If your child is a holy terror when it’s time for bed, you’re not alone: Many parents echo the same words of Samuel L. Jackson when he screamed, “Go the f–k to sleep.” But regardless of how many steps are part of your child’s bedtime routine or how many wriggles he or she has left, technology is here to assist. A new crop of apps provide guided kid meditations and calming mantras to soothe your savage little beast. Some work as a sleep aid through white noise, while others play relaxing music tailored toward tots. Others chant nursery rhymes and bedtime stories. Whatever your son or daughter needs short of Jackson himself, there’s an app that can help. Remember: When the kids are well-rested, everyone fares better, including yourself.
READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to Sleep
Sleep Music for Kids
Relax Melodies: Sleep Sounds
This app pretty much does it all. You can customize the music being played, whether it’s nature sounds or tunes intended to help kids wind down. There are guided meditations. Breathing exercises you and the kiddos can do together. And it even tells fairytales as bedtime stories. You can set times and bedtime reminders. It’s free with in-app purchases.
Bedtime Music Lullaby Songs
This highly-rated app plays classical music to lull your child to sleep. We’re talking classics from Mendelssohn, Puccini, Tchaikovsky, and Bizet. So stuff that you won’t mind hearing either. Oh, and it’s free.
Lullaby Songs for Sleep
This app plays lullabies, including such crowdpleasers as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. You choose the duration, the volume, and can toggle between relaxation music, nature sounds, and lullabies. It’s free with in-app purchases.
Sleep Apps for Babies
If you’d rather not have your top played song on your Spotify Wrapped this year be White Noise, this app is for you. Babies respond well to white noise, particularly being shushed. This sleep app will go lung-for-lung to match a baby’s volume when they start crying and allows parents to record their own shushes. Plus, the Baby Shusher doesn’t do its white noise thing in the same passive-aggressive manner of an overtired parent.
Stop belting out terrible lullabys and just get the Sleep Hero app. You can select from a list of pre-recorded sounds, or upload your own nursery rhymes, sleep songs, and stories. When your baby starts wailing, the sleep app responds by playing your selections. One downside: If they start getting bored listening to the same tracks over and over again, there’s pressure on you to record a follow-up album. And you know those are never as good as the debut.
About $2.78 (iOS)
Remember those Pink Floyd laser shows at your local planetarium? If you can, this sleep app will bring back memories. Sleepy Sounds not only lets you play lullabies and soothing nature sounds on a loop, but it also displays an animated mobile to light up your kid’s room. Whether or not the sleep music syncs up with The Wizard of Oz remains to be seen.
Free (iOS) (Android)
Sleep Meditations for Kids
Surfing on a Cloud: Meditation
Aimed at kids 10 and younger, this app helps them unwind before bedtime through meditation and mindfulness. There are guided meditations delivered by Naya the Dream Fairy, audio storybook readings, and a feature called Fruit Salad that helps kids learn mindfulness by visualizing the colors and flavors of fruit. It’s free.
Calm Meditation and Sleep Stories
Another wonderful problem-solver, this app lets you listen to Matthew McConaughey’s sleep story about the mysteries of the universe in Wonder. Sold. But for kids, there are kid-focused meditations. Plus peaceful piano lullabies from Disney classics like Aladdin, Pocahontas, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Moana, and Mulan. It’s free with in-app purchases.
Calm for Kids
If you can’t decide between a sleep story or meditation app, this could be the app for you. Yoga and Montessori teacher Christaine Kerr, founder of Calm for Kids, takes your kid through a story meditation with soft, sleep-inducing music playing in the background. It’s meant for kids ages 12 and below, but you may find yourself falling asleep to the app, too.
Headspace For Kids
A meditation app might sound like some Eat, Pray, Love BS, but research shows it’s an incredibly powerful tool for reducing stress, anxiety, and insomnia, and there’s nothing ridiculous about a mentally mindful, calm kid. Headspace now offers kiddie editions of its popular meditations and breathing and visualization exercises. There’s an entire sleep section with kids sleep meditations, soundtracks, and white noise. Customized for kids five and under, six-to-eight, and nine-to-12, former Buddhist monk and professional calm person Andy Puddicombe will talk some sense into your preschooler.
Free (iOS) (Android) (Amazon)
RELATED: Does Meditation Work for Kids?
Sleep Stories for Kids
Everyone knows books would be better if music played behind the narration just like the movies. Well, practice your best Don LaFontaine, because this sleep app plays original music and sound effects to go along with select children’s books. Just choose a book in the app and start reading. Its voice recognition software will pick up where you are in the story and start playing tunes. Books on the app include Where the Wild Things Are, Cat in the Hat, and Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day.
Designed by Oscar-nominated animator and illustrator Heidi Wittlinger, Nighty Night is a narrated sleep story app about what barnyard animals do when the lights go out. (Like stage an allegory about the 1917 Russian Revolution?) As your kids watch the animals fall asleep in their stalls, they’ll hopefully follow suit. And, just like on a real farm, they’ll also be up with the rooster.
$3.99 (iOS) (Android) (Amazon)
Sleep Apps for Kids
Daniel Tiger’s Night and Day
Bedtime preparation is about routine. This sleep app from PBS Kids helps your kid develop the habit of getting ready to sleep and go to school in the morning. With songs and games, your kid helps Daniel Tiger take a bath, brush his teeth, and pick out what PJs to wear before he hits the sack. There’s also a calming bedtime story, told and sang to your kid as they assist Daniel with floating through the clouds.
This all in one app contains soothing audio stories (with narrators like Goldie Hawn), meditations, music, and white noise. Each audio journey is carefully designed with sleep in mind. As stories progress, they’re read slower and sleepier and background noise quiets, and music tracks gently fade to avoid abrupt silence. It’s free to download, and a premium subscription unlocks new and additional content and allows users to download tracks and use the app on up to three devices.