Kids are often tough to get to sleep. It’s hard to get children to relax and unwind. Their days can be so fun, their minds are learning and imagining so much that it is often difficult to change their mindset and turn it off. I have compiled a great list of ways to get kids to sleep in a natural and healthy way.
The Night’s Biggest Chore: Get Kids To Sleep
My children have never been amazing sleepers. My oldest has fought sleep since she was a baby. Wanting to stay up, not wanting to stay in bed. Late nights, early mornings, and “parties” at night.
My second is much better at knowing when to call it quits… MOST days. Regulating her sleep schedule as an infant worked wonders. Breastfeeding and bouncing on an exercise ball are her happy and calm place, and the best tricks to guide her gently back to sleep.
7 Years As a Sleepless Mom Has Taught Me A Lot
Some mothers are blessed with babies who sleep through the night in the first year. I’m not. Not even close. Somewhere between 2 and 5 my kids seems to finally have the ability to sleep deep. No joke… I said 5.
But what better way to gain skills and knowledge about helping a child to rest?
To calm down and find that mental peace.
I tout these tips to be for children but many that are for the older child are equally effective for adults! Come to think of it:
I’m going to add in an adult resting tips section at the end of this post. I have JUST as much trouble winding down at night as my children. The fact that I blog until 2 and wake in the morning to homeschool should be proof enough of that!
Sleep Tips Broken Down By Age
- A schedule is imperative. Check out how often your child should be napping according to their age and attempt to aim for creating that. I had to track my daughter’s tired times and naps for two weeks when she shifted to 3 naps to get her onto HER own best schedule.
- Make a bedtime that suits your child and family. My infant has been a night owl since day 1. All the other moms had their kids in bed by 7. My baby’s bedtime was 9. It worked best for her and for the family. Whatever works well for your household try to hold pretty steady to it in the early days.
- Have a bedtime routine. A warm bath, a story, a movie and snuggle, breastmilk or formula, and a darkening atmosphere work well to get kids to sleep.
- Play music or white noise. I played over 300 hours of Pandora lullaby music in the first 6 months. I also had a couple different white noise apps on my phone that would play daily as well. Thunderstorms were our magic sound to attain rest.
- Make sure the nap happens by a certain time. The time varies for each child. But by this age they are usually down to one nap. It needs to happen at least 5 hours before bedtime.
- Have a calming drink. It can be breastmilk if you breastfeed past one year. OR warm milk with honey and dash of cinnamon works well too. Some toddlers even enjoy tea. Just be sure all the ingredients are safe for such a young age.
- Take a warm bath. Our baths are often very lively. With creative play and bath paints. However the warm water and routine really help get kids to sleep after.
- Read together. If your child can sit still: interactive reading is a bonding and relaxing activity.
- Dim the lights. No one wants to go to sleep when the house is well lit. Incorporate a nightlight, Christmas lights (which are ever-present nightlights in our home) or candles at a safe distance.
- Reflect on the day together. When sitting in a calm environment, recapping the days’ activities and it’s highlights can be very relaxing.
- Yoga. By this age children are quite able to participate in simple yoga moves and deep breathing exercises.
- Watch a favorite film. We have specific bedtime movies allowed at our house. The old time favorites that are well memorized seem to be the only movies with a calming effect.
School Aged Kid/Teen:
- Enjoy a nighttime drink. Warm milk (even cold milk for mine), teas, and cocoa from scratch can work wonders to get kids to sleep.
- Yoga. On nights when the wiggles are still present at bedtime a calming yoga routine is perfect. Guide your child in breathing while they complete the cat to cow pose; ragdoll to down dog; upward dog; and corpse pose.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. For nights when your child CANNOT sleep it can be relaxing to have them focus on their body and where it’s tension lies. (Detailed directions found later in post.)
- Guided Meditation. Turn on some white noise or calming music. (There are wonderful free apps for both.) Guide your child in a relaxing journey through their mind. (Detailed directions found later in post.)
- Enjoy a relaxing nighttime drink. A “nightcap” or warm milk or almond milk, teas, and cocoa from scratch are perfect choices.
- Yoga. When your mind just won’t stop, the list of things to do seems endless, or excitement has you wired a good yoga routine can help solve those problems. I adore Boho Beautiful’s YouTube channel and Julianna has wonderful simple yoga routines to aid in stress and anxiety relief, and aiding in deep sleep and relaxation. My favorite 3 for any amount of time you have are as follows:
- Progressive muscle relaxation. For nights when you have a lot of tension in your body and mind this is a perfect thing to practice in bed. (Full instructions found later in the post.)
- Guided Meditation. You can either find guided meditation practices on YouTube or you can learn to do it for yourself! (Detailed instructions found later in post.)
- Make lists. Some of us (myself included) have overactive minds. There are always so many things that need to be done. If you dwell on these before bed, create a list. Things you need to do tomorrow. Things you hope to achieve this month. Once the thoughts and goals are put onto paper your mind can finally release them for the night.
How to do Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a fancy term for relaxing all of the muscles in your body through a two step process. The process includes tightening and mindfully releasing certain muscles. Begin the exercise (for yourself and/or your child) by first finding a comfortable position in bed. Then proceed to do a mental body scan. Find the places in your body harboring tension. When helping a young child to learn this process it is helpful to give them a massage during the body scan and point out where you find tight muscles.
Begin at the neck, and work your way downward. Tightening each muscle as much as you can during a deep breath in. Upon exhale you imagine all of the tension leaving, while letting the muscle relax fully and become heavy. It may take one breath or many.
Continue downward through the body until even the feet and toes are relaxed. If you or your child are still awake or moving about at this point focus on relaxing the face.
In attempting to gain sleep and relaxation, we often overlook the amount of tension held within the face. Furrowed brows, tight lips, and clenched jaws. For children it is very important to do this step last because it can feel funny and evoke laughter if they are not already relaxed.
Once the exercise is complete continue deep breathing and focus on the heaviness of your relaxed and tired body.
How to do Guided Meditation
Guided meditation is a way of relaxing through guiding your mind and body through a pleasant and relaxing experience. It is our last resort for sleepless nights for my daughter as I am the guide (and usually tired as heck myself at that point.)
You can find guided relaxation to listen to on YouTube and follow their instructions to relax if you wish. I will also explain our exact routine that leads to sleep every single time.
Begin by taking 10 deep breaths in this manner:
7 seconds in, hold for two, 8 seconds out, hold for 1. This breathing pattern will slow down your heartrate and often cause you to yawn. For younger it’s best described: “Breath in as slowly as you can, hold your breath for a second, breath out as slowly as you can, hold it for a second, then do it again 10 times.”
Then think of a place that you love, A place that makes you feel happy and relaxed. Where do you want to go? (For my daughter it is ALWAYS the beach. She’s from Oceanside, CA and relocated to the Pacific Northwest. I love that she shares my happy place.)
Imagine the day of taking a trip to this place. Focus on each of the senses as much as possible. In our example: the smell of packing the lunches, the bouncing of the car, the sights you see on the drive, the smell as you approach the ocean, the breeze on your face, the cool water on your legs, your toes in the sand, and the sound of the seagulls overhead.
Take Your Time.
Experience every sensation and moment as if it were really happening.
If you or your child are still awake at this point it is time to take your relaxation to the next level. Imagine taking a nap in your calm happy environment. Breathing deeply and focusing each of your senses on the experience around you.
Allow each body part to relax and become heavy as you wriggle it into it’s final resting place for the night.
A good night’s sleep is a building block to a great day.
Parents, children, and singles alike struggle with falling and staying asleep every day. I honestly have not mastered the ‘staying asleep’ for myself or my toddler yet. However I’ve spent the past 15 years focusing on learning healthy ways to fall asleep!
I hope you found this post helpful. I hope more mothers find more rest. It would be so encouraging to know I assisted any exhausted child or adult today. I hope I helped you get kids to sleep!
Please comment below and let me know what your favorite tips was. I’d love to hear about your sleep struggles, you’re not alone! In fact, far from it.
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