In the past, I’ve written about how a simple foot massage can be deeply relaxing for littles, or even how breathing can be taught in fun ways to help calm young kids. Recently we have been having success with a couple of other practices right before bedtime to help soothe our girls.
1. Breathing with Longer Exhales
Sometimes we’ll take some deep breaths together right before bed, and when we do, we have been deliberately focusing on taking longer exhales than inhales. The science shows that “When your exhale is even a few counts longer than your inhale, the vagus nerve (running from the neck down through the diaphragm) sends a signal to your brain to turn up your parasympathetic nervous system and turn down your sympathetic nervous system.” While the sympathetic nervous system manages your flight and response system, the parasympathetic nervous system, when turned up, can help put your body in calm state. And taking longer exhales is actually a simple practice to do together just by counting 1-2 for each inhale, and counting to 4 for every exhale. The “snake breath,” which I had written about previously, is also a good one to do together too as making a hiss sound while you exhale prolongs the out-breath.
2. Guided Meditations for Kiddos
The second practice we have been experimenting with before bed is doing a guided meditation together. In previous posts, I have indicated that I haven’t really meditated with my kids because I want mindfulness to be a fun, natural part of our routine vs. something my kids feel obligated to do as another to-do. However, doing a guided meditation has been a very natural integration into our bedtime routine. We don’t do it all the time but when we do my kids seem to quite enjoy the practice. In fact, there’s been no resistance at all to doing a guided meditation at bedtime.
We have been using the app Headspace and choosing short 5-minute guided meditations for kids – picking from categories like Sleep and Calm. My older daughter responds to all the breathing cues in the meditation such as inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. My younger daughter isn’t quite old enough to keep up with all the cues, but as soon as the guided meditation begins, she quiets down pretty quickly and is more easily able to drift off to sleep.
I’m all for trying new ways to help our kiddos relax before bed. What are some of your favorite practices?