If you ask me, putting some hyperactive and ‘sleepy’ kids to sleep is one of the most difficult tasks of parenting. It seems like kids never want to sleep no matter how sleepy and tired they are.
If you have kids like mine who try to postpone bedtime as much as possible, welcome to the club:)
But don’t worry! With the help of these calming bedtime routines and activities, you can develop anticipation in kids for bedtime and thus make your job easier.
They will look forward to these relaxing activities before bedtime because these activities will help them relax and destress.
These bedtime activities are suitable for kids of ages ranging from toddlers, preschoolers, and even tweens. My tween still likes a bedtime story, so I don’t think there is an age limit to it.
It’s important to note that every child is different, and what works for one may not work for another. Be open to experimenting with various calming bedtime activities until you find the ones that suit your child’s needs and preferences best.
The Importance of Bedtime Routines
Establishing a consistent bedtime routine is essential for your child’s overall well-being.
A good bedtime routine can improve sleep quality, boost cognitive, emotional, and language development, and foster prosocial behavior.
One key aspect of a bedtime routine is relaxation techniques, which help children wind down from their day and prepare for a rejuvenating night’s sleep.
How to Create a Calming Bedtime Routine for Kids?
You can create a relaxing bedtime routine in 4 steps:
- Choose a good time to wind down by allowing 30-60 minutes for calm-down activities
- Create a soothing bedtime environment
- Add your choice of calming activities
- Maintain consistency and make the above steps a habit
If you want to read more about how to create a smooth and healthy bedtime routine step-by-step, read this post. And come back to this post for ideas on calming bedtime activities.
62 Calming Bedtime Activities for Kids
Before getting the kids ready for bedtime, make sure you have created a soothing environment to do these activities. Because it’s hard for anyone to wind down in a noisy and chaotic environment.
So make sure there are no loud noises from the TV or there are older siblings making noise outside the room.
Now, here is a list of calming bedtime activities to help your kids wind down.
Relaxing Bedtime Routines
The following include some of the common bedtime routines we all do and some you can think of adding to. These activities will help kids to transition into bedtime smoothly while helping them relax.
1. Take a warm bath: A soothing bath can relax muscles and calm the mind. To make it also a fun activity, get some bath toys and let your kids play for some time with you.
Make sure you accommodate time for play as well. When it’s also playtime with water, no kiddo will resist bedtime!
2. Brush Teeth: Establish a teeth-cleaning routine. If you have other kids, let everyone brush together including mommy or daddy, and let it be a family event.
Kids value family time so much and it doesn’t matter what activity it is as long as it’s a fun activity.
3. Change into comfy pajamas: Comfy pajamas, typically made from soft and breathable materials, feel good against the skin. The physical comfort helps kids relax and settle down before bedtime. This sensory comfort is especially important for children with sensory processing challenges.
4. Read a book: Engaging in a calm, soothing story before bedtime can help your child relax and reduce the stress of the day, making it easier for them to fall asleep. For a change, if it’s a story you have read to them before, let them look at the pictures and read it to you.
5. Singing lullabies or playing soft music: Soft, gentle sounds and rhythms provide a reassuring and calming background noise that helps children drift off to sleep. Creating a playlist of relaxing music to play before bedtime can be handy.
6. Massage or cuddling: Physical contact, such as a gentle massage or cuddling, releases oxytocin, a hormone that can help reduce stress and create a sense of security. Kids often complain about body pain after a day of play.
Many kids can get growing pains too. A gentle back or foot massage can help them relax and calm down and relieve pain before bedtime.
7. Deep breathing exercises: Practice deep breaths to calm the body. If you teach them simple breathing techniques, it can help them throughout their lives to deal with mental and emotional release, as breathwork is a crucial aspect of nervous system regulation. So consider it a must-learn skill you pass on to your child.
8. Meditation: Try child-friendly guided meditations. Teaching kids simple mindfulness and meditation techniques can aid in calming the mind and easing stress. Engage in short meditation sessions before bedtime to help them wind down from their day.
9. Do Stretching: Gentle stretching helps release tension. And it’s also beneficial for improving flexibility.
10. Do Yoga: Simple bedtime yoga poses can relax the body
By incorporating these relaxation techniques into your child’s bedtime routine, you support their emotional and mental well-being, ensuring they have the rest they need to learn, grow, and thrive.
Mindful activities for kids before bed
Now, here are some bedtime activities that promote mindfulness in kids.
You can add one activity per day to their bedtime routine and have fun with it each day. Mindful activities calm their minds and help to focus on the present moment.
Many kids feel tired after a long day of school and have stress about the upcoming day. Thus they find it difficult to settle down and sleep.
These mindful activities will help them to deal with that stress and anxiety and calm their minds down.
11. Mindful Coloring: Most kids love to color. So get them a coloring book or print some coloring pages and let them color quietly before bed.
12. Journaling: Encourage them to write down the spiraling thoughts they might be having. It helps to bring whatever they have in their head to paper thus releasing the pressure in the process.
Journaling is proven to have many benefits for mental health. For kids as young as toddlers, they can draw their thoughts or choose to doodle. It helps to release all the pent-up emotions they might have.
13. Stargaze: Stargazing through your window is a fantastic activity to do before bed. Using the stargazing apps, your kids and you can learn about all the constellations and planets.
It’s a fun activity to do with kids and it’s soothing as well. When you look at the majestic universe, you seem like a tiny dot on the planet and it helps you to realize sometimes how much we exaggerate our problems when they appear tiny and easy compared to the universe’s complexity.
14. Nature sounds: Listen to calming nature sounds. YouTube has plenty of such videos. You can play it in the background while they get ready for bed. These sounds are amazing to calm down. My favorites are the sounds of the forest and the waves.
15. Count stars in the sky: When you do stargazing, encourage your kids to find the number of stars they can find. Counting stars encourages kids, especially smaller ones, to observe their surroundings closely.
They learn to focus their attention and develop observational skills as they identify and count individual stars or constellations.
Stargazing engages multiple senses. Kids can feel the cool night air, see the stars’ twinkling lights, and hear the sounds of the night. These sensory experiences can be both calming and enriching.
16. Guided visualization: Imagine peaceful places. Guided visualization helps children shift their focus away from any worries or anxieties they may have. Guiding them to imagine a serene and safe place distracts their minds from troubling thoughts.
17. Do progressive relaxation activities: Such activities help children release physical tension, promoting a sense of physical and mental relaxation, and making it easier to fall asleep. This technique can improve sleep quality, reduce anxiety, and enhance overall well-being by training kids to recognize and release bodily stress.
18. Practice doing nothing: This is my absolute favorite to do as an adult.
Do you know why?
It has become absolutely hard to stay still for a moment or spend time doing nothing. We all crave that quick dopamine-releasing activity as soon as we get a hot minute free.
Since kids will live increasingly distracted lives with technology advancement, it’s helpful to practice doing nothing for at least 10 minutes a day. During this time, ask them to do nothing and just stay with their thoughts. And let the mind wander if it wants to.
Who knows? Due to lack of stimulation, they might even end up sleeping doing this.
19. Give a one-minute hug: Too busy to hug during the day? Spend one minute every night hugging your child. And not talk.
Just relax and focus on the feeling. I bet you that you both will instantly feel better and calmer and may even release some tears. It’s the magic of oxytocin!
You can ask them to say the things they are grateful for every day. It can be just one thing or 3 things. This has been a lot helpful for my kids to focus on the positives for the day even when they have had many bad things in the day.
21. Use calming sensory activities: Engaging your child in sensory activities such as playing with calm-down jars filled with glitter and water can have a soothing effect. Shaking the jar and watching the glitter float down can help your child refocus and relax before bed.
Quiet play activities to calm down before bed
Playing brain games or other quiet activities helps kids to relax and wind down before sleep.
Quiet play games, such as puzzles or board games, are typically less stimulating than active play and help to transition from wakefulness to sleep.
These games encourage children to concentrate and pay attention to the task at hand. This mental focus can help redirect their thoughts away from worries or anxieties, promoting relaxation.
Playing games also paves the way for a screen-free time before bed, which is important to stop exposure to blue light from the devices and induce the production of the sleep hormone.
So here are some quiet play activities that will help kids to relax.
22. Blow bubbles: If you can get outside for some time before doing the bedtime rituals to play by blowing bubbles, your kids will love it.
Not only is playing with bubbles fun, but soothing as well. It helps to control breathing and this deep breathing can help oxygenate their blood and improve circulation.
23. Play with puzzles: Completing a puzzle can provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, which can be a positive emotional experience that helps kids feel good about themselves and their abilities.
This can help promote a positive mood and a sense of calm that can help get a good night’s sleep.
24. Quiet board games: Playing games like Scrabble or Blokus before bed can help them take their worries away and spend quality time with family.
25. Lacing cards: Younger kids can play lacing cards. The repetitive motion of lacing cards can be soothing and meditative inducing calmness.
26. Build with blocks: Building with blocks is another quiet activity that can help kids direct their energy before sleep.
27. Do some quiet art: Painting a picture or a simple craft.
Art provides a nonverbal means for children to express their emotions and thoughts. By creating art, children can externalize their feelings, which can be particularly helpful for those who may have difficulty expressing themselves verbally.
This emotional release can help alleviate tension and lead to more peaceful sleep.
28. Play shadow puppets: We all loved making shadow puppets as a kid, didn’t we?
It’s interesting to see what different shapes we can invent by playing this. Engaging in shadow puppetry with a parent can strengthen the parent-child bond.
This shared activity can make children feel loved, secure, and connected, which contributes to a sense of safety and comfort that can make it easier for them to fall asleep.
29. Build with LEGO: The process of assembling and organizing LEGO bricks promotes a sense of order and control, reducing anxiety and creating a peaceful mindset.
30. Origami: Do simple folds with Origami. Engaging in creative activities like Origami has been shown to reduce stress. It can serve as a meditative process that eases a child’s mind off the problems of the day.
31. Playdough: Kneading and shaping the dough can serve as a form of mindfulness, focusing their attention on the present moment and diverting their thoughts away from the day’s worries.
Ideas for Relaxing bedtime rituals for kids
Rituals are our absolute favorite. Rituals help to build consistency in our habits and give us something for kids to look forward to every day. And it helps us to make time for family bonding no matter how busy we are.
32. Bedtime snack: Offer your child a light, healthy snack before bedtime, such as a small serving of cherries, almonds, or whole-grain crackers, which contain nutrients that promote sleep.
33. Hydrate: Give a small sip of water to avoid feeling thirsty after lying down.
34. Cuddle time: Have a lovey-dovey cuddle time with a stuffed animal. Or even better, with mommy or daddy.
Cuddling can be a way for kids to connect with their parents and feel a sense of closeness and intimacy. This can be especially important for kids who may be feeling anxious or stressed, as it can help them feel supported and comforted.
35. Goodnight kisses: Give goodnight kisses to everyone in the family before sleep.
36. Talk about the day: Ask them to share the highs and lows of the day. Nighttime is when people in general open up more and thus you can learn more about their feelings and the vulnerabilities they face.
37. Bedtime Prayer: If you follow a faith, let kids offer a bedtime prayer. Or else just ask them to wish for the goodwill of their family, friends, and people in the world.
39. Aromatherapy: Incorporate essential oils with calming properties, such as lavender or chamomile, into your child’s bedtime routine. Ensure proper usage and safety precautions are taken when using these oils.
40. Stop screens: Stop the usage of screens at least an hour before bedtime, so that the blue light interference can be avoided.
41. Get the backpacks ready: If you have school-going kids, make this a habit, as this will help them to sleep with a relaxed mind as everything is set for the next day.
42. Compliment Exchange: Take turns giving each other compliments before turning off the lights. We give so much focus on correction and criticism – even if it is constructive – it can sometimes dampen their spirits and dull their self-impression. So make this a ritual to exchange a good word about them or what they did that day that made you proud.
Fun chit-chat sessions to connect
The daytime can get pretty busy with the parents working and kids going to school. This can significantly reduce the chances of getting the time to truly talk and connect.
Hence, having a chit-chat session every night or alternative nights (you might not get time for all the rituals every night) can help initiate conversations that are fun and memorable.
So, introducing this session to your kids’ bedtime routine by announcing that ‘Mommy is available for talking and you can say anything you want’, will make kids excited.
They will be much happier and will sleep relaxed cos they feel heard, seen, and loved.
Here are some ideas to get some good conversations rolling.
43. Bucket list talk: Discuss what’s on each family member’s “bucket list” or list of things they want to do in their lifetime. Here are some ideas to get some good conversations rolling.
44. Would You Rather: Take turns asking “Would you rather” questions. For example, “Would you rather have the ability to fly or be invisible?”
45. Storytelling: Collaboratively create a bedtime story. Each person adds a sentence or two, building a unique tale each night.
46. 20 Questions: Think of an object, and the others have 20 yes-or-no questions to guess what it is. It’s a fun and interactive way to connect.
48. Favorites Game: Share your favorite thing of the day, whether it’s a food, activity, or moment. It helps you learn more about each other’s preferences.
49. Ask “What If” Questions: Pose imaginative “What if” questions, like “What if you could travel in time?” This sparks creative thinking.
50. Three Wishes: Each person shares three wishes they have, whether they’re big dreams or simple desires.
51. Travel Dreams: Share where you’d love to travel someday and ask your kids where they’d like to visit.
52. Family History: Talk about family history, stories, and traditions. Share anecdotes about your childhood.
53. Book Club: Start a mini family book club and discuss the book you’re currently reading together.
54. Life Lessons: Share valuable life lessons or advice with your children. Ask them if they have any questions about life or values.
55. Future Aspirations: Discuss what your children aspire to be when they grow up, and how they plan to achieve their goals.
56. Fun Facts: Share interesting and fun facts about various topics, from nature to space, and encourage your kids to do the same.
57. Daily Superpower: Ask each family member what superpower they’d want for just one day and how they’d use it.
58. Family Favorites: Share each family member’s favorite family activity or tradition, and discuss why it’s special to them.
59. Kindness Stories: Share stories of kindness and generosity you’ve witnessed or experienced, and encourage your children to share their own stories of kindness.
60. Heroes and Role Models: Ask your children about their heroes and role models. Explore why they admire them and what qualities they find inspiring.
61. Fun Facts About You: Share interesting and lesser-known facts about yourself, sparking curiosity and understanding between you and your kids.
62. “I Love You” in Different Languages: Teach your child to say “I love you” in various languages, adding an international twist to bedtime.
Tip: Create a Bedtime Routine Chart to Stay Consistent
A bedtime routine chart can be a helpful and engaging way to get your child ready for sleep. By implementing a visual representation of their routine, you can ensure they understand what is expected of them and make it easier for them to follow each step.
When creating your child’s bedtime routine chart, consistency is key.
Each step must be completed in the same order every night. The routine can typically consist of three to four activities,
Start by writing down the sequence of steps your child should follow before bedtime. This could simply be a list on a piece of paper, or you can use a more elaborate design on your computer. When your child sees the list and understands the routine, they will be more likely to follow it willingly.
On the chart, include images or drawings that visually represent each step of the routine. This can be especially helpful for younger children who might not be able to read yet. Make sure the images are clear, colorful, and appealing to your child to capture their interest.
To further engage your child in the bedtime routine, consider adding a reward system based on their progress. For example, you could place a small sticker on their chart for each step they complete successfully. This can provide them with a sense of accomplishment and encourage them to adhere to the routine consistently.
Incorporating calming bedtime activities into your child’s routine can significantly improve their sleep quality and overall well-being. Establishing consistent bedtime habits can help ease your child’s transition to sleep and even foster their development.
Physical touch is also crucial in a bedtime routine. Gentle massages, cuddles, or rocking can provide comfort and relaxation for your child. Remember, consistency is key. Stick to the same activities and sequence each night, so your child becomes familiar with the routine and associates it with bedtime.
As a final tip, before starting the bedtime routine, dim the lights and turn off screens to create a calming environment in your home. These simple changes can help facilitate a smooth transition to sleep for your little one.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I make bedtime enjoyable for my child?
To make bedtime enjoyable for your child, create a consistent routine that includes calming activities they enjoy. This can include reading a favorite book, listening to soft music, or taking a warm bath. Encourage your child to participate in the routine and make it a bonding experience for both of you. This can help improve their mood and make bedtime a more enjoyable time.
What are the best relaxation techniques for kids to sleep better?
Some effective relaxation techniques for kids include deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, and calming music. You can guide your child through a deep breathing exercise by having them take slow, deep breaths and focus on their breath. Instruct them to tense and relax different muscle groups to practice progressive muscle relaxation. Visualization exercises encourage kids to imagine a peaceful scene while lying in bed.
What type of games can help a 5-year-old wind down before bed?
For a 5-year-old, it’s important to choose games that are calming and do not overstimulate before bedtime. Activities such as simple puzzles, coloring books, or story-telling games can help wind down. Avoid screen time, and action-packed competitive games, as they can make it harder for a child to relax and fall asleep.
What are some bedtime box ideas suitable for kids?
A bedtime box is a collection of items that help your child relax and settle into bed. Some items to include are a soft blanket, a soothing toy or stuffed animal, a nightlight, a calming essential oil like lavender, and a selection of bedtime stories. You can also add items that promote relaxation, such as a stress ball or a white noise machine. Tailor the box to your child’s interests and needs to create a personalized bedtime routine.