Blow bubbles. Just like blowing on a pinwheel, blowing bubbles can help your child gain control of their breathing and thus, their mental state. Bonus: Running around popping bubbles is just as fun as blowing them.
Sing out loud. Everyone knows the sweet relief associated with rocking out to your favourite tune. But the physical act of singing out loud, even if it is off key, has been shown to release endorphins, the “feel good” chemical in the brain.
Watch fish. Have you ever wondered why there is always a fish tank in hospitals and medical centres? The University of Exeter in the UK did, and found that watching fish swim in an aquarium reduces blood pressure and heart rate. Better yet, the larger the fish tank, the greater the effect. (Perhaps you could use a fishy screensaver if you cannot get to see real fish?)
Repeat a mantra. Create a mantra that you and your child can use to help them calm down. “I am calm” or “I am relaxed” work well, but feel free to get creative and make it something personal to you and your child.
Breathe into your belly. Most of us breathe incorrectly, especially when we are in a stressful situation. Have your child think about their belly like it is a balloon. Tell them to breathe in deep to fill the balloon, and breathe out to deflate it. Repeat this simple process 5 times and notice the effects. It can help if the child places their hand on their belly to feel the breathing in and out. If the child feels able to, closing their eyes can help to really focus on their breathing but it’s fine if they don’t want to.
Shake a glitter jar. “Calm Down Jars” Giving your child a focal point for 3-5 minutes that is not the stressor will allow their brain and body to reset itself. These jars can be made simply from sealed jars or bottles filled with coloured water and glitter or with baby food jars filled with warm water and glitter glue. (Obviously glass bottles can be hazardous if thrown so best to use ones that will bounce). Snow globes have the same effect where the child focuses on watching and is able to calm.
Count to 5. Just when it seems as though they “can’t take it anymore”, have your child close their eyes and count to five. This form of 5-second meditation offers the brain a chance to reset itself and be able to look at a situation from a different perspective. It also gives your child a chance to think before they act in a volatile situation.
Breathing hand- Guide the child first to breathe in as they trace up a finger and breathe out as they move down the finger- they are focusing on their breathing and the tracing of fingers and should be quite calm by the time they reach their last finger but can always repeat if needed.
Blow on a pinwheel. Blowing on a pinwheel focuses more on controlled exhalation rather than deep inhalation. Tell your child to make the pinwheel go slow, then fast, then slow to show them how they can vary the rate at which they blow out the air in their lungs.
Paint it out. Not only does painting give the brain something to focus on other than the stressor, but participating in visual arts has been linked to resilience to stress in general. If the thought of dragging out the tempera gives you stress, have your child try “painting” with shaving cream on a plastic shower curtain in the yard. Not only is clean up a breeze, but your child will smell great when they are finished.
Give or get a bear hug. Hugging allows your body to produce oxytocin, a naturally occurring hormone in your body necessary for immune system function. A 20 second hug is said to reduce blood pressure, increase feelings of well-being, and reduce the harmful physical effects of stress, both you and your child will reap the benefits!
Walk in nature. According to Stanford scientists, walking in nature has been proven to improve cognition and reduce stress. Even if you do not have time to spend the 50 minutes researchers did, taking a 15-minute walk in nature works can be just what your child needs.
Squish some putty. When a child plays with putty, the brain’s electrical impulses begin firing away from the areas associated with stress. Try a store bought putty or make your own.
Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. Think about things you are thankful for. What made you happy today?
Name your emotion. Often when children become overwhelmed, it is because they have difficulty identifying the negative thoughts they are having. Whether your child is quick to anger, panic, or obsess to ensure things are perfect, ask them to give this feeling a name, and help them talk back to it.
Rock in a rocking chair. Not only does rocking in a rocking chair provide non-weight bearing strengthening to the knees and core, its repetitive nature offers stress-relief as well. Rock in a rocking chair with your child or allow them to rock by themselves as a way to self-soothe their frenzied emotions.
Push against a wall. This trick is perfect for allowing the body to get rid of stress hormones without having to go outside or even leave the room. Have your child try to push the wall over for 10 seconds, 3 times. This process allows the muscles to contract in a futile attempt to bring the wall down, then relax, releasing feel-good hormones into the body. To make more interesting you can place permanent hand outlines/prints on the wall as the place to push.
Crinkle tissue paper. Babies are inherently aware of this trick as one of their favourite things to do is crinkle paper. Not only does crinkling tissue paper provide a satisfying noise, the textural changes in your child’s hand sends sensory feedback to the brain in a pathway away from those associated with stress.
Pop bubble wrap. Anyone who has received a package in the mail knows the joy of popping row after row of bubble wrap. The same material can be found at many stores and be cut into manageable pieces for stress-relief anywhere, anytime.
Roll a tennis ball on your back. An old physical therapy trick, rolling a tennis ball on your child’s back will give them a gentle massage when they are most in need of a calming touch. Focus on the shoulders, neck, and lower back as these are typical places where the body holds tension.
Roll a small ball under your feet. Rolling a small ball under your child’s feet can not only improve circulation, but there are pressure points on the bottom of the feet that relieve stress and relax the muscles of the feet and legs. Roll over the entire sole of your child’s foot using various pressures for maximum benefit.
Go to your calm down space. Having a designated “Calm Down Space” in your home/school* gives children an opportunity to retreat when they feel out of control and re-join the group when they need to. It is important to make this space comfortable, so your child wants to visit it when they are in need of a self-imposed “time out”.
Play music. Music has a profound effect on mood, sleep, stress, and anxiety. Use a variety of musical styles to set the tone in your home, car, or your child’s room.
Do a primal yell. Sometimes all of your child’s emotions are simply too much to contain in their body. Have them stand with their feet shoulder width apart and imagine their feelings boiling up from their toes through their legs and body, and out of their mouths. They don’t have to yell words, or even maintain a certain pitch, just whatever comes out that feels good to them.
Fist full of anger Focus all the angry /upset feelings into the centre of a curled-up fist. Squeeze the fist tight and then, when ready open the fist to let them go. Repeat if needed.
Change the scenery. How many times have we thought to ourselves, “Just walk away,” when confronted by a big emotion? Your child may simply need a change of scenery in order to calm down. If you are inside, then head outdoors. If you are outside, find a quiet space indoors. Either way, change the scenery and you will likely change the mood.
Go for a walk. There’s a real reason people go for walks to clear their heads. Not only is the fresh air and exercise restorative, but the natural rhythm of walking creates a self-soothing quality. Take your child on a walk, and they may even open up to you about what is on their mind.
Knead the bread/dough The process of bread making is a tremendous stress relief. Simple recipes are abundant online that allow your child to get their hands dirty turning and pushing dough. The best part is that at the end, you have homemade bread to show for it! Alternatively knead some dough.
Some of these ideas are take from: (https://gozen.com/50-calm-down-ideas-to-try-with-kids-of-all-ages/)