Bedtime Relaxation Stretches for Kids

Amazon affiliate links may be included in this blog post. As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases.

In this post, you will find calming bedtime relaxation stretches for kids and families, based on the popular children’s book, Time for Bed. These activities are perfect for helping kids calm down before bed. We know the power of sleep hygiene in child development, but let’s consider the powerful impact of stretches before bed have on children.

Relaxation Stretches for Kids Sleep

An important thing to cover when it comes to helping children fall asleep and stay asleep at night is the concept of pre-bedtime yoga. When kids participate in bedtime stretches as part of their bedtime routine, it’s a sensory diet that supports sleep.

relaxation stretches for bed time
Use animal theme yoga poses to support relaxation at bedtime.

One thing that we’ll cover here is the impact that the interoception sensory system has on sleep.

Related is our resource on the role occupational therapy professionals can play in sleep for the whole family, when it comes to supporting a baby or newborn not sleeping.

Relaxation Stretches for Kids Sleep

An important thing to cover when it comes to helping children fall asleep and stay asleep at night is the concept of pre-bedtime yoga. When kids participate in bedtime stretches as part of their bedtime routine, it’s a sensory diet that supports sleep.

I love to bring this concept together for kids by first talking about how everyone needs sleep. Kids, adults, and even pets and animals. Sleep supports growth, learning, and allows our brains to rest. You can even use a few of our hibernation activities to take this concept further with kids, depending on the interest level.

Use these relaxation stretches for bedtime to incorporate calming sensory input.

One thing that we’ll cover here is the impact of the interoception sensory system has on sleep.

Children can get a little wound up before bed.  All it takes is one rouge energy burst and you’ve got giggling kids bouncing from every surface imaginable.  

Couch cushions? check. They are jumping up and down.  

Running from room to room? Check. There’s two of them chasing one another back and forth will the occasional knee slide across the hardwoods.  

Practicing the living room tumbling skills? Yep and check. There’s one more doing somersaults across the room.

Why must they gang up on me with their endless energy during those exhausting pre-bedtime hours?

Having a set of bedtime relaxation stretches in the nightly routine can support sensory needs and promote a sense of calm before bedtime, just when children are wound up and excitable.

benefits of stretching before bed

We know that sleep is a necessary occupation for all of us, but for children sleep patterns and healthy sleep cycles support so many aspects of development.

  • Cognition
  • Learning
  • Behavior
  • Nutrition
  • Emotional development
  • Social development

When children don’t get enough hours of sleep, or if they don’t get quality sleep on a consistent basis, there are several things that can occur:

  • Poor focus
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Attention and behavior problems
  • Poor academic performance in school
  • Excess weight or increased food intake
  • Problems paying attention
  • Health problems: obesity, type 2 diabetes, poor mental health, and injuries
  • Decreased physical activity
  • Poor mental health
  • Unhealthy risky behaviors related to decision-making
  • Risk-taking behaviors, bullying, school violence-related behaviors, and physical fighting
  • Higher risk of unintentional injury

There are several studies describing the benefits of stretching before bed. Kids can benefit from a pre-bedtime stretching sessions to integrate sensory processing systems and the calming benefits of slow movement, heavy work as a regulation tool. This calms the body and helps with relaxation before bed.

Stretching before bed supports sleep quality. One review of multiple studies found that mindfulness meditation practices that incorporate gentle stretching, such as yoga and tai chi, generally improve sleep quality.

Another study found that older adults reported improved sleep quality after performing low level physical and cognitive activity. The researchers found that gentle stretching resulted in better sleep than when the participants performed more strenuous exercises, such as aerobics.

Bedtime stretches help kids stay asleep. A study into resistance exercise training and stretching found that exercises could improve symptoms of insomnia. In the study, the participants performed stretching in 60-minute sessions three times per week for a period of 4 months. The results showed improved sleep quality when stretching in the evening.

Better sleep supports learning and executive functioning skills. Other studies tell us that better sleep hygiene in children support development of executive functioning skills.

yoga poses for stress relief

Today, I’m sharing a great way to calm kids down before bed so that quality sleep is possible. These yoga poses for stress relief and bedtime relaxation promote organizing heavy work through the proprioceptive sensory system and gentle movement through the vestibular sensory system.

Another contributing factor is the interoceptive system which connects our internal systems such as digestion, heart rate, circadian rhythms, and muscle tension. All of these factors play a vital role in impacting sleep, with both the ability to fall asleep, and the ability to stay asleep throughout the night. This study shares more on the interoceptive system’s role in sleep.

These organizing and calming yoga poses stretch the muscles and joints to offer feedback to regulate an overactive system.

If you’ve ever participated in a yoga session, you know the benefits of certain yoga poses in reducing stress and anxiety.

It’s important to make the connection between stress responses, anxiety, over-active thoughts, and a hyper-response to stimulation and emotional responses. The difficulty in identifying and describing emotions in self (a huge part of social emotional learning and development) is referred to as Alexithymia.

This ability develop social emotional skills occurs with age, and social skills interventions.

Specifically, alexithymia is defined as difficulty identifying and describing emotions in self. We know that noticing and understanding internal body signals (aka interoception) is crucial to a bodily systems, so it makes sense that if interoception is affected, using or showing emotions, and identifying emotions in self will be affected.

Interoception influences emotions by it’s control and underlying influence on internal processes of the body: toileting, hunger, thirst, and sleep!

When interoception impacts sleep, it then further impacts emotions:

  • stress
  • getting angry or frustrated easily
  • anxiety
  • fear
  • worry
  • overly emotional responses
  • sadness
  • over-excitability
  • hyperactive responses

All of these emotional responses are normal and good feelings to experience. However, when sleep is reduced, they can move into an area of impacting other functional tasks or everyday occupations.

You’ll also find information and resources in this article on the limbic system including the stress response. You can see how all of these concepts fit together to impact daily functioning.

How to use yoga poses for stress relief with children

Using yoga to support relaxation at bedtime is not a new concept. Yoga naturally supports relaxation through the heavy work input of the proprioceptive sense.

However, yoga also adds the benefit of deep breathing exercises to calm and center the body as an organization tool.

When it comes to bedtime, adding anything to the nightly routine can mean a delayed bedtime, so making the relaxation stretches part of the routine that is already in place is important. If you read a book together each night, incorporate stretches into that. If brushing teeth and going to the bathroom are the only tasks that happen each night, use the time just after those jobs to do a few stretches.

Adding bedtime stretches for the purpose of relaxation doesn’t need to be difficult. The most important thing here is to make it work for your situation and home. down the somersaults and hardwood floor stunts into relaxing bedtime.  

Here are some tips to support relaxation at bedtime:

  • Use bedtime relaxation stretches in a nightly routine. A visual schedule can be helpful with some kids.
  • Dim the lights and turn on soothing music
  • Read a book before bed
  • Drink a warm drink as a calming food/sensory tool.
  • Set the mood for sleep with a calming bedroom or sleep space: snuggly blankets, cozy pillows, or cool temperature, depending on the individual’s preferences.
  • Use the relaxation stretches listed below.

One way that helps to get kids relaxed before bed is reading a great book.  When kids can listen to an engaging story that is read aloud, their bodies can’t help but slow down.  

Bedtime Relaxation Stretches for Kids

These bedtime relaxation stretches are a combination of relaxing yoga moves and heavy work that helps to ground the body through proprioceptive input to the body’s sensory receptors in the muscles. 

Performing these relaxing stretches can help transition kids to a calmed state that allows for a better sleep.

Below are forms of yoga poses for children.

We decided to use one of our favorite going to bed books, (Amazon affiliate link) Mem Fox’s Time for Bed

In the book, we hear a rhyming verse about each animal’s transition to sleep.  It’s such a beautiful book to snuggle up with kids during night time routines.  In fact, Time for Bed can easily become one of those books that you read over and over again.

We loved looking at the watercolor pictures in Time for Bed and picturing each animal as it got ready for sleep.  

To go along with the book, we tried some of these bedtime relaxation stretches. 

Grab your copy of the free printable below by entering your email address into the form, or going to The OT Toolbox Member’s Club and heading to the Mindfulness Toolbox.

Time for Bed book by Mem Fox and relaxation stretches for bedtime

To do these exercises, simply cut out the printable on the lines, and create a small stack of stretches.  Kids can do one or more of these relaxation stretches to calm down before settling in with the Time for Bed book. (affiliate link)

Simply pull out a couple of the stretches and join your child on the floor to perform each stretch.  The stretches are designed based on the animals in the book.  

When doing the stretches, hold the stretch for 2-3 minutes while maintaining deep breathing. 

Bedtime relaxation stretches
Print off these relaxation stretches for a bedtime calm down session for kids.

As we all know, kids will be kids.  If your child is getting too wound up from the stretches (because sometimes the sleepy sillies take over and make concentrating on stretches and relaxing deep breaths nearly impossible!) simply put the stretches away and try them another day.

Bedtime stretches with an animal theme
Relaxation stretch for kids, incorporating yoga poses for stress, anxiety, or to calm down before bed.

Your child will love doing these bedtime relaxation stretches with you and the whole family!

Bedtime stretches to do before bed

Little Goose Stretch– Lie on the floor on your back, with your feet raised up on the wall.  Keep your knees straight.  Spread your arms out on the floor like a goose.  Bend and point your toes slowly.

Little Cat Stretch– Snuggle in tight!  Sit criss cross applesauce on the floor.  Bend forward at the hips and place your head on the ground.  Stretch your arms out on the floor over your head.

Little Calf Stretch– Grasp both hands together behind your back.  Bend forward at the hips and raise your arms up behind you.

Little Foal Stretch– Lie on your back and pull your knees in with your arms.  Hold the position and whisper about your day.

Little Fish Stretch–  Take a deep breath. Hold your breath in your cheeks and puff out those cheeks.  Slowly let out your breath with pursed lips.

Little Sheep Stretch–  Stand facing a wall and place your feet shoulder width apart.  Place your hands flat on the wall, shoulder width apart.  Push against the wall by bending and straightening your elbows.

Little Bird Stretch–  Close your eyes.  Think about your day and take deep breaths.  Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.  Add a “wing” component by raising your arms up high as you breathe in and lowering them as you slowly breathe out.

Little Snake Stretch–  Lie on your back on the floor.  Keep your legs straight and cross them at the ankles.  Place your arms over your head on the floor.  Cross them at the wrists.  

Little Pup Stretch–  Get into a downward dog yoga position.  

Little Deer Stretch– Sit on the floor with your legs straight. Spread them far apart and bend at the hips to touch one foot.  Hold it and then stretch to touch the other foot.

Try this tonight!  Do a few stretches and then snuggle up while reading Time for Bed! (affiliate link)

Calming bedtime books for kids

MORE relaxing bedtime books for kids

These relaxing bedtime books for kids are other ideas to use to support calming sensory input in a relaxation bedtime routine:

Amazon affiliate links are included below:

Free Printable set of relaxation stretches for bedtime

Use the Time For Bed book and relaxation stretches we used above in a bedtime routine of your own. Get a printable PDF of these stretches by entering your email address into the form below. Or, members in The OT Toolbox membership club can grab this PDF by logging in and heading to Brain Break Tools.

Free Time For Bed Relaxation Stretches

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

    One more thing! If you are into creative ways to extend and learn based on books, you will LOVE this resource! 50 activities based on books that address friendship, acceptance, emotions…This ebook is amazing for covering all things emotional development through play!

    Get yours!  

    Read more about the book here.

    Exploring Books through Play helps kids develop fine motor skills and gross motor skills while learning about empathy and compassion.
    New Feature...DOWNLOAD THIS POST AS A PDF! CLICK HERE
    Relaxation stretches for bedtime

    More Posts Like This