We'll Try Anything

4 Hacks For Calming Your Wild AF Kid Down Before Bed, As Told By An Occupational Therapist

Turnt up toddler no more.

Originally Published: 
An energetic toddler hangs off the edge of the bed.
Natalia Lebedinskaia/Getty Images

If you're one of those parents whose kid goes quiet when they're tired and gently drifts off to sleep, how does it feel to be the universe's favorite? The opposite is true for many parents. Instead of a wind-down, the kids wind up at bedtime. And if you're the parent of that kind of kid (the kind that turns downright feral before bed), you're probably ready to pull your hair out.

First, know you're now alone. Second, rest assured that there are easy, fun solutions for calming down those hyped-up heathens and making bedtime less stressful for the whole family. Mom and occupational therapist assistant Hannah Sylcox (@sensoryplay.allday) highlights her family's unique bedtime routine — and, y'all, it's especially useful for anyone trying to wrangle Wild Things into bed.

"Are your kids extra wild before bedtime?" reads her post. "Try these four occupational therapy sensory calming sleep tips."

1. Make a Toddler Burrito

Sylcox's first tip? Use a blanket to roll your kiddos up snuggly, like when you swaddled them as babies.

"[It] provides deep proprioceptive input into your child's body," she explains. "This is calming and organizing to their sensory systems."

In essence, this works the same as baby swaddles or weighted blankets. But doing the burrito roll makes it a little more fun for that age when kids are too big to swaddle safely and too small to sleep with a weighted blanket safely.

2. Pillow Squishies

Once your burrito is happily rolled and snuggled in, Sylcox suggests taking a couch cushion and using it to gently apply pressure down the length of your child's body. She goes head to toe and does their front and their back. It's like a cushy, kid-proof massage.

"[This] provides deep pressure, which brings your nervous system into more of a balanced response," she explains. "This calms and organizes the sensory system as well."

3. Exercise Ball Rocking

Remember when you'd take that swaddled babe and gently rock them in your arms? Or when your fussy infant would settle down as soon as you put them into the swing? This works similarly.

"Repetitive, rhythmic rocking, swaying, and swinging provide calming vestibular input into the nervous system, helping children relax," Sylcox writes.

Similarly, you could consider investing in a sensory swing as your child gets a little older, instituting a bedtime independent reading session in the swing. They hug your kids, offering a similar effect to the burrito roll and the pillow squishies. Plus, they can gently kick when climbing in to help get their swing swaying or rocking.

4. Warmth

Some sensory kids hate being warm, so this may not work for everyone in the family. However, Sylcox's last tip is to put your kiddo's blankets in the dryer to warm them up before bedtime.

"Place their blankies in the dryer for a few minutes before bed," Sylcox suggests. "The warmth from their sleeping blankets signals bedtime to them and puts their minds in a state of calm and relaxation."

Have a kid who would rather be yeeted out a window than sleep under a warm blanket? If they hug a snuggy, lovey, or big blanket, consider heating just that. It's something warm and calming they can hold onto if they want, without feeling trapped under the heat.

Use What You Need

In Sylcox's video, you can see from the kiddos' clothes that they don't use these in a particular order — and there's no hard and fast rule that you need to use all of these at once.

If you wanted to use them all, you'd probably want to start with rocking on the ball. Then roll and squish those burritos before tucking them into bed under a new warm blanket. However, if you have smart kids, having that strict of a routine every night might start causing them to anticipate bedtime and fight against your efforts.

Your best bet might be to keep all four in your back pocket and pull out one or two on wild nights so that the routine doesn't start signaling your kid's "fight or flight against bedtime" instincts.

A Final Note

Bedtime routines are different in every family, and there's no singular answer for what that should look like. Why do so many different routines work? Because each kid and each family is different. You'll know one kid is ready for bed when they settle down beside you on their couch and start sucking their thumb. Meanwhile, their younger sibling might start a nightly dance party 30 minutes before they crash onto the floor and are out like a light.

If your family can handle both of these conflicting routines in a way that is sufficient and not stressful for anyone in the house, well, that's a miracle and you should keep living your life.

This article was originally published on