Research says that children who’ve been read to at bedtime do well at school, in other words, they learn better than those who don’t.
But there’s an even greater benefit in having a bedtime routine than just academic achievements. It is the perfect time to impart Islam through storytelling. When you set up a bedtime routine, children are eager to get ready for bed because they’re eager for the story.
The Bedtime Routine
During the day, I’ve read all types of books to my children but at night time, just before they go to sleep, I’d read Islamic stories: stories of Prophets and sahabahs, about Allah and His creations, adventure stories with Muslim characters and moral dilemmas. We’d discuss the dilemma, the solutions, the moral of the story, the lessons to learn.
After this, I’d like to add a gratitude practice where we each find and say something we’re grateful to Allah for.
We’d then finish off with the night time surahs and duas for bed (the 3 Quls, ayatul Kursi, sleep dua etc).
Finally, we’d end with a kiss, hug, an “I love you” and a salam.
This was something that my children looked forward to every night when they were little, up until high school. It was quality time well spent. Alhamdulillah. (Read the details of each step here.)
Schedule in the Bedtime Routine
When children are young (about 2 years old), allow 15 minutes for this bedtime routine. As children grow, the time will be progressively longer as the story and discussion will be longer. Allow for about 30 minutes for older children.
This means that if children's bedtime is 7pm then start to get ready by going to the bathroom at 6:30pm. Allow for 1/2 an hour earlier to begin.
Stories to Read
When children are young (2 years old), board books with simple concepts such as "Allah made this" are short and easy to read. Just point to the pictures and read.
Preschoolers can begin to understand a simple story. Try the prophet's stories that contain animals such as Prophet Yunus (whale), Prophet Saleh (camel), Prophet Nuh (pairs of animals), Prophet Muhammad's camel, even stories from the Quran (the man with the Garden) or from hadith (the man and the dog). These stories are told simply and have pictures of the animals or garden that children can see.
School age children (6-9 years) can listen longer so any of the Islamic story books and more detailed stories of the Prophets and Sahabahs are great to read now.
Pre-adolescents (10-12 years) can be read longer books that contain chapters. You can split up the book and read a chapter a night.
The important thing is to have a discussion of the story and what it means.
It's never too late to start a bedtime routine with your children. Start today!