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Once Upon a (Bed) Time


The perfect bedtime story lasts eight-and-a-half minutes, includes a dragon, a princess, a wizard and a fairy

1,000 children give stressed-out parents a helping hand by creating the perfect bedtime story to get children to sleep

• On average parents spend a week a year trying to get children off to the land of nod
• A fifth of parents (19 per cent) say ‘back to school’ is the hardest time of year to get children to go to sleep
• Over half of parents rely on bedtime stories to get their little one to drift off
• But one in ten worry that they are not good enough at reading to their child, which impacts on their bedtime routine
• So Butlin’s have turned to the ultimate storytellers – children themselves – to come up with the elements needed for the perfect bedtime story
• Results show the ideal length for the perfect bedtime story should be 8.6 minutes
• And children lean towards fantasy – but prefer a friendship to a love story
UK parent’s stress levels are currently on the rise as new research shows August-September is the most difficult time of year for parents to get their children to drift off to sleep. The struggles stem from the need to get children back into a bedtime routine after the summer break from school, longer days and plenty of ‘staying up past bedtime’.

New research by Butlin’s of over 2,000 parents and children – ahead of its Just for Tots breaks for the remainder of 2015 – reveals that parents spend on average a week per year getting their children to nod off, trying everything from white noise machines to relaxation techniques to make bedtimes easier.

But the main go-to is an old favourite – the bedtime story, with over half (51 per cent) of parents relying on storytime to take their children to the land of nod. However bedtime stories bring their own stresses, with one in ten (eight per cent) parents worrying they are not good enough at reading to their child and one in 20 (five per cent) worrying their child gets bored.

This could be why one in eight parents (12 per cent) identify their child’s bedtime as the most stressful part of their day but at the same time feel guilty (36 per cent) if they don’t read to their little one.

So to give parents a helping hand, Butlin’s turned to the true bedtime critics – children themselves – to perfect the elements needed for the perfect bedtime story.

The Perfect Bedtime Story
Length: 8.6 minutes
The cast: A dragon, a princess, a wizard and a fairy
The setting: A castle
The story includes: A friendship, a scary moment where the hero is in danger, followed by a fight where the hero wins over a baddie, all leading to a happy ending
The hero carries: A magic wand and a mobile phone

Over 1,000 children co-wrote the story, which highly favours fantasy and traditional elements such as a dragon, magic and a castle. However children are shunning the expected love story, preferring a buddy adventure to romantic scenes.

However some suggestions were definitely less than traditional, with some children wanting the hero to carry a Light Saber, an Xbox One and even Dr Who’s classic Sonic Screwdriver.

One respondent wanted the action to take place on the Top Gear racetrack while another was adamant the story should follow the adventures of Lionel Messi.

The research also revealed that it’s not just the length and content of a story that’s important – it’s the delivery. Overhalf (56 per cent) of children surveyed thought the most entertaining story is one where the storyteller assumes different voices for each character while a quarter (25 per cent) demand a more immersive experience and expect the story to be acted out for them.

So Butlin’s has created the perfect storytelling pack for parents to take the stress out of bedtime, containing all the characters and setting needed for the story.

As almost one in ten parents (eight per cent) want help to tell the bedtime story more effectively, Butlin’s has also brought on board storytelling expert Alex Charalambous to create a guide as to how to tell the eight-minute episode in the perfect way to lull children to sleep.

Starting off brisk, using short snappy words to build to the dramatic moment two-thirds of the way through the story, then changing timbre and rhythm to slow down towards the end, parents can be sure their little one will be on the way to their REM cycles (see full guide below*).

And as one of the most trying times to get children to sleep is on holiday, Butlin’s has made the storytelling packs available to hire on resort throughout the Just for Tots breaks to ensure both parents and children have a relaxing break – as over half (54 per cent) of parents say that reading with their child is their favourite time to bond.

In fact a quarter of parents (27 per cent) even read to their child via phone or Skype when away from them to ensure they still have that important time together.

Alex Charalambous commented: “As your child prepares to go back to school after the holidays, it’s a good idea to establish a steady bedtime routine that includes reading a story. As the research shows, the familiarity of a classic tale draws children in and the happy ending makes for a pleasant night’s sleep.
“Story boxes are a great way to tell a story. Story boxes can be a shoebox placed on its side and decorated as a setting e.g., the woods or a seaside scene. You can use finger puppets or characters stuck on lollysticks for your characters. This allows you much more freedom to take the story in whichever direction you wish.”

Dermot King, Butlin’s managing director, added: “With our dedicated Just for Tots breaks we already aim to cater for the under-fives in every way possible, whilst ensuring parents can spend as much time with their children without any added stresses.

“To make sure bedtime is as much of an event as the rest of the day, we’re lending out these clever story boxes on resort, giving parents the tools to engage their little ones fully at bedtime, and ensure they nod off in preparation for another action filled day.”

To vote for what your family thinks are the best bedtime story ingredients, follow @Butlins or go towww.facebook.com/Butlins.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

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Brian Everall

Editor at large, SalfordOnline.com