Help kids fall asleep with these 8 low-screen gadgets and apps

Parents know that a screen isn’t the most helpful bedtime accessory. As tempting as it is to let our little ones fall asleep to Peppa Pig or The Powerpuff Girls, the blue light emitted by smartphones and tablets messes with the body’s ability to prepare for sleep because it blocks melatonin, the natural sleep hormone.

Luckily, there are lots of high-tech solutions for children who just won’t sleep – with minimal screen involvement. So if a lullaby or counting sheep just won’t cut it, here are some of the best apps and devices to help your kids slip into the land of nod (and hopefully stay there for about 10 hours). 

One of the major players in the meditation/sleep app game, Headspace has a platform dedicated to kids with a section for sleep. Headspace for Kids offers sessions customized for three age groups: 5 and under, 6-8 and 9-12, all with the goal of using relaxing mindfulness activities to get a good night’s rest. These include meditation soundtracks that don’t require any screen interaction. 

Last year, Headspace partnered with Sesame Street to create a series of six short, wind-down “Monster Meditation” films featuring favorite characters like Cookie Monster, Elmo and Grover, alongside Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe himself in animated form. These are free on YouTube and YouTube Kids. 

A free trial of Headspace for Kids is available; thereafter it’s $12.99 if you pay monthly or $69.99 for an annual subscription 

Moshi is an audio-only app, so parents don’t need to worry about screens or blue light when they’re trying to get their little ones to wind down. Featuring stories (narrated by the occasional celebrity voice, such as Goldie Hawn and Sir Patrick Stewart), music, meditations and tranquil sounds.

In a NYU Langone study of 30 children over 10 days, scientists found that kids using Moshi, on average, fell asleep 28 minutes faster and slept for 22 minutes longer, and night wakings decreased by up to 50%. 

The Moshi app (with six pieces of content) is free to download. You can try the full Moshi experience for free for 7 days; thereafter it costs $40 per year.

The Yoto Player, which Mashable recently reviewed, is a speaker just for kids Parents get peace of mind that all the content is safe and suitable – there’s no camera, no microphone, and no adverts. The concept is simple: Audio cards that kids can pop into the slot on the device control playing music and books. There’s also free audio content that’s accessible with the push of a button on the Player. 

Yoto also comes with soothing sounds to help children drift off to sleep, doubles up as a nightlight (with customizable colors), and lets kids choose their sleep and wake up times. 

The Yoto Player, with a magnetic charger and a welcome card, costs $99.99. The six-card Starter Pack, including a podcast, crackling fire sounds, and Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl, is $10 (reduced from $24.99). 

4. Calm Kids 

Part of the extensive, award-winning Calm app, Calm Kids provides beginner meditations for people up to 18 years old. Calm also includes more than 30 sleep stories for children, like Frankie and Maggie’s Moonlit Hike, Peter Pan, Arnie’s Nighttime Bath and passages from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Calm has also teamed up with the Thomas and Friends engines to introduce young kids to meditation. And while they’re not specifically aimed at kids, Calm Body and Breathe Bubble can be super relaxing for youngsters struggling to fall asleep. 

A limited version of the Calm app is available for free; there’s also a 7-day free trial of the full app available. Thereafter, you can pay $14.99 a month, $69.99 a year, or take a lifetime membership for $399. 

5. Novel Effect 

Novel Effect is a little different than other sleep story apps – parents or carers still read the stories, and the app plays original music and sound effects to go along with the words, just like in the movies.

It’s easy to use; you simply choose a book from the library (including Where the Wild Things Are, Cat in the Hat and Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day) and start reading. Using voice recognition software, the app identifies where you are in the story and starts playing tunes. 

To use Novel Effect with picture books, you’ll need your own print copy or ebook, which you start reading aloud once you hear the start chime. 

Novel Effect has a free version on both iOS and Android; the premium version offers unlimited access to a digital library of child-friendly content for $59.99 per year. 

6. Dodow

Dodow claims to help people fall asleep in as little as eight minutes – including kids over the age of six. It works by shining an expanding and contracting blue light on the ceiling of your bedroom – you do your part by synchronizing your breathing with the light. 

Dodow’s rhythm of six breaths per minute aims to take kids from a state of alertness or agitation to the resting (slightly sleepy) state. 

It’s a night light with a difference, giving kids who feel anxious at bedtime or wake up during the night and struggle to fall back asleep something to focus on other than their thoughts or fears. The hypnotic effect of the regular pulsation of light aids with relaxation. 

Dodow is available at Amazon ($59.90). 

7. Boon Gleam 

Boon Gleam is a projecting nightlight that creates a starry sky in a continuous spectrum of colors. The timer function means you don’t have to worry about switching it off, and it also turns into a flashlight when it’s removed from its wireless charging base – great for late-night trips to the bathroom… and checking under the bed for monsters!  

Boon Gleam is $17.97 from Amazon

8. LittleHippo Mella 

Possibly the cutest sleep aid around, LittleHippo Mella uses colors and facial expressions to teach kids when it’s time for bed and time to wake up. It sleeps through the night with your kid, then “wakes up” with a smile and glows when it’s time to start the day. 

It also has three sleep sound options and five night light colors to help with relaxation, plus three alarm sounds and an alarm and silent countdown for timed activities for old kids. 

LittleHippo Mella is $49.99 from Amazon

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