13 Calming Bedtime Activities for a More Peaceful Sleep for Your Children

Why a Bedtime Routine is Important

Sleep plays a central role in children’s mental and physical development. However, if you’re a parent, you probably already know that getting a toddler to sleep is not the easiest thing to do. Luckily, sleep scientists have some excellent suggestions on how to help kids get some much-needed snooze through a well-crafted bedtime routine full of calming activities.

A bedtime routine is a consistent and repetitive set of activities that are done each and every single time we go to bed. We need to establish these activities while our kids are young because they typically carry them on later in life. You may even have some bedtime routines you’ve brought from your childhood that have become so ingrained in your routine that you don’t even have to think about it. Essentially, a consistent bedtime routine is a non-verbal cue for your child’s body that it’s time to go to sleep.

Bedtime Activities Before Bedtime

So, what should you include in your child’s bedtime routine? Thankfully, there are plenty of calming bedtime activities that you can insert into their nighttime routine that can help lead to a more peaceful slumber. From reading stories together to singing lullabies, these simple gestures can make all the difference in terms of how well your child sleeps at night. So, start implementing some of these activities into your child’s bedtime routine today and enjoy sweet dreams together!

#1 - Read Age-Appropriate Children’s Books

There are many benefits for both parent and child when reading becomes routine. For example, using bedtime as an opportunity to read with your kids can be one way that you help them wind down at night with some quiet time. Stories can be an excellent way to channel their excess energy into a mentally stimulating activity.

However, finding the right book can be a challenge. If a book is too easy, it may be quickly forgotten. If it is too difficult, it may cause frustration or even difficulty sleeping. That’s why reading age-appropriate children’s books is so important. These books challenge young readers without overwhelming them, making for a perfect bedtime story.

13 Calming Bedtime Activities for a More Peaceful Sleep for Your Children. Parents and their kids reading a storybook on the couch.

Reading books that you and your kids can enjoy together is also one of the best ways to bond as parent and child. It’s a shared activity where parents can play an active role in their development even after a long workday.

In addition, reading to your kids at night can enrich their creativity and expand their worldview. It also instills a love for reading and learning that will ultimately prove helpful once they reach school age.

#2 - Play Calming Music or Ambient Sounds

The effects of listening to music on our brains have been well documented. Listening to classical music, for example, has been shown to improve focus and concentration. At the same time, up-tempo songs can help to increase energy levels and motivation. Similarly, we can use relaxing music to help kids fall asleep.

Stress and anxiety, whether from school or home life, may play a part in why some kids find it difficult to sleep. One of the most effective tools that we can use to combat these unseen factors is soft and calming music. It can be their favorite song from a movie, classical music, or even simple white noise. These auditory stimuli can help reduce cortisol levels and may even improve circulation, which will help your child relax and is exceptionally beneficial for a good night’s rest.

#3 - Bath Time With Relaxing Warm Water

Temperature is also an effective tool for setting the perfect mood for relaxation. As the soothing warm water touches our kids’ skin, their bodies immediately release endorphins, the primary hormone associated with happiness and pleasure.

Bedtime Activities Before Bedtime. Mom playing with her son in the bubble bath.

Warm baths also stimulate the body’s thermoregulatory system, which causes blood flow from the internal core to the limbs. This sudden shift in blood flow causes a drop in core body temperature, an essential stage of the circadian cycle. Essentially, taking a warm bath helps with progressive muscle relaxation and starts to signal to the body and brain that it's time to sleep.

#4 - Do Some Easy Yoga Poses

Like adults, slow activities that require conscious deep breathing are an excellent way for kids to get ready for bed. Stretching, light yoga, meditation and breathing exercises have become staples in many adults’ bedtime routines as a way to have better sleep. These activities can also have the same positive effects for school age, preschool, and even some toddlers.

Mother and daughter smiling at each other as they do some yoga poses

There are even some yoga positions that are especially conducive for sleeping. The Child’s Pose, for example, can improve circulation and breathing while still being easy enough for children to do. The animal-themed yoga poses can also be a great way to inject fun into this otherwise calm activity.

#5 - Sing a Lullaby

There’s nothing quite like a lullaby to help kids fall asleep. And while you may not be able to sing like an angel, there are plenty of ways to create a calming bedtime song. One way is to keep the melody simple, with just a few notes that repeat throughout the song. You can also use soft, comforting words and a soothing tone to create a sleepy mood.

There are the classics, like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or Rock-a-By Baby, but if you want to make up your own words to make your evening routine that little bit more special, do it! Whatever you do, keep your voice soothing and relaxed so that your little ones can drift off into dreamland.

#6 - Give a Soothing Massage

Massage stimulates the body to release serotonin, a natural mood stabilizer. Studies show that serotonin in the brain helps regulate anxiety, increase happiness, and improve our little one’s general mood.

Serotonin directly influences the body’s circadian rhythm, which controls wakefulness. So, a quick massage right before bedtime might just be one of the best things we can do to improve our children with chronic insomnia to actually fall asleep.

#7 - Let Them Have Sleep-Promoting Bedtime Snack

While eating a full-blown meal right before sleeping isn’t exactly a piece of advice that sleep scientists would give you, a light snack may just be what your kids need to fall asleep quicker. Certain foods like bananas and almonds have some components that promote sleep.

Sleep-Promoting Bedtime Snack: Close-up shot of little girl leaning against his father's chest as they both enjoy a bowl of popcorn.

Potassium, abundant in bananas, is a natural muscle relaxant that can help physically active kids wind down for the night. On the other hand, dairy products often contain melatonin which is often called the sleep hormone, as it controls the sleep-wake cycle.

#8 - Chat or Talk to Them About Their Day

Emotional intelligence isn’t exactly something that kids are born with. And for some kids, bedtime is when all the stress and worries of the busy day begin to truly sink in. So sitting or lying down with them for a chat about how their day went is an excellent way to help them process their emotions in a positive way. It should help them be more confident in sharing their thoughts and feelings, which is a great way to take care of their mental health as they grow older.

Chat or Talk to Them About Their Day: Mother talking to her daughter as they both lie in bed.

As for parents, this activity is an excellent way to build a relationship with your child. It can even help you understand them a little bit better. This way, you’ll know how to better guide them into adulthood later in life.

#9 - Pick Out Their Bedtime Clothes

Letting your kids pick their own pajamas might seem like a small thing, but it can actually be a lot of fun! Watch them turn the bedroom into a catwalk for every outfit they try on until they find just the right one. Then, enjoy some cozy family cuddles in those fresh-picked jammies.

13 Calming Bedtime Activities for a More Peaceful Sleep for Your Children. Little girl in a pink dress picking out her clothes from her cabinet.

One of the best parts about this activity is that once they’ve chosen their pajamas, you know they’ve already bought into the fact that it’s bedtime.

#10 - Plan Out the Activities for the Next Day

Children are eager to try out new things as they try to figure out their interests and passions. So, between schoolwork and playing with their friends, their schedule can quickly get filled up with extracurricular activities such as music lessons and sports.

The downside of this hectic but fulfilling schedule is that the anticipation of all the activities lined up for them the next can cause undue anxiety and stress. One way to combat this anxiety is to help your kids plan out their day. This way, their anxiety is reduced, and they can finally give their 100% in every task that they set out to do. 

Planning out the next day doesn’t only reduce anxiety; it also helps your kids become more focused and productive in their daily activities.

#11 - Play with Puzzles

Puzzles are a great way to keep your brain active, but did you know they can also be used as a sleep aid for kids? By working on a puzzle before bed, you can help your mind relax and fall asleep faster.

Close-up shot of little boy playing with puzzles before bedtime, a suggestion from The Adventure Challenge

The best puzzles for your kids’ bedtime routines are simple ones with pieces that fit together easily. Choose one that’s not too challenging so they don’t get frustrated and end up staying awake. Spend about half an hour on the puzzle, and then put it away. You should start feeling sleepy soon after!

#12 - Collaborate on a Story

There’s nothing quite like telling a story at bedtime. But why should the grown-ups have all the fun? Collaborating on a bedtime story with your kids can be a great way to wind down at the end of the day. And who knows, you might just be surprised by their creativity.

To get started, simply ask your child what kind of story they would like to hear. Once you’ve settled on a topic, take turns adding new characters and plot twists. Before you know it, you’ll have created a one-of-a-kind tale that everyone will enjoy. So next time you’re tucking your little ones into bed, don’t be afraid to let them take the lead.

#13 - Pack Away All The Toys

Sometimes kids can get obsessed with their toys and they just want to play with them all the time. Unfortunately, kids need to part with their toys at night when they go to bed. The act of packing away their toys is a signal to their bodies that it’s time to go to bed.

First, gather all the toys that are out of place. Make sure to put them back in their proper places so they will be easy to find in the morning. Next, consider which toys need to be packed away. Choose a toy box or bin that is big enough to hold everything. If there are small pieces, make sure they are packed securely so they won’t get lost. Finally, pack away the toys and say goodnight. This simple routine can help keep the room tidy and make it easier to relax and fall asleep. So, not only do you have a sleepy child, but you’ll also have a clean playroom that’s ready to take on another day.

Make Falling Asleep Easy for Your Kids

The bottom line is that establishing a bedtime routine for your kids is important. It’s not just about getting them to sleep tonight; it can help set up healthy habits for the future. We’ve compiled a list of activities you can try with your little ones to get them ready for bed. So, what are you waiting for? Get started on those zzz’s!

Check out our blog for 30 Ideas to Do When the Kids Are Bored, and be sure to pick up our Adventure Challenge: Family Edition while you're here!

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Father planting a kiss on her daughter's forehead as she smiles; image overlaid with text that reads 13 Calming Bedtime Activities for a More Peaceful Sleep for Your Children
Mother and daughter with their two kids reading a storybook on the couch; image overlaid with text that reads 13 Calming Bedtime Activities for a More Peaceful Sleep for Your Children