How Mindfulness Can Calm Your Kids at Bedtime

father kissing daughter in bed

Do you dread your children’s bedtime routine? Many parents find this time to be chaotic and stressful. It can be a major battle to get your children upstairs, bathed, dressed in their pajamas, and in the right frame of mind to settle into their cozy beds for the night. By incorporating these five simple mindfulness activities into your evening ritual, you can create a calming environment for your children that smoothly bridges playtime to nighttime.

Mindful Dessert

You can set the stage for a peaceful evening by teaching your children to enjoy their dessert mindfully. According to the Center for Mindful Eating, this practice allows us to savor what we put in our mouths and appreciate food in a whole new way. By focusing on the details of their tasty treat, your children will begin to quiet their mind. Ask them to use their five senses to describe the dessert on their plate:

  • Sight: What color is it? Does it look delicious?
  • Touch: How does it feel? Does it feel soft or hard, smooth or rough?
  • Smell: How does it smell? Do you like the smell?
  • Taste: How does it taste? Is it sweet, salty, sour, or bitter?
  • Sound: What sounds do you hear when you chew it? Is it crunchy or juicy?

Additionally, try leading them in a mindful eating exercise, such as The Last Orange on Earth or Mindfulness and the Art of Chocolate Eating.

Mindful Teeth Brushing

Mindfulness experts suggest we practice being in the present moment while doing basic tasks throughout our day.

One way to show our children how to be mindful is while they are brushing their teeth. Instead of fighting you, they will now have an activity to focus their attention.

In order for your children to really experience mindful teeth brushing, they should slow down and not rush through this typically boring chore.

Encourage them to appreciate the many sensations they feel at each step. You can guide them by asking some simple questions:

  • How does the toothbrush feel in your hand? How does it look?
  • What does it feel like to squeeze the toothpaste onto your toothbrush?
  • How does the toothpaste smell?
  • How do the bristles feel in your mouth? On your tongue, teeth, and gums?
  • What does the toothpaste taste like?
  • How does your mouth feel differently after brushing your teeth?

Mindful Bath

Many children cry and carry on during bath time because they feel cold or do not like their head to get wet. One way to make bath time a happier experience for everyone is to bring some mindfulness into the bathtub. By leading them in a mindfulness bathing practice, you will distract them from any discomfort so they can enjoy the more pleasurable aspects of the bath. Ask them questions such as:

  • How does the water feel on your skin? Is it cold, warm, or hot? Is the water stream touching your skin lightly or strongly?
  • What do you hear while you are in the bath?
  • What does the soap feel like as you are being washed?
  • What do the soap and shampoo smell like?
  • How does it feel when your hair is being scrubbed?
  • How does the towel feel on your skin as you dry off?
  • How do you feel differently after the bath?

Mindful Breathing

Mindful breathing helps reduce stress and anxiety by slowing down our body and initiating the relaxation response. It is a simple tool that your children can turn to anytime they feel uneasy or worried. Here are a couple playful ways you can incorporate mindful breathing into your bedtime routine: 

  • Breath Dance: Have everyone grab an end of a blanket or towel. Start close together and then inhale as a group. While breathing in, back up and expand the blanket. During the exhale, move in close together. The tightening and loosening of the blanket demonstrate how we breathe in and out.
  • Heart Hands: Your children can create a heart shape with their hands. As they breathe in, they expand their hands to a heart shape. As they breathe out, they collapse their hands into two fists side by side.

Gratitude Practice

The best way to end your child’s day is with a family gratitude exercise. Saying thank you can improve our health, reduce stress, and make us feel happier. By practicing gratitude every night with your children, you teach them to appreciate the wonderful gifts in their life, and not dwell on negativity and fears.

Go around the room and have each family member say one thing they are thankful for that day. This can be such a special bonding time for you and your children as they share their thoughts, feelings, and impressions of their day. Try not to judge how they express gratitude. Young children under age seven may not fully grasp the concept. It is not what they are thankful for, but that they are learning how to express gratitude that matters. If they want to be thankful for a new toy, that is okay.

Try incorporating one or more of these wonderful mindfulness activities into your children’s bedtime routine, and before you know it they will be drifting off to dreamland with a smile.

Sandi Schwartz is a freelance writer focusing on parenting and wellness issues. Her specialty is translating complex, intriguing science issues to the general public in a relatable, entertaining way. She has been featured by publications including BlogHer, Bon Bon Break, Urbanmommies, Sixty Second Parent, and Good Mother Project. She also manages the blog Happy Science Mom, a parenting toolkit for raising happy, balanced children where she explores the scientific aspects of stress reduction tools such as kindness, gratitude, healthy diet, exercise, mindfulness, giving, and connecting with nature.

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