The novel coronavirus pandemic has brought dark times upon the world, and while much of America finds itself out of work, darkened classrooms wait in shuttered schools with no students to fill their empty desks. In the middle of it all stands curious, confused little minds that can’t comprehend the full extent of the virus, but still, they inherently know that their world will never again be the same.
Mental Health and Young Minds
Children have had all traditional forms of socialization ripped away thanks to social distancing and quarantine. Schedules have been interrupted, once set plans are now thrown in disarray, and socialization opportunities are drastically reduced.
It has been especially difficult for older children, who are old enough to understand that the world outside is not safe. With sickness running rampant and no solution readily available to fight it, life today resembles 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 that 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. With no lack of worry to fill their heads, you can take a proactive stance and transform bedtime into a more fun, relaxing, and soothing time garnering the help of today’s top-rated bedtime tools.
Mental Wellness Tools for Bedtime During COVID
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 both adults and children to improve stress, sleep, attention and concentration. It focuses on specific areas of focus, 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 Tool Kit for you to use that was established in cooperation with MediBank.
This is an app created specifically for kids, ideally ages 7-10. It uses a holistic approach to social-economical learning in order 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 to day. 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 kids. In addition to its regular featured content, there is a new meditation that 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. There are both student and family plans 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 good reason, based on over 700,000 5-star reviews. This is an app designed to improve your sleep, meditation and relaxation with soothing music and videos to guide stretching and movement. There are masterclass audio classes taught by expert instructors with additional nature scenes and soundtracks that you can use at work or when studying. There is also a huge library of Sleep Stories with celebrity narrators (think Matthew McConaughey) and new content added 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.
Created by parents for parents, Guided meditation for the entire family, including your children as young as four years old. There are breathing exercises designed to help children handle stress by lowering their anxiety and improving their focus through meditation. It also helps kids 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 is created by a London-based Montessori teacher named Christiane Kerr, who also 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 is another app again dedicated to sleep meditation for children, but this one comes courtesy of Diviniti Publishing Ltd. This one 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 with guided meditation using scripted stories. There is also a special Children’s Breathe feature that allows your kids 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 their convenience and accessibility, there are also many parents who 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.
Bouns: Written Meditations
Written meditation scripts are prepared in advance and can be read not only by a parent or guardian but also 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 kids 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. There is also a built-in timer and an awesome focused task feature that will come especially handy when you are concentrating. Recommended for ages four and up, it’s free to download and then $5.99 to access the locked portals.
- Moshi (free)
Moshi definitely gets the award for the most accessible app, because there is no internet needed to download it. More than 45 hours of original content that includes stories narrated by Patrick Steward and Goldie Hawn. Enjoy stories, music, soundtracks and meditations all 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 for young children ages one to four years old in order to help induce sleepiness. Each night, children get to put all of the 13 interactive animals to sleep and turn out the lights for everyone to go to bed. To make it more realistic, you can even switch between winter and summer. 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)
Approved by the AASL, this is 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. Kids 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, your kids 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 that’s set to music and will help establish regular routines. It’s $2.99 to purchase and 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 have a significant impact on a child’s physician and mental health, particularly for children ages six to twelve.
If you have Amazon Prime, you can get free yoga videos for kids, 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, to include 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 that kids 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 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 that are rated based on difficulty. We also love the positive mantras designed to protect mental health and boost confidence. From yoga books to pose cards, there’s everything you need to keep yoga a fresh activity for your family. This is rated for ages four and up and is $1.99 to purchase.
White Noise Apps
Sometimes, your child just 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 are also nature sounds with built-in timers, so you can choose how long the audio plays before it shuts off.
This app features soothing sounds like rhythmic shushing and lullabies with the ability 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 you can 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 the way you sleep, no matter how old you are. 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 that include things like 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 traditional solutions outside of the digital realm that have proven to be very helpful in reinforcing quiet time with young children.
Journaling is a great 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 soothing 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 not only the senses but also your child’s cognitive abilities. It can distract them from worrisome thoughts and bad dreams by clearing the mind and captivating them with the contents of the bag. 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 kids 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 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, but you should be 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.
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 especially sensitive, 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 reinforcing their emotional well-being and establishing confidence and security on a regular basis. The routine of bedtime meditation or yoga can help quiet worry and fear, and prepare your child for sleep so they can get the rest they need.