Looking for effective calming strategies to help kids (or adults) relax?
Calming strategies for kids are tactics, activities, worksheets or exercises aimed to help reduce their:
There are lots of activities that can help our kids when they are feeling upset, anxious or overexcited. Most of the activities you will read below are also used as calming strategies for adults.
Calm down strategies usually fall in one or more of these categories:
- Relaxation methods
- Learning problem-solving abilities
- Attention diversion from anger triggers or situations
- Self-regulation strategies
- Emotion recognition
- Learning to channel feelings appropriately
- Coping strategies adapted to specific situations
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60 Useful Calming Strategies for Kids
Breathing Exercises for kids
Breathing exercises help control excessive physiological arousal.
These are some examples of exercises that help children learn deep breathing are (we also used these activities when we were working with our speech therapy on strengthening muscles) :
- Ask your child to pretend to smell a flower / pretend to blow a candle
- Blow soap bubbles
- Blow a pinwheel
- Place pieces of cotton on a flat surface and blow on them to move them along.
- Blow a candle
- Deep breathing while Mum/Dad counts to 10
Other breathing exercises:
- Lazy 8 Breathing exercise
- Yoga breathing techniques
- Belly Breathing (Diaphragmatic breathing)
- Alternate nostril breathing
Place your thumb on your right nostril and your middle and index on your left nostril. Hold your right nostril closed with your thumb and breathe in slowly through the left one. Breathe out through the right nostril while closing the left one. Hold your breath a couple of seconds and breathe in through your right nostril, keeping the left one closed. Continue alternating sides.
You may read in more detail about these three techniques mentioned above in my post Lazy 8 Breathing & other breathing techniques
Kabat-Zinn, probably the most reputable Mindfulness author, describes Mindfulness as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”
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- Body Scan Meditation – this meditation technique involves systematically and intentionally moving our attention through our body, attending to the various sensations in the different regions.
- Yoga (Check out my post “Yoga for Kids” – tips for beginners and some recommendations on great yoga books for kids)
Muscle Relaxation Techniques
- Progressive muscle relaxation exercises.
The premise of this relaxation method is that physical relaxation will lead to a feeling of calmness.
In progressive muscle relaxation, you systematically proceed to tense and then relax muscle groups, following a certain order.
- Squeeze a stress relief ball with your hand / release it
This follows the same principle as the previous technique. But it may be easier to teach a kid to start with just squeezing a ball.
And, if you are into DYI you can learn ? how to make homemade stress balls in just 3 minutes!
- Hug tight a soft toy
One more tensing-relaxing exercise. You can also teach your kids how to “breathe in /hug tight / breathe out / relax”, repeating this cycle several times till they start feeling calmer
Other relaxation techniques
Medical research has shown that the benefits of massage include pain relief, reduced anxiety, and depression, and temporarily reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and state of anxiety.
But even if you don´t know anything about massage, lots of kids find it really soothing to have a soft foot, hand, back or head massage.
? Fun Massage Ideas for Kids
- 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Exercise (? Read the blog post and grab your 54321 grounding poster)
This is a very simple and extremely effective grounding exercise. It will distract your child from the anxiety trigger, help focus on the present moment and relax.
Ask your child:
Name 5 things you can SEE in the room
Name 4 things you can FEEL
Name 3 things you can HEAR
Name 2 things you can SMELL right now
Name 1 thing you can TASTE.
Calming Down through Intense Activity
Use physical activity to burn energy out. This is a distraction strategy that can work really well:
- Bounce-on ball
- Jump / Skip jumping
- Go for a run / Get your child to run around a piece of furniture if you can’t go out
- Go bike riding
- Dance like there’s no tomorrow!
Using Deep Pressure as a Calming Tool
Many kids find deep pressure touch very calming. These are some examples of items that provide deep pressure input:
Other Sensory Strategies to Calm Down Kids
- Look at the relaxing motion of a lava lamp
- Use lights to calm your kids down. These items are some examples: a rainbow curtain, night light projector or electric jelly fish tank.
- Soothing noises, like the ones you hear in nature or in this wave projector
- Use your sensory bottles
- An indoor swing (the back and forth movement of a swing is extremely soothing)
- Enjoy the rocking input from a rocking chair.
- Essential Oils
“Change of Scene” Calm Down Ideas
Sometimes it helps to move away from the situation or setting that has triggered the anxiety or upset. Examples of this calm down strategy could be:
- Move to a different room from where the problem is happening
- Step out into the garden
- Go for a walk / Mum/Dad take the child for a walk
- Move to the calm down corner
“Change of Activity” as a Calm Down Strategy
Another calm down strategy is to divert your attention from the issues that are causing the problem. These are some calming ideas:
- Watch a favorite tv program
- Play board games
- Play computer games
- Read a book / Parent reads a story
- Play with playdough
- Make a drawing
- Listen to music
- Sing out loud to release the tension
- Play with fidgeting toys
Using Imagination to Calm Down
- Think about things that make you happy (We have a “wall of happiness” in each kid’s bedroom. It’s a nice way to use kid’s wall art as a coping skill tool )
- Swap bad thought for happy memories
- Write down your worries on a piece of paper and then tear the paper (throw it away)
Other Calming Ideas for Kids
- Help them express their feelings with an emotions chart. Being able to express our emotions also helps us soothe and relax.
- Teach your kids problem-solving skills.
You can use the “Stop / Think / Do” technique: Stop when you are very angry / Think about what alternatives you have to solve the problem / Implement the chosen one
- Start counting till you feel more relaxed
- Keep a journal where you write down about your feelings.
This journal is absolutely gorgeous and it helps kids discover:
- how to believe in themselves
- how to face challenges with confidence
- that mistakes are opportunities to grow
- they can achieve anything when they’re persistent
? Learn all the benefits of journaling for kids
- Practice your positive affirmations
- Talk to somebody you trust / Ask for help
- Take a warm bath
- Have a snack
- Drink a glass of water or milk
- Make sure your kid is rested and is having enough hours of sleep
Useful calming tips for kids
Tip 1: it is a great idea to keep all the items that help your kid self-soothe in a place where your child can easily access them. ? Ideas for a calming box
Tip 2: Use calm down strategy cards. Using visuals (calm down cards) when teaching kids to cope with big emotions (anger or anxiety) has many benefits like:
- assisting them to make their choices
- facilitating self-regulation
- supplementing or replacing speech for those kids who can´t communicate verbally
You can download my free calm down cards from here? anger management activities for kids
Calming Kids (or Adults!): 60 Effective Calm Down Strategies