Getting kids to sleep is no easy feat. But when you have a sensitive child or a sensory kiddo, it can be that much tougher. Just how are you to get your sensory child to sleep?
As the mom of two sensory kiddos myself, here are some tips (and tricks) I’ve learned along the way that can help your child, no matter his age, settle down and get to sleep. This post contains affiliate links.
How to Get Your Sensory Child to Sleep
Above the usual pieces of advice, such as have a soothing bath and stick with a normal nighttime routine, I’ve found these tips (and tricks) have really helped my sensory and sensitive kiddos go to sleep easier.
Implement a Sensory Diet
If you haven’t already, I can’t emphasize enough that sensory kids need to have a sensory diet — and it needs to be addressed every single day.
What is a sensory diet? It’s activities you implement every day that help meet the specific sensory needs of your child. Every kid is different, so what he will need is different from the next kiddo. For example, if your child is a tactile sensory seeker, make sure he gets loads of tactile input before bed.
My oldest son was always seeking proprioceptive and vestibular input… jumping, spinning, crashing. The key was to make sure he got his fill during the day… and then turn it off before bedtime to give him a chance to cool his engine a bit.
To be honest, some days your child will need one thing one day and need something else the next day. The key is to try to be as consistent when possible, make changes based on the day as needed, and make sure that it’s tailored to what your child needs.
Keep Sensory Toys on Hand
Over the years, we have created a bin of small sensory toys that are also soothing and calming. We keep a couple of fidgets, like Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty and Tangle Junior, that my son likes to use after I say goodnight.
We also have some visually soothing toys, like a glitter wand and liquid bubble dropper, we keep on his nightstand. Of course, figure out what’s age appropriate for your kiddo. But I know as a kid I loved these kinds of toys for a reason… I just didn’t understand why at the time!
Need more ideas to help your kiddo calm down at night? Find more visually calming ideas here!
Make the Bed as Comfortable as Possible
Yes, this seems obvious. But for kids who are hyper sensitive to their environment, what we may see as perfectly comfortable is actually not for them.
When my kids went to “big boy beds,” I bought these adorable organic sheets from Pottery Barn Kids. They had zoo animals for one boy and trains for the other. What I didn’t consider was just how soft these sheets were. It wasn’t until my child was in Kindergarten that he finally told me the reason he preferred to snuggle up in my bed was the sheets were smoother.
It seemed like such an odd statement. But when I curled up in his bed and really paid attention to how it felt, I realized that I could make it feel better for him. It was an embarrassing A-ha moment for me that it took me that long to figure it out.
1. Immediately, I upped my game on his mattress pad, buying a fluffier one with “smoother” cotton, which surprisingly makes a difference!
2. I also upped my game on his sheets. I found these fabulous Martha Stewart sateen sheets at Macy’s that weren’t expensive and are oh so soft!
3. And for the piece de resistance…. satin pillow cases! Don’t laugh. Both of my sons have gone gaga over these and for good reason. Even I had to admit they made their beds significantly more comfortable. And for a tactile sensitive kid, that’s a huge thing.
Add in Essential Oils
I have a hypersensitive smeller in my house. He can sniff out even the slightest thing in our house. So when someone suggested we try using essential oils, my first reaction was “no way!” But hear me out, I was shocked… and I mean shocked… at my son’s positive reaction to diffusing lavender oil in his room. And in case you’re wondering how to start essential oils with your child who is hypersensitive to scent, this is how I did it.
When I asked my son how the lavender made him feel, he said it made his room feel cleaner and more fresh. It’s actually a great way to describe it.
I should mention that I’m friends with a mom who puts lavender essential oil into coconut oil (as a carrier oil) and puts a dab on the soles of her son’s feet at night. He was relying on melatonin for years before this, but this combo is doing the trick in her house.
Create a Nighttime Refuge
This can mean many things for your child. But basically, create a visually calming sensory experience.
1. This year, we added a green lava lamp to my son’s room, which casts a wonderfully green hue to the room at night while also adding a visually calming focal point. For years, my other son had a turtle night light that would shine stars all over his room.
2 . Have you seen these new bed tents? They look amazing… and for a kid that needs to feel cocooned while tuning out the rest of the world, this would be awesome. I wish we had known about these sooner.
3. In our house, each boy has a CD player with a customized playing list of nighttime songs. These are quiet songs the kids have connected with over the years. They literally listen to this CD at least once (if not twice) a night.
4. Consider adding a white noise machine. One of our kiddos has environmental allergies so we run an air filter all night, which acts as it’s own white noise machine. But sometimes it’s helpful for kids to dampen the sounds from the rest of the house.
Just these small changes immediately impacted how my son felt about his bed and helped him calm down at night.
So the next time you go into your child’s room, really think about the sensory experience your kiddo has in there. Think about it from his perspective. You may be surprised at the small changes you can make that will make a big change in getting your child to sleep at night.
Welcome to the Sensory Blog Hop — a monthly gathering of posts from sensory bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about what it’s like to have Sensory Processing Disorder and to raise a sensory kiddo! Want to join in on next month’s Sensory Blog Hop? Click here!