Night-Night, Sleep Tight; How Grandmas Do Bedtime


My grandma used the “wear them out” strategy. She let us stay up late, past the 11 0’clock news, to watch the horse races. Airborne Pickle, Any Luck, Atomic Donut. We knew nothing about horses, betting solely by names, with a stash of pennies she had given us. Bacon Jack, Bali Who, Bungee Bottom. We piled on the couch with licorice treats and drinks on coasters, and could hardly settle down for the gate. Cadilackey, Cash Cow, Cranky Petunia. At the finish, we’d be jumping up and down, hollering at the TV, and reluctantly surrendering pennies. We had to quit at midnight because of neighbors downstairs.


Changes in time zones, changes in routine and surroundings, missing mom and dad, and our own exhaustion from a “Grand” energy-filled day can make settling down to sleep an extra challenge when it is your turn to get Grandkids to bed. There is some opportunity to establish your own routine since you, obviously, are not mom and dad. And, have courage - you’ve had a lot of practice (even if it has been a few years!).

Today’s Mommy blogs expound on bedtimes struggles, and with good reason in their busy lives, but the kids will respond to you differently than they do their parents. Have a plan, even for that extra drink of water request. Is there a song you sang to their dad? A story about him that only you could tell? A funny joke for one last giggle? Even with all of that, I tend to be short and sweet about bedtime – the child gets to pick a book, and Grandma does too.


Here is a “Reader’s Dozen” of outstanding bedtime books for young Grands, chosen by Children's Literature professionals. This is a list of old and new – a few you might remember reading to your own kids. Check your library if some titles are no longer easily available for purchase – you’ll want to try out any secret recipe for sleep.

GC Bedtime House in the Night.jpg

The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, illus. Beth Krommes. Artful simplicity, wisdom, and quiet tone demonstrate the interconnected beauty and order of the world that is so necessary in soothing a child. Amazon  IndieBound

GC bedtime Dallas Titans.jpg


The Dallas Titans Get Ready for Bed by Karla Kuskin, illus. Marc Simont. A hilarious look at locker-room and at-home winding-down routines and antics of a grown-up team of football players after an exciting game. Amazon

GC bedtime Bedtime for Frances.jpg


Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban, illus. Garth Williams. This beguiling little badger adroitly delays her bedtime with requests for kisses and milk, and concerns over tigers and giants and things going bump in the night. Amazon  IndieBound


GC bedtime Nighttime Ninja.jpg

Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta, illus. Ed Young. It's midnight and a ninja is sneaking through a silent house, creeping closer and closer, when suddenly "the lights flash on!" In an unexpectedly humorous twist, the ninja turns out to be a little boy caught by his mother in his attempt to raid the kitchen. Amazon  IndieBound

GC bedtime Henry and Mudge.jpg


Henry and Mudge and the Bedtime Thumps by Cynthia Rylant, illus. Sucie Stevenson. Henry and Mudge (his charming dog) spend a scary night at Henry's grandmother's house in the country. One of a favorite read aloud series. Amazon  IndieBound


GC bedtime The Sun's alseep behind the hill.jpg

The Sun’s Asleep Behind the Hill by Mirra Ginsburg, illus. Paul Zelinsky. Beautiful in both text and illustration; a favorite for generations. When the sun goes down for the night, all the creatures in the natural world know it's time to rest. Amazon 

GC bedtime Winter is the Warmest season.jpg

Winter is the Warmest Season by Lauren Stringer. Roaring fires, a grilled cheese sandwich, hot bath, toasty pajamas, and a festive candlelight party before bed can’t get any cozier. Amazon  IndieBound

GC bedtime All the World.jpg

All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illus. Marla Frazee. This book affirms the importance of all things great and small in our world, from the tiniest shell on the beach, to the warmth of family connections, to the widest sunset sky. Amazon  IndieBound

GC bedtime At Night.jpg

At Night by Jonathan Bean. A sleepless city girl feels a breeze blow in through her open window on a hot summer night and follows it up to the roof with pillows, blanket, and the family cat. Mom is right behind for a campout under wide-open skies. Amazon

GC bedtime No Go Sleep.jpg


No Go Sleep by Kate Feiffer, illus. Jules Feiffer. A modern FOMO baby gets reassurance that the world will be waiting to play again when he wakes up. Amazon  IndieBound


GC bedtime Interrupting Chicken.jpg

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein. When her bedtime story is HANSEL AND GRETEL, or LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD, or even CHICKEN LITTLE, little red chicken jumps in to save its hapless characters from doing some dangerous or silly thing. Now it’s the little red chicken’s turn to tell a story, but will her yawning papa make it to the end without his own kind of interrupting? Amazon  IndieBound

GC bedtime Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site.jpg

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illus. Tom Lichtenheld. This one might already be on the shelf, but if not - as the sun sets, all the hardworking trucks get ready to say goodnight. One by one, Crane Truck, Cement Mixer, Dump Truck, Bulldozer, and Excavator finish their work and lie down to rest—so they'll be ready for another day of rough and tough construction play! Amazon  IndieBound

Grandfather twilight.jpg

Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Helen Berger. When day is gone, and shadows begin to deepen, Grandfather Twilight closes his book, puts on his jacket, and goes for a walk through the forest. Little birds hush, and rabbits and other small creatures watch in silence as he performs his very special evening task. Serenity for a new generation. Amazon  IndieBound

There are more, of course (How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight,…), but if we keep going, no one is ever going to get to sleep. Pop your favorites into the comments. If none of these work, find a horse race on the internet and get out the penny jar - Zoo Butter, Zodiac Princess, Zanzibar, zzzzzzzzzzzzzz... We just switched Grace to a big girl bed – Oye!

-These books are also available on our handy GrandyCamp Amazon Shopping List. IndieBound links supplied when available. If you purchase through our links, a small amount may come back to support GrandyCamp – Yay!

by Karen Ritz, creator of – website and social for active, busy grandparents, B.S. Children’s Literature and Illustration, University of Minnesota, illustrator of 46 children’s books, and “Gumma” to Jack and Grace.

Dr. Lee Galda, Marguerite Henry Professor of Children’s & Young Adult Literature, Emerita, University of Minnesota, co-editor of Literature and the Child, now in its 9th edition, and “Readie” to Bennett and Odessa.

Dr. Rebecca Rapport, retired Children’s Literature Professor, University of Minnesota, former editor of New Books for Young Readers, and practicing with many Grand Nieces and Nephews.