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Have you ever been in a grocery store with young children, and for whatever reason, they have a total meltdown? Or do you have older kids who lose their minds when you tell them to turn off the game console? If not, congratulations, you won the offspring lottery and should write a book!

But we’ve likely all experienced tricky situations in which we needed to help our children calm down. Kids are full of energy, and more than ever, we need to help teach them how to direct that energy in appropriate ways. 

Kid in a trolley

We live in a fast-paced, highly digitalized technological world. Between cell phones, smart devices, and social media, we are constantly communicating and trying to keep up with all the technological changes.

As a result, we often find ourselves and our children in stressful situations. Stress can cause a variety of emotional responses. As we get older, we learn how to process our strong emotions, whether it is through experience or learning and practicing calming activities.

Something as simple as deep breathing or finding a healthy way to decompress is an effective calm-down technique.  But even the most mature adults have difficulty controlling how they react in stressful situations.

So, how do we help our children process their big emotions in this ever-changing world? This article will go through different strategies that help teach our children effective ways to express those big feelings.

Ideas for Activites and Techniques to Calm Kids

Here’s a quick list of calming tools, exercises and techniques:

  1. Create a comfy, quiet space at home with bins filled with sensory toys and activities.
  2. Head outside and blow bubbles, draw some fun art with chalk, or go for a walk.
  3. Bath time, reading a book, and coloring are great calming activities to do before bedtime.
  4. When out and about and dealing with a meltdown, find a quiet corner and have your child take deep breaths.
  5. Bring a sensory jar, fidget toys, or a tablet with some calming games downloaded.
  6. Meditation is a great activity to do with your children. It can be as simple as having them close their eyes and picture their favorite toy or place. 
  7. Yoga is also an excellent calming exercise. You can teach your children different stretches or roll around on the floor and have fun while playing some calming music.
  8. Martial Arts teaches breathing techniques, meditation, and self-discipline and is a fun physical activity for children of all ages.

At Home

Several calming activities can help younger children relax in any given situation. You can also use various calm-down techniques at home. Having a designated space for sensory play is a fun way to keep your child’s attention while also helping them relax.

You can make a calm-down jar that contains colorful little pom poms, sand, beads, and pipe cleaners. They can shake the jar and watch the items move around in different places, creating a new scene.

Having some sensory bins with fidget toys is also a great resource. You can make your assortment of toys or buy a starter kit online like the KINGYAO 24 pack. Child’s playdough, wooden blocks, or just a squeeze ball are also great items. You can also fill bins with common household items like plastic measuring cups, wooden spoons, and sponges. 

Space with bins that has toys

Another calming activity at home is to head outside and blow bubbles or turn on a bubble machine. Making your bubble mixture with glitter or other confetti is a fun sensory activity. The outdoors is a great place to enjoy some quiet time or get some physical activity. I like to keep a small table outside with a box of kinetic sand. Playing with sand is an excellent activity for kids of all ages.

Also, adding a water table for some water play or just a bowl of water with marbles or rocks is a fun activity that can help calm kids down. It helps children work on their coping skills through sensory processing. 

children playing bubbles

If you have older children, board games are sometimes the best way to decompress. Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, or Go Fish are all great games. Playing games as a family strengthens bonds, helps children feel safe, and helps boost their moods. 

When the end of the day approaches, having your child do a quiet activity is an excellent way to help them settle down for the day. Coloring, reading a book, or just playing in the bath all help create a nice calming effect before bedtime.

Throw in some fun bath toy activities like the Edushape Magic Mirrors. We love to put on classical music and have a warm hot chocolate for a special treat. A little consistency in your routine is a great way to help children relax at the end of the day. They know what to expect and look forward to it.  

Out and About

So what about when you are out and about and your child is tired, hungry, and bored? You can see they’re starting to have one of those epic meltdowns, and you’re already late for your appointment; what now? First things first, take some deep breaths. Children can sense your emotions during times of stress. They can even feed off of your emotions.

What I found that works best in these situations is to go to a ‘calm down corner,’ whether in the grocery store or doctor’s office. Make eye contact, speak calmly, and start counting. Take those deep breaths and have your child do the same. Just a little bit of breathing exercises can go a long way.

I also like keeping some items in my purse or diaper bag handy. Stickers, a small DIY calm-down bottle (similar to the calm-down jar mentioned above), and stress balls are great sensory activities. This website has some great ideas for creating your jar: Preschool Inspirations. 

girl with popit calming toy

My children seem to entertain themselves longer if they have their favorite stuffed animal or toy. They’ll play quietly by themselves or show off their toys to everyone around them.

I’ve also found the best way to have calm children when out and about is by playing quiet music in the car. However, there will be times when you’re unprepared, and I understand it may not be everyone’s favorite, but my magic wand is my phone. I have a few simple games downloaded just in case I end up in a losing battle of meltdowns. 

Other Calming Activities 

Meditation

I am always looking for new ideas on self-calming strategies. Plenty of research explains how the powerful practice of meditation can change one’s life. Although children have small attention spans, short videos that help teach kids to meditate are available online.

My kids like the YouTube channel Happy Minds. It may just be watching fish swim in a fish bowl or sitting in a quiet place and closing their eyes for a few minutes; children can meditate in many different ways.

There are many benefits from mediation. It helps teach children emotional intelligence and how to handle big feelings, and it can also help with sleep. Create your list of calm-down techniques and introduce those to your child. Using essential oils can be a powerful tool as well. The calming aromas of lavender can help create a relaxing naptime or bedtime routine.

Short, simple exercises like storytelling or imagining the waves on a beach are a great start. Doing meditation exercises at the same time each day is a great way to build a calming routine. 

Yoga

Yoga is another calming activity that is great to do in small groups. One of my favorite things about yoga is the different relaxing exercises, like the child’s pose. Some other great yoga poses for kids are the cat pose, the downward-facing dog, and the tree pose. My favorite place to do yoga with my kids is in my bedroom. We can dim the lights, close the door from all of the distractions, and focus on breathing and stretching.

I like to include a therapy ball to sit on while my children will sit on their soccer ball or basketball. Playing calming music and doing stretches is a great way to get the blood flowing while also working on flexibility.

You can also change it up and play the freeze game. Turn on a fun song and get their heart rate going by doing silly dancing and running around in a circle. When the music stops, everyone freezes and holds their pose.

If you want to follow a more structured routine, many great resources are out there. The website Kids Yoga Stories has free educational resources for parents. Their mission is ‘to help empower children with the tools and skills to self-regulate, manage emotions, and be the healthiest versions of themselves’. 

mom and son doing yoga

Martial Arts

Martial arts are also a great activity that helps children learn calming techniques. There are so many benefits for kids learning martial arts. This is especially true for elementary students. School can be overwhelming and stressful. Martial art breathing exercises help kids learn to get into a calm mindset.

Martial arts also help children improve their focus. This is great for enhancing self-discipline and helping them focus on the important things. And, of course, martial arts is an excellent alternative to sports. My son is timid and gets easily frustrated playing group sports. Martial arts is an independent activity that helps them focus on their body and mind versus winning the game. 

girl doing taekwondo

Whether you have young children or teens, every child will experience stressful situations. These are the best times to teach our children calming exercises to help them self-regulate their emotions. Starting at the age of 2, their nervous system is rapidly developing. But just like adults, kids will have bad days, and that’s ok.

Sometimes, they need a good cry or scream. Sometimes, they just need to be left alone while they process their feelings. Each kid is different and may like specific techniques more than others, but as long as you help them explore those techniques, the next time they feel those emotions coming, they’ll have some tools in their toolbelt to help calm them down. 

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