. Most young children these days spend their days engaging with screens — a TV, a parent’s phone or an iPad, or a combination of all three. While today’s programming is very creative and often educational, it’s only one way of learning.

Reading books before bedtime introduces not only a relaxing routine that soothes a child into dreamland but can often also be the best way to relax a child’s mind before bedtime while also encouraging imagination. Stories found in books, as opposed to those found on screens, help children form their own images alongside those presented in illustrated storybooks, and to construct their own imagination of what the author is conveying. And if they address normal childhood fears, stories can present creative ways to master those fears.

Reading to a child is also a very beautiful way of establishing a rich bond between parent and child as they share this fantasy time together. When one counts up the minutes that parents actually interact with their children, it often turns out that they are precious few. Children who are read to consistently, night after night, come to trust that their parent takes time for them. Stories that address their fears open up the possibility for children to discuss what’s on their mind and ask questions about things that may be troubling them.

I wrote Timothy Tottle’s Terrific Dream because I wanted to convey to children that the normal fear of changing bodily size — and perhaps disappearing down the drain during bath time — is just that, only a fear. And I wanted them to learn that while their dreams feel real, they are actually only thoughts that they can control to some degree. I emphasize that while Timothy didn’t want to go to bed and slept in his own room all alone at night, his mother remained just down the hallway all night long — while he was having his wild dream adventure — and that she was still there when he awoke, so he could run to her bed, jump into her welcoming arms and tell her all about it.

In this story young Timothy learns that he can dream about disappearing down the drain — but it doesn’t actually happen — and that his dream about a fear can actually be an awful lot of fun.

Guest Parenting Editor
Anne Speckhard, PhD, is an adjunct associate professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine, as well as a child development expert, mother of three and grandmother of one. Timothy Tottle’s Terrific Dream can be found on

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