Inside: These science-backed calm down strategies for kids are easy, engaging and will help your child develop strong emotional regulation skills.
When it comes to children’s emotional development you’re going to be hard-pressed to find another skill as important (and as predictive of future success) as emotional regulation.
Due to your child’s immature nervous system and still under major construction, developing frontal cortex, it makes sense that they often lack the skills that help them to successfully manage their emotions and feelings (and if you’re being honest, I bet you’d say you’re still working on this particular ability too- even as an adult!).
One of the most helpful things you can do as a parent (and when it comes to how to raise an emotionally intelligent child) is to support your child in exploring different calm down strategies for kids that help foster your child’s emotional regulation.
You may have mistakingly assumed that these skills would appear naturally on their own, but it’s only through a lot of trial and error, repetition and teaching, that your child will develop strong Emotional regulation skills and the ability to consistently seek out healthy coping and calm down strategies when experiencing intense emotions.
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What makes this list of calm down strategies for kids different?
You might be wondering what makes these calm down strategies for kids different than other’s you’ve tried. These strategies are proven effective and are research-backed because they:
1) are grounded in the neuroscience of emotional regulation, or how your child’s brain functions when processing stress and intense emotion
2) include activities that utilize co-regulation, or a child’s need to have close connected support from a caregiver in order to return to a physiologically regulated state
3) focus on physical movements that provide calming and organizing sensory input to the brain and nervous system
Check out or PIN for later: Anger management for kids: A child therapist’s no Fail Secrets to Calm
75 Calm Down Strategies for Kids that they’ll love!
We have to start with this one because it’s powerful. Breathing exercises for kids are the quickest and most efficient way to disengage your child’s limb system and decrease stress bodies stress response.
2. Cuddle with a warm compress (my kids love these cute animal ones)
3. Play/cuddle with a pet.
4. Write a letter.
Write a letter to someone you’d like to share your feelings with, or about a challenging topic or situation.
5. Breathe in a favorite scent.
Essential oils work amazingly for this! The brain’s olfactory center overlaps with areas that control emotions, so scent has a major impact on our emotions. Here are some safe, kid-friendly options we love!
6. Count your heartbeats.
7. Get wrapped up tight in a blanket like a burrito.
8. Tell a grown-up what you need.
9. Draw/color what your feelings would look like.
10. Squeeze something (these are the best squishies that don’t break!)
The reason ‘squeeze balls’, putty, squishes work is they send the brain calming proprioceptive sensory input (from compressing the joints). Try it yourself and you’ll feel what I mean!
11. Do animal walks (bear, crab, frog jumps etc)
12. ‘Yell your anger’ into a pillow/blanket/sleeve.
13. Watch an animal.
Animal watching is a great way to teach mindfulness with kids
14. Make a fort to hide in.
15. Cuddle up with a cozy blanket.
16. Do a handstand.
Inversion (or handing upside down) is a proven technique that quickly affects the autonomic nervous system, slowing down the body’s stress response.
17. Try a short guided meditation for kids (learn more about other mindfulness activities for kids)
18. Play with water.
19. Listen to music.
21. Visualize a ‘happy place’.
23. Do a downward-facing dog yoga pose (you can find more in this yoga routine for kids)
24. 5-4-3-2-1 Challenge.
Name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This helps pull us into our bodies senses (which has a grounding effect), and out of our overly-activated ’emotion center’ of the brain.
25. Go outdoors.
26. Give yourself a hand massage.
27. Slow down your breathing with an expandable ball.
28. Squeeze a stuffed animal.
29. Identify your emotions (grab the flashcards in my ‘Calm Kids Set’)
30. Get in touch with nature.
Just holding something from nature or watching nature on TV has been found to produce calming effects on the brain!
31. Do wall push-ups.
32. Do a sensory play activity.
33. Ask for a hug.
34. Drink a glass of water
35. Push your palms together, hold, then release and repeat.
This is one of the quickest, easiest and most convenient ways to give the brain calming sensory input.
36. Put on noise-canceling headphones for quiet.
37. Turn off the lights.
Related read>>> The 50 Most EPIC Anger Management Tools for Kids
38. Run/walk around the outside of the house a few times.
39. Get a back scratch.
40. Take a warm bath.
41. Read a book about emotions.
43. Rock back and forth.
44. Do a ‘brain dump’ in a journal.
Related Read >>> 10 Anxiety Symptoms in Children that Most Parents Miss
45. Rip up or crumple a piece of paper.
46. Name 5 favorite things.
Focusing on gratitude will help soothe and de-activate the emotion center of the brain.
47. Chew gum or a chewy.
48. Rock yourself like a baby.
49. Cover up with a weighted blanket.
50. Color or read on your stomach.
This is referred to as ‘prone position’ and will help regulate your nervous system.
51. Go to the park.
It’s an amazing way to improve a child’s behavior and mood!
52. Watch a bubble timer or bubble stick.
53. Find a cozy space to crawl into.
54. Do 15 squats.
55. Squeeze your fists as tight as you can.
56. Count backward from 50.
57. Remind yourself it’s ok to be angry/upset/hurt etc.
58. No, seriously. Go outside!
(Here’s 40 Benefits of Outdoor Nature play for Kids)
59. Go for a bike ride.
60. Try a yoga video on Youtube.
61. Make a pillow trail and crawl over it.
62. Learn about why it’s hard to control your emotions sometimes.
63. Close your eyes and tune out the world.
64. Give yourself a tight squeeze.
65. Sit with your feelings for a few minutes and allow yourself to experience them.
66. Call a friend.
68. Eat a crunchy snack.
69. Knit/crochet or create something with your hands.
70. Repeat positive affirmations.
71. Look at a magazine.
72. Use these yoga cards for strong girls.
73. Recite the alphabet backward.
Focusing on a specific cognitive task helps de-activate your brain’s ’emotion center (amygdala) and activate the ‘thinking center’ (frontal lobes).
75. Remind yourself emotions are like waves, they come and they go.
Read or PIN: The Best Thing you can do to Help an Angry Child
Important points to remember about these calm down strategies for kids
When it comes to emotional development in children there’s no ‘one size fits all’ option.
Every child will differ with what their nervous system needs to down-regulate or slow down in order to regain emotional control. Their preferences will also change with different stages of development, seasons or ages.
A large part of raising an emotionally intelligent child is helping them to understand how to take care of their brain and body when experiencing emotional intensity and this list of calm down techniques for kids will get you off to a running start!
Grab your free printable list of calming strategies!
This post comes with a free printable list of calming strategies! (It’s hard to remember 75 things (even before having kids!) so let’s make things easy)
Here’s a peek at it…
- Download the calming strategies list. You’ll get the printable, plus join 10,000+ parents who receive my weekly insights, tips, and strategies on how to raise emotionally healthy kids who will change the world, every week!
- Place it on your refrigerator or in a centralized area (and experiment with what your child responds best to).
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