After a busy day trying to juggle work, childcare, dinner, and all of the other things that life throws at us, we often rush our kids through bath time and off to bed. It shouldn’t surprise you that this end of the day rush can often lead to tantrums over bedtime or difficulty relaxing into a sleepy state.

This can be particularly true when your children start really interacting with the world around them. New things learned can lead to difficulty relaxing before bed. For some children, daily life can cause anxiety and stress which leads to difficulty sleeping.

You may have already created a bedtime routine, most likely including a bath, a book, and then to bed. If you’re still having difficulty getting your child to a sleepy state before bedtime, you may want to consider trying adding some calming activities to your pre-bed routine.

1. Breathing Exercises

These can be both fun and relaxing, and they are useful for de-escalating emotional behavior as well as calming down before bedtime.

One of the easiest breathing exercises to start with is to help your kid imagine that they are in front of a birthday cake with candles. To blow out each candle, they need to hold their breath, think of a wish, and breath all of the way out.

2. Blowing Bubbles

Blowing bubbles is a fun way to control breathing and focus energy. It’s also a particularly good way to spend some time outdoors in the fresh air before bedtime without engaging in activities that will increase blood flow and make it even harder for little ones to get to sleep.

3. Aromatherapy

Using the same, calming scent (such as lavender or bergamot) every night can help both signal bedtime and relieve stress, making it the perfect pre-bedtime activity. For younger children, you may want to diffuse essential oils as a pre-bedtime routine. For older children, you may decide to incorporate these scents into an activity.

4. Aromatherapy Zen Garden

Creating a small zen garden with scented salts (again, lavender, bergamot, ylang ylang, sage, and jasmine are great soothing scents) for your child to rake or play with can not only promote relaxation through scent, but the repetitive activity can also help calm your child into a relaxed state.

All that you need are scented salts, a bowl, and a spoon or small plastic beach rake!

5. Gentle Massage/Lotion

Though some children are stimulated by a gentle massage, others are easily lulled into a sleepy state through gentle, quiet massage. As an added boost, use lotion that uses some of the aromatherapy scents mentioned earlier.

Massaging extremities such as hands and feet can be particularly relaxing for small children. For older babies and toddlers, you may want to massage during reading time or during another pre-bedtime activity where they are sitting still.

6. Threading Beads

For older children (this activity poses a choking hazard for younger kids), threading beads onto a pipe cleaner or piece of yarn can serve as an interesting but quiet activity that helps to focus energy.

7. Storytime Space

For children who have difficulty being lured into bedtime, particularly those who get upset and throw tantrums, creating a fun, special space for pre-bedtime activities such as reading can help usher in the transition to bedtime.

8. Talking Through The Day

For older children, bedtime can be the time when all of the stresses of the day or worries about tomorrow come to the forefront of their minds.

Sitting down with your child before bedtime and asking them to share their concerns or worries can be a great way to alleviate the stresses that can keep them from being able to drift into sleep.

For younger children, you can begin this tradition by talking about your day – especially the most boring parts – in a low, soothing tone. The soft talking will help your child relax into sleep and set a good precedent for this type of routine.

9. Creating a Lovey

Using the same stuffed animal every night (or even the same blanket) can help signal that it’s time to go to sleep soon.

Use the ‘Lovey’ to participate in pre-bedtime activities, such as reading, to help ease your child into the bedtime state of mind.

10. Timer or Clock

If your child often argues with you about going to bed, incorporating a timer, alarm, or a sleep/wake time clock may help you agree without arguments that it’s bedtime.

Using one of these devices turns the ‘responsibility’ of bedtime away from the parent or caretaker and makes it seem like an inevitable fact.

11. Listen to or Sing a Lullaby

Though listening to music for too long may actually make it more difficult for your child to go to sleep, creating a routine that involves a lullaby can help soothe and signal bedtime.

12. Puzzles

Puzzles are a great way to get quiet and focused before bed. The great thing about puzzles is that they are particularly portable, and a great way to help your child calm down before bed when they are with another caretaker or grandparent.

They’re also a great activity to do together!

13. Audio Books

One of the great things about audio books is that it requires very little from you and your child.

They are also great to have in conjunction with another activity, such as a colouring book or puzzle.

14. Counting

Counting before bed is an age old method to lull children (and adults too!) into a sleepy state. The monotony and focused thinking can be particularly useful in the actual act of falling asleep.

For younger children, however, counting may be a bit too stimulating and new to actually be effective as a calming activity before bed.

15. Stretching and Yoga

Pre-bedtime stretching or yoga can be a great way to get your energetic toddler involved in an activity that focuses on quiet and breathing, effectively slowing them down to be ready for bedtime.

Just like adults, yoga, stretching, and breathing exercises can help your little one slow down, as well as help them deal with stress.

There are a variety of materials available that illustrate how to make any of these activities kid friendly.

16. Colouring Book/Connect The Dots

Colouring books and connect the dots are such successful calming and focusing activities that more and more adults are themselves taking to colouring as a de-stressing activity.

Though any colouring book will do, there are books available that are specifically formulated to create a calming atmosphere, and these can be a great precursor to bedtime.

17. Saying Goodnight to Toys

Your child may find it easier to accept bedtime if they know that all of their toys are ‘going to sleep’ too.

It may take a little while for your child to get into the routine of putting their toys to bed, but this activity can them a feeling of power and agency that makes them less likely to challenge your authority when it’s time to go to bed.