54321 Grounding
Anger Management,  Anxiety,  Calming Down,  Coping Skills

Free Pdf Poster 5 4 3 2 1 Grounding Exercise for Kids

Grab your 5 4 3 2 1 grounding technique poster and learn how to practice this simple mindfulness exercise

What can you do when your child is feeling overwhelmed with unpleasant emotions or unwanted thoughts? The 5 4 3 2 1 Grounding Technique could be your new favorite coping tool.

There is one important message that I keep bringing to my child’s attention when we work on coping skills development, and dealing with anxiety and anger:

“ It’s our thoughts that make our feelings. It isn’t stuff that happens that makes us feel bad. What makes us feel bad is what we think about the stuff that happens”

Our latest addition to our coping skills toolbox is the 5 4 3 2 1 Grounding Technique.

In today’s post, I will explain how we practice this simple but effective grounding exercise, and some tips and tricks that I feel make it work so well for us. 

Don’t forget to grab your free pdf 5 4 3 2 1 grounding poster at the very end of this post!

What is Grounding?

Grounding is a coping skill tool that can help us deal with anxiety and unwanted emotions and thoughts.  Grounding helps bring our mind and body to the present moment.

Grounding techniques are also used as coping strategies to deal with flashbacks, dissociations and post-traumatic stress disorders.

How Do Grounding Techniques Work?

Grounding techniques distract your attention from your unwanted emotions and thoughts. They help you focus on the here-and-now, by using

  1. Physical techniques that utilize your five senses
  2. Mental techniques that distract your mind and redirect your thoughts
  3. Soothing techniques that comfort you.

What is the 5 4 3 2 1 Grounding Technique?

The 54321 exercise is a very simple but extremely effective grounding technique.

I’ve used this grounding exercise with mind-blowing results.

It is one of the techniques that utilizes our senses to help distract our mind from our unwanted emotion. 

How to Practice 5 4 3 2 1 Grounding

Ask your child to name the following:

  • 5 things that you can SEE in the room
  • 4 things that you can FEEL/TOUCH right now
  • 3 things that you can HEAR
  • 2 things that you can SMELL now
  • 1 thing that you can TASTE

A variation on the 5 4 3 2 1 Grounding Exercise

The previous exercise takes your child through the five senses. But we have been practicing a variation that I read about at Dr. S. Cordes blog, and that I actually enjoy better.

I replace “Name 1 thing that you can taste” with:

  • Tell me 1 GOOD thing about YOURSELF

I think this grounding exercise still works great with this change. It helps distract about unwanted thoughts, but it also helps my child reflect on something really good about himself. He often just says “LOVE”, as I’m full of love. And I get a comforting big smile.

Practical Tips to Practice the 5 4 3 2 1 Grounding Exercise

How to set the mood to start this mindfulness exercise

I’ve used this technique to help me pull my child away from anxiety or anger attacks. But, it is not easy to jump into this exercise if your child is feeling extremely upset.

You may need to practice some breathing exercises before you start.

My personal trick is to mix two distraction strategies until I get him to calm down enough to engage in the grounding exercise.

In our case we sit in front of each other, legs cross, holding hands while we sing “row your boat” rocking backwards and forwards.

If you read my post about calming strategies for kids that would mix burning energy/intense activity with singing out loud.

What if we can’t hear, feel or smell enough things?

We have two ways out of this:

  1. You can ask your child to name favorite things (e.g. “name 2 smells you like” instead of “name 2 things you can smell”
  2. My preferred option. Since I’m trying to bring my child to the present moment, I believe thinking about favorite smells or sounds, is less powerful than actually smelling or hearing them.
    I prefer to offer my child those experiences, so for example, if we don’t have enough sensory inputs, I may provide them:

    1. FEEL / TOUCH – I ask him to close his eyes to focus on what he is feeling. So I may softly blow a bit of air on his face, apply soft pressure on one arm or run a finger through his hand to slightly tickle him.
    2. HEAR- I make sure the window is opened. So if the house doesn’t provide enough inputs we may still hear birds or a plane flying by (Yes! Our home is on a busy plane route. In your case it may be traffic or a dog barking)
    3. SMELL- my son loves smells. So instead of asking him to imagine a smell, why not providing that pleasant experience with a scented candle or the little spice bottles from the kitchen cabinet.

Other Useful Coping Skills Tools in this blog

FREE Pdf Poster 5 4 3 2 1 Grounding Exercise for Kids

I hope you find the 54321 grounding technique as useful as we do. And grab this beautiful poster, you will receive 3 different posters ( 5 senses, 4 senses + 1 one thing about yourself (boy & girl) ?(fill in your details below the picture)

Download Free Pdf Poster 54321 Grounding Exercise for Kids

All images used in this poster have been created by Graphic Mama Team


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