The COVID-19 pandemic brought dark times upon the world, and in the middle of it, all stand curious, confused little minds that can’t comprehend the full extent of the COVID-19. However, still, they inherently know that their world will never again be the same.
Mental Health and Young Minds
Children’s schedules were interrupted once set plans were thrown into disarray and drastically reduced socialization opportunities.
It was especially difficult for older children, old enough to understand that the world outside wasn’t safe. With sickness running rampant and no solution readily available to fight it, life in the early days of COVID-19 resembled something of a sci-fi flick that children are more likely to watch on TV screens in their living room and not running amuck outside the front door.
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the U.S., but experts say we won’t know the full effects of COVID on children’s mental health until much later.
Now, more than ever, children need to find that extra security and comfort so they can sleep soundly. You can take a proactive stance and transform bedtime into a more fun, relaxing, and soothing time garnering the help of today’s bedtime tools.
DYK: When parents express concerns about bedtime, you can use a mini-assessment to provide support? Share with parents and families this Bedtime Conversations Checklist and Action Plan.
Mental Wellness Tools for Bedtime During COVID-19
Meditation and Mindfulness Apps
These are some of the best apps to use for meditation and mindfulness at bedtime.
Smiling Mind is a mindfulness app with over 5 million users. It is the work of an Australian not-for-profit created by psychologists and educators, offering specialized programs for home, work, and school. It’s completely free with programs for adults and children to improve stress, sleep, attention, and concentration. It focuses on specific areas, such as wellbeing, relationships, performance, sports, and even diet, for a well-rounded, comprehensive app designed to improve your lifestyle, no matter your age. There is also a new Family Toolkit for you to use, established in cooperation with Medibank.
Developers created an app specifically for kids, ideally ages 7-10. It uses a holistic social and emotional learning approach to improve early and middle childhood development. Developers have created an interactive, play-based version of a child’s diary that places a special focus on emotions and feelings from day today. Your child will expand skills and knowledge through play while decreasing stress and anxiety – both important benefits in today’s world. There’s a free trial, and then if you like it, it’s $4.99 a month to continue with a 101-story pack.
This app specializes in meditation that is specifically designed for children. In addition to its regular featured content, a new meditation is launched each day, so you never tire of old content. The meditation guide also includes support and advice from a real-life former Monk who can work with you to take your skills to the next level. Both student and family plans are available, and you can try out the free trial. There is a two-week trial for the annual plan, which costs $69.99, or you can opt for the monthly plan with a one-week trial before changing to $12.99 per month.
You may have already seen Calm from the commercials on TV, and it’s popular for a good reason, based on over 700,000 5-star reviews. This app is designed to improve your sleep, meditation and relaxation with soothing music and a videos guide stretching and movement. Expert instructors teach masterclass audio classes with additional nature scenes and soundtracks that you can use at work or studying. There is also a huge library of Sleep Stories with celebrity narrators (think Matthew McConaughey) and new content each week. You can enjoy a free one-week trial, and then you can decide whether to purchase a lifetime subscription for $399.99 or choose the regular annual membership for $69.99 that renews each year.
Parents created it for parents, guided meditation for the entire family, including your children as young as 4-years-old. Breathing exercises are designed to help children handle stress by lowering their anxiety and improving their focus through meditation. It also helps children maintain a healthy emotional balance while learning to get rid of emotional stress, with special soundtracks to help your little ones sleep. We also love how hands-on the creators are, taking the time to personally respond to inquiries and issues expressed in customer reviews. It’s a simple $2.99 for the app for an affordable solution to bedtime anxiety.
This app offers a different take on children’s meditation with gorgeous illustrations and 13-minute bedtime meditations with seven more available for purchase. Sleep Meditations for Kids was created by a London-based Montessori teacher named Christiane Kerr, who founded Calm for Kids in 1999. She guides you through all of the meditations, speaking in a calm voice that many children find very soothing. The app itself is free, and you have the option to purchase extra meditation sessions at $2.99 each via in-app purchases.
This app is dedicated to sleep meditation for children, but this one comes courtesy of Diviniti Publishing Ltd. Children’s Sleep Mediations includes five bedtime meditations, with many more available to buy directly from the app. It focuses on meditation and mindfulness with professionally produced recordings that you can use as background music to relax or guided meditation using scripted stories. A special “children’s breathe” feature allows your children to create and practice positive breathing habits. The app is free to download, with in-app purchases available at $2.99 each.
While many parents enjoy these apps for convenience and accessibility, many parents prefer to keep technology out of their children’s bedrooms. In these cases, it is a simple matter to restructure the delivery of child meditation by using written scripts.
Bonus: Written Meditations
Written meditation scripts are prepared in advance and can be read by a parent or guardian and by siblings, relatives, and friends who can all benefit from the positive effects of meditation and relaxation. These are a great option for those looking to keep tech out of a child’s bedroom or for children who find a familiar voice more soothing than an app. To peruse some options for your next guided meditation, check out these scripts from Greenchild Magazine.
In addition to meditation, you can also use these bedtime apps to improve your family’s sleep.
- Portal app (free)
Portal doesn’t just improve your sleep and relaxation; it helps your focus, too, with 19 total portals (5 come unlocked, the rest you have to purchase one by one). This app creates an immersive experience that pairs 3D soundscapes and HD visuals with Philips Hue smart lighting. Soundscapes are the work of an Emmy-winning recordist and run the gamut from the soothing waves of the Pacific to the Tundras of Africa. A built-in timer and an awesome focused task feature will come especially handy when concentrating. It’s recommended for ages four and up, and it’s free to download and then $5.99 to access the locked portals.
- Moshi (free)
Moshi gets the most accessible app award because there is no internet needed to download it. More than 45 hours of original content includes stories narrated by Patrick Steward and Goldie Hawn. Enjoy stories, music, soundtracks, and meditations designed to eliminate anxiety and stress while helping children relax and sleep better. It is rated for everyone and is free with in-app purchases.
This app is designed to be a nightly sleep ritual and help induce sleepiness for young children ages one to four. Each night, children get to put all 13 interactive animals to sleep and turn out the lights for everyone to go to bed. You can even switch between winter and summer to make it more realistic. Created by Oscar-nominee Heidi Wittlinger, this app offers a fun story with interactive sounds. It’s $3.99 to purchase the app with additional in-app purchases.
- Novel Effect (free)
The AASL approved this voice-based, story-driven content that brings your favorite stories to life. It uses character voices, music, and sound effects for a fully immersive experience unlike any other. Designed with the entire family in mind, you can choose your own story and control how it ends. Children will love that they can take the reins and decide what happens next. Recommended for children ages four and up, this is a free app with additional in-app purchases that range from under a dollar to about $25, depending on which option you choose.
This imaginative app is brought to you by Daniel Tiger from PBS Kids. In the morning, children can use the app to help Daniel prepare for the day, and when the sun goes down, the app welcomes bedtime with sing-alongs and eight different games. There’s also a helpful timer set to music and will help establish regular routines. It’s $2.99 to purchase and is recommended for children ages four and up.
Kid’s Yoga Apps
Yoga isn’t just for adults. Yoga and mindfulness apps have been shown to significantly impact a child’s physical and mental health, particularly for children ages six to twelve.
You can get free yoga videos for kids if you have Amazon Prime, including these top picks.
- Yoga for Kids (free)
Rated for everyone, this is a great introduction to yoga for children with a tutorial that includes all of the basic poses, including Bow Pose, Bridge Pose, and Cat Pose. It’s designed to boost confidence and increase cooperation, communication and compassion skills through meditation and relaxing sounds. The free version does include ads, but you can purchase an ad-free option for uninterrupted service.
This app places a specific focus on building mental strength, in addition to physical strength, with all the important, kid-friendly yoga poses. It also includes tips for a healthy diet with tons of recipes children will enjoy making. The app is free with the option to go ad-free with a paid version, and it is rated E for everyone so that the whole family can take part.
Dive deep into the world of yoga with this app’s user-friendly and kid-friendly design. The kids’ yoga challenge app has 40 progressive poses rated based on difficulty. We also love the positive mantras designed to protect mental health and boost confidence. There’s everything you need to keep yoga a new activity for your family, from yoga books to pose cards. GoGo Yoga for Kids is rated for ages four and up and is $1.99 to purchase.
White Noise Apps
Sometimes, your child needs the soothing, rhythmic sounds of ambient noise. These white noise apps all help millions of children fall asleep each night.
- Sleepy Sounds (free)
Previously known as Sleepy Baby, this is a free app with optional in-app purchases. In addition to basic white noise, you have the option to choose from a library of beautiful lullabies to sing your baby to sleep. There is also nature sounds with built-in timers, so you can decide how long the audio plays before it shuts off.
This app features soothing sounds like rhythmic shushing and lullabies to use premixed sounds, or you can create your own. The design incorporates ambient lighting for extra comfort, and with no internet connection required, this app even works in airplane mode. There is no subscription required, and you can benefit from the free download with the option to upgrade to your choice of paid add-ons running from $1.99 to $8.99.
- Lullaby for Babies (free)
Designed to soothe crying children, this music-based app features calming lullabies and sounds for bedtime. Rated for everyone, it includes a built-in library full of lullabies and relaxing sounds to help your child fall asleep. You can set up specific songs to play at certain times or create your own playlist with your favorite songs ready to go. Like most others, this is a free app with optional in-app purchases.
- Lightning Bug sleep clock (free)
Forget your old alarm clock because this app may change how you sleep, no matter your age. It uses everyday sounds to create familiar, ambient noise to relax you. With its white noise mixer of ambient sounds, there are nearly 200 sound loops, including ocean waves, city noise, and meditation bells. Visually, there are soothing backgrounds, and there is also an integrated digital alarm clock with a soothing and enjoyable soundtrack.
Other Ways to Facilitate Quiet Time
There are also more traditional solutions outside of the digital realm that has proven to be very helpful in reinforcing quiet time with young children.
Journaling is an excellent way for children to release stress and worries before bedtime. The idea is that by writing down their negative feelings, they are then free to sleep peacefully without worry because they have already purged any negative emotions into their journal.
Don’t want to spend $10 on a special mindfulness journal? Take a regular spiral notebook and write prompts for your child to follow:
- I’m grateful for…
- This made me happy today…
- I’m looking forward to…
- One person I really love…
“I Spy” Jar
An “I Spy” jar is a fun, creative DIY solution for bedtime anxiety.
Creating your “I Spy” jar is a fun activity you can do together, filling an empty jar with things like rice and lentils in addition to glow-in-the-dark alphabet beads. Even if your child isn’t sleepy at bedtime, the relaxing activity of searching out letters in the dark will be enough to keep your child entertained until rest comes.
Sensory bags are designed to stimulate the senses and your child’s cognitive abilities. It can distract them from worrisome thoughts and bad dreams by clearing the mind and captivating them with the bag’s contents. Bags are designed to be fun to touch, feeling slimy, soft or squishy to capture your child’s attention until those eyelids begin to grow heavy.
There’s a reason why blowing bubbles or pinwheels is such a popular children’s activity. This simple exercise is an easy way to slow and steady your child’s breathing while distracting them with the fun of blowing bubbles. As they focus on the bubbles moving and changing, the simplicity of the activity, combined with steady breathing, can prepare them for sleep.
Tricks for a Soothing Sleep Environment
While meditation and mindfulness apps can help prepare you for sleep, it’s also important to have a comfortable, safe place to rest. These are some ways to prepare your child’s space for a more soothing, calming environment.
Aromatherapy has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, with experts and users alike proclaiming the calming effects of lavender and sweet orange to promote better, restful sleep. Today, diffusers come in all shapes, sizes and colors so that you can choose a fun design for your child’s room.
It is hard to sleep when you don’t have a comfortable bed to enjoy. The growing bodies of children especially need a comfortable platform to sleep on, so if your child is having trouble sleeping, you should reevaluate the bedding.
That means more than just the blankets. Replace threadbare sheets with new microfiber sheets, which are great if your child gets hot while sleeping. Hand-me-down mattresses, while cost-effective, can become worn down and lose their cushioning. At The Slumber Yard, we know a thing or two about mattresses, so be sure to check out our picks for the best kids’ mattresses for 2021.
Weighted blankets are another way that can help improve your child’s sleep. The heaviness allows the blanket to cloak the body, providing feelings of security and safety in addition to the extra comfort. Results seem to be hit or miss, with some parents reporting improved sleep while the American Academy of Pediatrics found no improvements.
Weighted blankets continue to be a popular solution for sleep anxiety. Still, it would be best if you were cautious not to use too heavy of a blanket, which could affect your child’s circulation and even lead to suffocation. Instead, many parents use these before bed to help their children settle down. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider to check if weighted blankets are a safe choice for your kid.
The Bottom Line
Much of the future remains uncertain as coronavirus continues to ravage the world. Parents certainly have their hands full as they try to calm frayed nerves and adjust to a new world. Children are susceptible, so they too are being affected by the upset in their homes and a tense emotional climate.
Now more than ever, children need reassurance and security, and bedtime is one of the best times to reinforce this stability. Meditation and mindfulness apps can help protect your child’s mental health by regularly strengthening their emotional wellbeing and establishing confidence and security. The bedtime meditation or yoga routine can help quiet worry and fear and prepare your child for sleep to get the rest they need.
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