In that pesky gap between bath and bed, it’s impossible to know what to do with your not-quite-tired-yet toddler. You need an activity that’s fun and exciting! But also relaxing and bed-timey. (Help!) That’s why we roped in Tara Ient.
Tara is an expert in play! For real. As a paediatric occupational therapist, she spends every day doing very fun activities with kids, while also helping them to learn tricky skills. Here’s what Tara suggests to help your kids wind down when that energetic second-wind hits. (Because, honestly, there are only so many books you can read.)
If they’ll stay still long enough, give them a massage.
Grab a lotion or body oil (we love Skin Wizard and are not-at-all biased), then apply to their body using firm pressure and slow movements. You want to start with the limbs and move in towards the torso, keeping your strokes gentle but firm. All the clever science says using ‘deep pressure’ touch helps release happy, calming chemicals (serotonin and dopamine) to the brain. This makes little bodies feel relaxed, and also helps to lower heart rate and improve impulse control, attention, sleep and digestion. There’s also lots of bonding benefits that come from this type of interaction for both you and your kid!
Turn off the lights! (Then turn on some other lights.)
Some lights are bad news for sleep. Like the blue light from a TV or tablet, which mimics daylight and can throw off your kid’s circadian rhythm. But softer, warmer lights are fine to have fun with! Grab something that has a dim light, such as a set of string lights, a torch with coloured cellophane over it or one of those fun nursery rhyme story projectors, and turn the bedroom lights off. Encourage your kids to keep talking to a minimum, and instead just enjoy the sense of calm that occurs from the dim lights.
Create a cosy indoor tent to read your bedtime books.
Reading books is probably already a regular part of your evening routine, but have you tried reading books in an incredibly cosy homemade tent? (It’s not just 150% more fun. It can also help your tired rascals to slow down and focus their attention.) Drape some blankets or sheets over the furniture to create a canopy, and add lots of cushions and pillows to make it snuggly. Then invite your little one to crawl inside with their favourite books! The tent will help to block out all the other distracting elements in the room, creating a quiet, relaxing environment for reading (and for some big, squishy hugs!).
Experiment with screen-free entertainment.
Reading a bedtime story (or five) isn’t your only option for entertaining sleepy little squirts. As you calm down and prepare for bed, try dimming the lights and listening to some music as you cuddle. Put on a soothing playlist of acoustic-y tunes or soft classical music (or just go straight for the world’s most relaxing song). If stories are more your jam, download the ABC Kids Listen app or play them an audio book. To encourage a little more mindfulness, apps like Headspace and Calm have activities designed for kids, while the Bedtime Explorers podcast takes an imaginative approach to teaching meditation techniques.
So, when it’s finally nod-off time, they’ll be lovely and settled and ready to sleep. (And you’ll be ready for The Crown! Or at least, the first eight minutes. Before you shut your eyes, too.)