Calm a child’s senses for a good night of sleep


A good night’s sleep allows our minds and bodies to get the necessary rest it needs to wake up rejuvenated and ready to begin a new day. As parents, we want nothing more than for our children to get a good night’s sleep so they can wake up in the morning ready to attack the day ahead of them. In order for this to occur, it is important to begin a bedtime routine early on. But still, oftentimes, getting your child to want to go to sleep can be a struggle.

Bedtime is not just about getting kids in pajamas and tucking them under the covers. There are a variety of ways, through a multi-sensory approach, that we can prepare our children for bedtime in order to promote a more sound, restful, and healthy sleep. Letting children run around wild playing cowboy or cops and robbers right before bedtime is probably not the best idea; this stimulates a child’s senses, In order to make bedtime a smoother transition, you need to help children calm their senses. There are steps you can take to sooth each of a child’s senses; some suggestions are below:


Create a picture or verbal schedule: 30 minutes before bedtime start a countdown. Give your child a 30, 15, 10, and 5 minute warning. After playtime is up, keep to a predictable bedtime schedule; First have your child brush his or her teeth, second, get in pajamas, third discuss the day, read a book, or sing a song, etc. 

Make your child visually comfortable in his/her environment: As you discuss the day, read a book, or sing a song with your child, dim the lights to his or her comfort level, put on a lamplight or a nightlight. Close the curtains or lower the blinds. Perhaps use a lava lamp or a nighttime sky scene on the ceiling.


• Speak in a low, calm voice

• Use a white noise or sound machine, as this rhythmic pattern of music is often calming to a child

• Block all other background noise such as the television or other loud noises in the house

• Play calming or enjoyable nighttime music


• Use  calming scents like lavender or vanilla


Before you have your child brush his/her teeth, give them a food that will help decrease their arousal level. Some of these foods are below:

• Milk, yogurt, soy, figs, almonds, bananas

• Warm milk

• Hot chocolate


• Experiment with different kinds of pajamas (loose or tight fitting), sheets, blankets, and pillows to ensure that your child is as comfortable as possible. You may discover that by simply changing your child’s pajamas will allow for a better night of sleep.

Proprioceptive/Deep Touch

Providing this deep pressure for your child will help calm and relax their bodies in preparation for sleep.

• Massage their head, arms, legs (using lotion or powder)

• Joint compressions at each joint (press head down, press shoulders down, shoulder joint, elbow, wrist, fingers, hip, knee, ankle)

• Wrap blankets tightly around them

• Surround them by large pillows

• Give your child a big hug or have them hug a stuffed animal

• Use a weighted blanket or heavy cotton blanket

• If your child does not like to be swaddled, take all blankets off the bed


Slow gentle movements are calming for a child and can help them fall asleep more easily.

• Gently swing in a blanket

• Slow rocking

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About the Author: The Therapy Spot
The Therapy Spot of Baltimore is a multi-disciplinary pediatric therapy center, featuring an energetic group of experienced and qualified therapists. We provide speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy to children in the greater Baltimore region.