The process usually does the trick of winding him down. But 2-year-olds are not so good at dealing with transitions. When Owen needs a little more help calming down, we use guided meditation.
It was my wife’s idea. I have to admit that when she first tried it, I thought her touchy-feely Boulder, Colorado roots were finally seeping through.
But Oh how it works! Guided meditation can take a stubborn toddler from, “No! No! No!” to “ZZZzzzz…”
With a skeptical stance I stood by his crib, watching Sarah in action.
She turned on his crib toy. It projected a cycling movie of birds, bees, bears, stars and puffy white clouds onto his ceiling while classical music and lullabies wafted softly into the air.
“Owen drives the train up the hill and as he looks out the window he sees birds flying in the sky,” she started.
Owen grabbed his sippy cup to settle in for the story. He approved of the beginning.
“The train heads into a tunnel,” she continued.
“Other train!” Owen pitched in.
She followed her cue.
“In the dark tunnel, Owen sees another train,” she said. “So he turns on his light as the other train goes by. ‘Choo choo!’ says the other train as they all wave.”
“Puppies!” demanded Owen.
“When the train comes out of the tunnel, Owen sees puppies playing in the field…There is a brown puppy and a white puppy…”
Owen’s eyes start to close as his mommy listed the different kinds of puppies that he saw as he looked out of the train window.
He curled up in that way that only toddlers find comfortable–with his butt up in the air and his face mushed into his mattress.
It worked so well that I decided to give it a shot the next night. I started by asking him what color train he wanted to drive that night.
“Blue,” he said.
I kept my voice calm so that the story had a soothing feel to it. I tried to one-up his mommy by adding other guided meditation tricks that I learned about in psych classes in college.
Besides being Owen’s favorite color to say, (I think he likes the sound of the word and it’s easier for him to say than red) blue had another advantage. It’s a calming color.
So Owen drove the blue train over the blue bridge that stood over the blue water (water is also a calming image used in meditation) as he waved to blue birds in the blue sky that night as daddy embraced his new-agey side.
Since then, I’ve done some research and learned that guided meditation is a common practice to help sooth children at bedtime.
Essentially, it’s just telling them a story that they can picture themselves in. It helps them forget that they are trying to go to sleep.
“The Everything Guide to Raising a Two-Year-Old” by Brian Orr and Donna Raskin advises to make the scene “as evocative yet as soothing as possible,” and “Use as many descriptive words as you can.”