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Ask anyone who knows me well, and they could probably tell you that I’m big on creating an atmosphere. (I inherited this from my mom.) Even if the house is a mess, there are certain things I always do to make my home match the mood of our activities.

And by “if the house is a mess,” I mean “because the house is a mess”. But anyway, the ever-trying task of helping kids transition into bedtime forced me to create a few habits that make it a little easier.

When bedtime is approaching and my kids are wired-tired, fussy-tired, or just plain not tired enough, this is our calm down routine before bed. (Actually, I tend to do this regardless. They are nice things to do, and also, how often are the kids tired just enough and ready for bed? Not very often.)

I’m not talking about a bedtime routine. I’m talking about helping your kids calm down before bedtime.

This post is for those days when your preschooler had a little too much fun at the park and you know it’ll be tough putting him to bed. Or times when your toddler didn’t nap well and you know she’s exhausted because of the fussing she’s sending your way. I’m also talking about the times your kids are actually over-rested and didn’t get enough activity, and you know you’re going to face a battle at bedtime.

So here’s what I do before bedtime to get my kids as calm and content as possible.


Help Kids Slow Down Before Bedtime

Calm Down Routines

1. Dim the Lights

There’s a reason it’s called “mood lighting.” Softer lighting will actually help cue your family that nighttime is coming.

Even in the summertime, you can close the curtains, turn off overhead lights and turn on some lamps, or dim your lights if possible. Sometimes my kids notice when I do this, but usually they are too busy to care.


2. Play Soft Music

I love online radio stations likeΒ Amazon Prime Music, and I use it almost exclusively for this. You can tailor your music however you’d like, but I recommend a lullaby channel or one based on soft piano music.

If you have your own collection of lullaby songs, your kiddo might enjoy hearing familiar tunes. You could, of course, quite literally play something yourself if you’re musically inclined.


Help Kids Slow Down Before Bedtime

3. Make Sure They’ve Had Enough to Drink

An hour before bedtime, get some drinks in those kids! We started using a cutoff time for Kai once we began potty training, but we do this for our baby girl too. Nobody likes to have to pee in the night or sleep with a wet diaper…I mean, I assume.

What about juice, pop (as we say in the Midwest), sugary drinks, etc? Not allowed.

More Reading on Parenting Preschoolers and Toddlers

Raising a Grateful Child: Tips and Activities

Potty Training on the Go (12 Hacks!)

5 Reasons to Let Your Kids Make Messes

What to Expect at Your Child’s First Eye Exam

10 Tips for Peaceful Road Trips with Preschoolers


4. Build Forts

My husband is a master at this! I actually asked him for fort-building tips, and he said the key is to use sheets instead of blankets. So get creative and make something simple, or not so simple. (My husband’s forts have multiple rooms! I digress.)

All kiddos love forts (let’s face it, we love them too), and it automatically creates a small, cozy nook perfect for little ones. The winding down will happen just a little bit more naturally.


5. Diffuse Essential Oils

I recommend cedarwood, especially for kids who are extra energetic in the evening. Lavender is a no-brainer that’s perfect for after dinner, and orange is both very calming and uplifting as well.

Put those three together, and you have a delightful blend that’s perfect for small ones. You can read about how to get started with essential oils here.


Help Kids Slow Down Before Bedtime

6. Do Some Stretching or Yoga Together

Have your child mimic your actions and lead her in some stretching, yoga poses, or your own creative slow movements (pretend you’re Mr. Miyagi if necessary). This will force your child to focus, help calm any haywire emotions, and teach her to move slowly when she needs to tame her energy.


7. Try an Early Bath and Pajama Time

We do this with Kai when he’s on the edge emotionally. We make it a wonderful, fun, cozy time and act like putting on pajamas early is the most amazing thing he’ll ever experience. He loves it and it reduces potential bedtime routine struggles.

This isn’t the same as going to bed early, it’s just starting the process earlier than normal. Your little one will feel extra comfy as you spend your evening together. I’d only recommend doing this every once in awhile, so it remains special.


Help Kids Slow Down Before Bedtime

8. Connect with Your Kiddo

This is really the most important tip.

One thing that I think sets our kids off is when they haven’t had enough time connecting with us. So we try to spend that time after dinner doing some of their favorite things.

If your kids need to burn off some energy, go on a walk around the block, chase them around the house, or play with them in the yard. If they need to slow down, try a little pre-bedtime reading–like maybe one of those longer books that you can’t fit in during the bedtime routine.

No matter what you do, try to make it a time that’s focused on them.

These ideas are what works for us, and I think they will probably work for you too. It’s all about connecting with and creating a calm atmosphere for your kids. Put this list in your back pocket for a time when you really need it…like probably tonight.


a little boy smiles as he lays down on a white comforter. Text overlay reads Kids won't sleep? Calm down routines - 8 pre-bed ideas!

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Laura at Fantastically Four

7 Comments on Calm Down Routines to Help Your Child Get Sleepy (8 ideas!)

  1. Thanks, glad you liked it! A quick tip is to diffuse EOs for emotional or respiratory health, and use topically (diluted in coconut oil and the like) for skin. I use my oils a TON and they seem to last me such a long time. I say just jump right in and experiment! πŸ™‚

  2. I love this post as well and agree with so many of your tips! We have a Young Living diffuser and a bunch of oils on hand, but we rarely use them simply because I forget to and am also scared of wasting them when I don't know the most practical ways to use them. I'd be interested in incorporating them into our nightly routines though. Thanks for writing this post!

  3. Loved this post, Laura! OH bedtime. We all have our struggles. My kids (like most kids) are master procrastinators and Olivia has gotten to where she lays awake for a while now before actually falling asleep. Probably because she's still too wired/overtired from the evening. We are all about the "mood lighting" but I love the idea of oils and soft music. We are going to be taking her paci away soon (EEK!) so I'm extremely worried about bedtime after that happens. Hopefully these tips will help!

I'd love to know what you think. Thanks for commenting!