These calming activities will help kids unwind and relax. The best part? They work for grown-ups, too!
When to Use Calming Activities
Calming activities are ideal for any number of scenarios.
Lower the Emotional Temperature
Children have trouble regulating their emotions.
Anger, sadness, giddiness, anxiety, or frustration can cause them to act out physically because they can’t yet regulate themselves.
Wind Down to Sleep
Unlike adults who become lethargic when tired, children sometimes act the opposite way.
Calming activities can reduce hyperactivity and signal to the brain and body that it is time to rest.
Children benefit from a brain reset after periods of concentration (or even prolonged social time if you have an introverted child).
A calming activity relaxes the brain and body and gives the child much-needed refreshment.
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10 Calming Activities for Kids
These calming activities are simple and require little to no prep.
Calming sensory activities can draw kids’ attention and quiet their minds and bodies.
Provide cups or molds for kinetic sand, play dough, or water beads.
Children will also enjoy playing with slime, putty, or oobleck (equal parts corn starch and water).
Guided Imagery and Imaginative Stories
Guided imagery helps kids relax their bodies by clearing their minds.
These stories (like the ones in the book Imaginations by Carolyn Clarke) guide children to visualize scenes like taking a hot balloon trip or swimming under the sea.
You can also use imaginative stories to capture a child’s attention and calm his mind.
Creating a cozy corner gives children a safe space to calm themselves.
Fill the space with fuzzy pillows, comfortable seating, or a soft rug underfoot.
The cozy corner can be temporary (like a blanket fort) or permanent (like this teepee).
The cozy corner is ideal for calming activities such as quiet reading or sensory bottles.
If your child reads to calm down, create the ultimate kids reading nook.
When you read, you still your body and transport your mind to another place.
Reading is a calming activity that can take many forms.
Reading aloud to a child, quiet independent reading, listening to audiobooks, or ear reading are all calming activities.
When a child focuses on her breath, she feels calmer and more centered.
Here are some breathing activities children can try.
The child lies down and places a buddy (a stuffed animal) on his chest. Then he takes deep breaths in and out to move the buddy up and down.
Here’s a breathing exercise to try: Starfish Breathing
The child places one hand on a table and traces its outline with the finger of the opposite hand.
As he moves up a finger, he inhales.
As he traces down the other side of the finger, he exhales.
Once he traces all five fingers, he has made a starfish!
Give the child prompts to breathe like certain animals.
Some great choices: snakes (hiss as you exhale), bumblebees (buzz as you exhale), hummingbirds (hum as you exhale), and cats (purr as you exhale).
Focusing on nature can calm children (and you!).
Go on a nature walk–you can even make it a nature scavenger hunt). You can look for colors in nature, insects and birds, or shapes.
You can collect twigs, pine cones, or flowers to create nature crafts (even informal crafts like “build a village for ladybugs”).
Yoga or Stretching
The ancient practice of yoga helps reduce stress and relieve anxiety.
When introducing yoga to kids, it is essential to keep poses simple and tie them to pictures the child understands.
You can incorporate yoga or stretching into stories to act out the scenes.
For more on introducing yoga to kids, check out this article.
Music can be a powerful calming tool.
Choosing the right music is vital.
Are you trying to relieve stress? Happy, upbeat dance tunes may do the trick.
Are you trying to get a child to wind down for sleep or lower his activity level? Choose mellow music like classical, folk, or soundscapes.
Water is a soothing sensory activity that helps calm children.
Baths can be wonderfully calming. You can provide a child with bath toys for added fun. These can be as simple as funnels and bottles.
Or you can use these waterworks pipes.
Add scented bath bombs or bubble bath for extra calming effects.
If you don’t have a bathtub (or your child does not like them), showers also work well.
You can also fill the sink with water, bubbles, and toys for water play anytime.
Drawing, Coloring, or Journaling
Art can be very calming for children.
Drawing, coloring, painting, beading, sculpting–all of these are powerful calming activities for children (and adults).
Top Ten Calming Activities for Children
Telling a child to “just calm down” rarely works.
Instead, provide a child with a calming activity so he can learn to regulate himself.
Practice relaxation skills with your child with these top ten calming activities for kids.