Picture this … you’ve had your dinner and are getting ready to start your toddler’s bedtime routine, when all of a sudden, things start to get a bit wild! Your little one just can’t seem to calm down. Then, you spend the next 45 minutes or more trying to convince them it’s time to go to sleep. That’s tough! A wound-up toddler can make bedtime a huge battle.
There’s actually some really interesting science behind why and how kids get overstimulated near bedtime, but that’s a topic for another day. I want to give you a few simple activities that you can try tonight to help your toddler wind down.
Baths are a terrific way to help your child wind down and prepare for bedtime. They provide physical and mental stimulation. For the most part, toddlers love taking baths because it’s an opportunity for play. An added bonus? Mental stimulation. Just what your toddler needs to help with sleep! The change in temperature is also great for their sleep cycle. When we take a warm bath, then get out, our temperature will naturally go down. This happens during sleep as well, so that effect is a perfect way to prepare their body for just that. Additionally, adding in a quick massage after bath time can not only help you bond but help your child get into that calm and relaxed state.
Have you ever tried to meditate or do breathing exercises to help with stress? If so, you may have learned that one of the key pieces to doing so, is focusing on the exhale. This is where blowing bubbles comes in. There are a couple of ways to do this – you can use actual soap bubbles, or you can just use a straw in a cup of water (younger toddlers may do better with a cup of water, as they can have a hard time blowing soap bubbles or using the bubble “wand”). All you have to do is ask your child to start blowing some bubbles.
Ask them to blow bubbles fast, blow bubbles slowly, see if they can blow a really BIG bubble, see if they can make tiny bubbles. Your child will see this, again, as a form of play, but they will need to concentrate in order to blow bubbles the way you’re asking. They’ll also be taking deeper breaths, and focusing on the exhale, which is helpful in relaxation.
This last activity is for toddlers who, for the most part, can understand simple instructions and talk. One great way for children (and adults) to help slow down is to practice this 5-4-3-2-1 “grounding” technique. You can make it a part of the bedtime routine and it only takes a few minutes. Start off by taking a couple of slow breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, then show your toddler how to do the same.
Next, ask them to look around the room and name 5 things they can SEE. Once they’ve done that, ask them to tell you 4 things they can FEEL. Next, 3 things they can HEAR, then 2 things they can SMELL, and finally 1 thing they can TASTE! You can stop there, but I like to add in 1 more thing – what was their 1 favorite part of the day? This is another great opportunity to help you connect your child, but also keep them focused, mindful, and help with calming them down.
Giving these activities a try will help you teach your child to wind down, relax, and get healthy sleep and happy bedtimes. Remember: Having a consistent time that your child goes to bed is important. It helps their little body’s circadian rhythm – the thing that tells them when it’s time to sleep and helps them feel sleepy. Having a relaxing and consistent routine helps with this as well!
Owner & Founder
Sunset Sleep Consulting
Hello from Southern Illinois! I love serving the world by educating and empowering families to get healthy sleep and happy bedtimes. I work with parents who are exhausted and need help teaching their children to sleep independently by giving them the tools they need to set up an exceptional foundation for healthy sleep.
You can learn more and get my FREE Nap Guide by clicking HERE.