In our technology-driven world, it seems there is an electronic answer for every problem. We no longer need to ask for directions when driving somewhere unfamiliar — we have GPS systems to guide us to our destination. Lost touch with your best friend from college? No worries – there's Facebook! Even kids are being exposed to such gadgets at a young age. It used to be that doctor's offices kept picture books and toys in waiting rooms. Now we hand them a handheld video game to keep them from getting bored.
It's no surprise that the entertainment industry has figured out a way to capitalize on parents' busy schedules and tried to swoop in and rescue them from stressful bedtimes with children. Currently showing on the cable channel PBS Sprout are two television shows aimed at helping pre-schoolers wind-down at the end of the day, relaxing their bodies and minds adorable puppets who talk to them about being separated from mom or dad, feeling comfortable with the lights out, maintaining healthy routines and sleeping through the night.
Now, we all know kids like to watch television — heck, don't we all, really? It is certainly a common relaxing activity for people of all ages, and is often done in the evening. On that note, is it really necessary for preschoolers to learn healthy sleep habits from characters on TV? Although the physical act of television viewing is relaxing, the mental stimulation is quite different, especially for kids.
Instead of plopping the kids in front of the TV at the end of the day, why not use this time for some stretching, breathing, and/or one-on-one discussions? ChildLight Yoga teaches several techniques for bringing relaxation to a child, and these can be used anytime your child needs a break, but are especially useful at bedtime.
- Good In/Bad Out Breath: Breathing quiets the nervous system, and therefore, slows us down when activity takes over our minds and bodies. This breath includes a deep inhale, where the child is asked to breath in positive statements or wishes into his body, and then exhale all the negative emotions and ideas from their minds. The child drifts off to sleep feeling happy, positive and more relaxed, ready for a good night's sleep.
- Visualizations: When a child is nervous about being away from mom or dad, or to sleep in a dark room, you can use creative visualizations to assure your child he is safe. Once your child has closed his eyes and is lying still, tell him a story using lots of visual imagery and descriptive words, describing a person or thing who is completely at peace. Be creative – your child will appreciate your own thoughts and ideas in this exercise. Just remember to include peaceful, joyful characters, and to stay away from anything dark, scary or stressful.
- Rest with Breathing Buddy: Allow your child to choose a favorite stuffed animal or small baby doll to rest on his belly. As the child closes his eyes and lies quietly on his back, place the toy on his belly. Ask him to open his eyes and look at the buddy, rising and falling with each breath cycle. Tell your child that the buddy enjoys his ride, and that the deeper and slower he breathes, the more fun and relaxing the ride is for him.
- Once your child is relaxed and calm, take a moment to talk to him, one on one. You may use this opportunity to talk about the importance of healthy sleep habits and personal hygiene (if that is a battle you commonly fight), or you could simply catch up and find out what is on his or her mind. Children sleep more easily when they feel secure, and this talk will make him or her feel extra special in your eyes.
As you can see, there are many valuable and easy ways for your child to relax and transition t sleep, without the use of a television show. Give them a try and see how easily your child drifts off to dreamland! — Amy Bevan
Amy Bevan is a freelance writer, local reporter and host of The PranaMama, an online wellness and lifestyle magazine, and frequent contributor to ChildLight Yoga's blog, The Kids Yoga Resource, as well as certified ChildLight Yoga Instructor and Itsy Bitsy Yoga facilitator. Amy resides in South Berwick, ME with her husband and two young children.