Give credit where credit it due: Riley took one of my sleep strategies and renamed it…and even added one important feature!
When we have infants, we are conditioned to believe that once those infants reach a certain age they will magically start sleeping through the night. And once they do, we will never even remember the sleepless nights.
But then they become toddlers and things like growth spurts, developmental milestones, and teething keep them awake at night.
And once we conquer that, they become preschoolers. Now they have real fears, like the dark, monsters, and ghosts. And even though they separate beautifully at preschool, they suddenly need us by their sides at night. And let’s not forget about the nightmares that result from the combination of active imaginations and a constant stream of new information.
Yes, preschoolers do their best processing at night. In the dark. When they are the most vulnerable.
Enter the Relaxing Story and the Dream Disc.
Riley is no stranger to nightmares, and she tends to get nervous when the lights go down. We have a very specific routine in place to help give her some control over her nighttime worries. The Worry Box, in particular, works wonders for an anxious mind.
But the Relaxing Story and the Dream Disc have given Riley a new feeling of control over her nighttime fears. They go a little something like this:
Each night after I turn off Riley’s lights, wrap her in her quilt, and give her hugs and kisses, I lie on the floor next to her bed and tell her a relaxing story.
She chooses the destination. It might be a walk on the beach, a trip to the duck pond, or a picnic at the park…whatever makes her feel calm.
In a very quiet and somewhat boring voice (never loud voices after the lights go down) I make up a story for her. I cue her to take deep breaths along the way. I point out relaxing stops along our journey (a waterfall, a rose garden) and mention relaxing activities (burying our feet in the sand, noticing a cool ocean breeze on our cheeks).
The story lasts about five minutes, sometimes less. I end each story with the words, “and now it’s time for Mommy and Riley to go to sleep.”
And for a long time, I would lean in close and whisper, “let’s think of a great dream for you tonight.”
Until Riley invented the Dream Disc.
She approached me one morning, her eyes brimming with pride, and exclaimed, “I have a great new idea! It’s called a Dream Disc!”
And this is how it works:
She imagines that all of her favorite relaxing stories are stored on compact discs on an imaginary shelf above her bed. She can list them off without stopping to think. It’s fascinating, really. When she needs a good dream to help her get to sleep she simply chooses a disc and plays it on the disc player in her mind.
Do you love the imaginary thinking of a 5 year old?!!!
The dream discs give her some control over her nighttime worries. Not only can she choose to have a good dream, but she can choose which good dream to have. She feels a little less alone this way, and she drifts off to sleep without any worries.
The Dream Disc. Genius.
Go ahead. Tell a relaxing story, have your child choose a dream disc, and enjoy a calmer bedtime experience tonight.
You won’t regret it.