A lot of children tell me they have a hard time falling asleep. Thoughts about the day, stress about schoolwork and tests, worrying about the wellbeing of mom and dad, and concerns for the future can keep them up. These distractions, plus children having their own mobile devices like smart phones, iPads, iPods, and you have the perfect recipe for staying up way past their bedtime. It can be serious, as sleep deprivation is certainly not healthy for anyone.
When I was younger, I too had trouble falling asleep. I know how distracting it is to have an over active brain. I remember many times my mom would rub my back until I was relaxed or fell asleep. These memories I still cherish to this day. The only downside to those moments with my mom was that I didn’t develop the tools I needed to fall asleep on my own. Often when we try to help kids relax and fall asleep we leave them dependent on us. Who taught you how to relax and how is that working for you now? What can be done for a sleepless child?
Eye pillows, for starters, are an excellent tool for relaxing children (and adults) and help transition them to sleep. Eye pillows can initiate relaxation of the eyebrows, cheekbones, temples, and neck. Children can initiate relaxation themselves and not rely on someone else. Now I am not saying to stop rubbing your child’s back. Rather, eye pillows can be an additional tool for your kids so that when you aren’t around, they can self soothe.
I sometimes make eye pillows with children in my classes. First I ask what it means to relax and what kinds of activities are relaxing. The most common responses are watching TV, playing on the iPad, and reading. I note that it’s interesting that when we are relaxing, our eyes and minds are still working and being stimulated. How would relaxation feel different if our eyes and minds could relax too?
Directions to make an eye pillow (for or with you kid(s) or students:
- Filler it can be rice, flax seed, buckwheat, millet, or lentils.
- Cotton socks crew length with fun and funky colors or patterns
- Small plastic baggies such as ziplock snack pack
- Optional: essential oil scent
Put the filler in the plastic bag. Don’t over stuff. Optional 1-2 drops of essential oil into the bag. Seal the bag. Place the bag in the sock. Each student can test it on their eyes to see if they want to add or take away some of the filler so it feels right for them. Tie a knot at the end of the sock. Voila! Eye pillows.
If you have enough time with your students, and if they have the fine motor skills, try using ankle socks and sew the opening shut. Another option, if you do not want to use plastic baggies are reusable snack pack bags. They often have fun designs on them.
Now give your students the experience of using the eye pillow to relax. Try having them go into a restorative yoga pose, or guide them through a progressive muscle relaxation, or offer quiet time.
It may not feel as good as a back rub, but it could be a great tool for when a care-giver isn’t around!
For more ideas on practicing relaxation with kids: