Updated: Nov 9, 2020
I've been using this amazingly soothing bedtime story to put children to sleep for at least 30 years and it has worked in some of the most difficult cases. It's my secret weapon against sleep refusal and yet it helps me and the kids I use it with feel calm and relaxed.
This story is easy to remember and easy to improvise as you go along. Another really great thing about it is that you can tell your child before you start that when you're done with your part of the story, you'll tell them how they can take over on their own and finish putting themselves to sleep if they've not yet nodded off.
You can also tell them how to use the story themselves when they wake in the night and need to go back to sleep on their own.
This is how it goes. I'm going to use my son's name, favorite toys, foods and things to do in this story but of course you'd use your own child's in your version.
Once upon a time, there was a boy named Max. Max loved ships and he had always wanted to fly so when a young butterfly entered his window late one night and asked him to go on a journey, promising to have him back safely by morning, he jumped at the chance. The butterfly had told him of a flying ship that was waiting for them just outside the window so off they went into the night sky, the butterfly, the flying ship and Max.
Max looked up at the stars and he looked at the sails on the ship. In some magic way, Max understood everything about how they worked so when the ship started losing altitude and sinking down, Max instinctively knew just what he needed to do. He climbed up high onto the ship's mast and adjusted the sails until the ship rose high in the sky again.
Three more times during the journey, the ship began to sink but each and every time, Max saved the day by climbing and adjusting the sails until the ship began to ascend or go up in the sky again.
And then they saw it! A large island came into view and the ship headed down towards it. Max could make out a lot of color on the island but he wasn't quite sure what it was yet.
When they stepped ashore, he couldn't believe his eyes!
On the island was every type of toy Max could every want to have. There were Buzz Lightyears, and cars and bulldozers and scooters and really cool balls. And the most wonderful thing about it was that everything had Max's name on it. It was all there for him!
He started to play with the toys but then decided that it might be more fun if his family and friends could join him. The butterfly read his mind and flew off on the ship to get the whole crew and bring them back to the island for Max.
When they arrived there was a huge celebration! Then they saw it! An amusement park with every ride imaginable! And the park had Max's name on it.
The whole crew played and played together and went on ride after ride with no waiting. Then when they could play no more, they walked back to the beach and saw a huge table of food with all of Max's favorites!
There was pizza, bagels, shrimp toast, tortellini, oven-baked chicken, apples, cookies, raspberries, cherry pie, lemon bars and even spaetzle! After eating as much as they could, the whole gang stretched out in the sun on beach towels and lay very still.
All they could hear were the birds chirping and the waves crashing on the shore, Ch....ch.....ch.....ch.......All they could feel was the warm sun on their skin and all they could smell were the flowers. Their eyes were closed and their bodies were still.....Ch.... ch.....ch......ch....ch.........
Now you can take over the story in your own mind. You decide where to go and what to play with next. All your friends and your family will follow you so you can truly choose what you want. Or your can choose to stay on the beach for a little while longer just listening to the sound of the waves, feeling the warmth of the sun and listening to the chirping of the birds.
Of course can fill in the story with as many of your child's favorites as you like to make it their own. You can tell it over and over again with variations.
Here's one more really cool thing about this story. You can use it to put yourself to sleep too! Fill in all of your own favorite things to do, see, smell and experience. Kind of like a "safe place" but a lot more fun!
Nanci J. Bradley is a child and family
educator, author, energy facilitator, family aerobics instructor and all-around fun-loving person. She believes in the power of sleep, lifelong learning, healthy eating, fun, and more than anything else, PLAY! She studied early childhood education at Triton College and received her BA in education from Northern Illinois University in 1986. She received her MA in human development from Pacific Oaks College in 2011. She lives and teaches in Madison, WI.