calm down strategies for kids

101 Effective Calm Down Strategies for Kids

Learning calm down strategies for kids is especially useful for situations that stress them out. Common sources of stress include schoolwork, grades, changing schools, problems at home, parents going through a divorce, and changes in their bodies[*].

Because a child’s brain is still developing, they may not always have the ability to express and control how they feel unlike adults. Fortunately, developmental studies are showing that we’re able to regulate our emotions better with age[*].

This is why it’s important for parents to help kids navigate the daily challenges they encounter. If your child is often irritable and angry, and you notice changes in their eating and sleeping habits, they may be dealing with strong negative emotions[*].

In that case, these calming activities for kids will help lower their stress and improve their performance and relationships.

101 Best Calm Down Strategies for Kids

Any of these methods can be practiced at home, in the classroom, or anywhere.

1. Ask a friend to play - Indoor and outdoor activities include building Legos, doing puzzles, playing in sandboxes, and having a tea party.

2. Ask for help if you need it - Parents can model help-seeking at home. For example, asking your child to help in the kitchen.

3. Blow a pinwheel - This helps them control their breathing and quiet their emotions.

4. Blow bubbles - This is another type of breath play that promotes relaxation.

5. Build something - Encourage them to make something great. Try a water bottle rocket or a storage shelf!

6. Clean or organize your room - Making their own bed and putting things back where they belong are just some of the many strategies kids can try.

7. Close your eyes and breathe deep - Deep belly breathing involves inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.

8. Color - Coloring is a great stress reliever. It can be an outlet for their emotions.

9. Count backwards from 50 - Here’s a fun way to do this: Play an upbeat background music and chant the numbers backwards.

10. Count to 10 or 100 - This distracts your child from an intrusive thought.

11. Cuddle up with a cozy blanket - This could be a wearable blanket of their favorite color, cartoon character, or animal.

12. Dance - Physical movements allow them to release emotions and experience relief.

13. Do a puzzle - Buy a jigsaw puzzle or make your own DIY version using cardboard.

14. Do a wall sit for as long as you can - This exercise involves placing your head and back against the wall in a “sitting” position, and holding that position for at least 20 seconds.

15. Do a word search - Word search puzzles keep your kids’ minds entertained.

16. Do fifty arm circles - Stand with your arms stretched out to the side and draw small circles using your arms.

17. Doodle on paper - Let them draw whatever they like — lines, shapes, images. There are no mistakes here.

18. Do origami - Origami improves hand-eye coordination. It also allows for mental focus.

19. Draw - This allows kids to focus on creativity instead of their source of stress.

20. Eat a healthy snack - Try yogurt, cheese slices, a fruit smoothie, and homemade energy balls.

21. Exercise - Exercises that are proven to reduce anxiety include walking, cycling, swimming, and dancing[*].

22. Feel your pulse - Focusing how your pulse feels keeps you in the present moment.

23. Get a back scratch - This helps relieve tension. Not to mention, it feels good!

24. Get a drink of water - Water has a natural calming effect on the body. Being dehydrated negatively affects your mood.

25. Get or give a hug - Hug a friend or family member. Hug yourself too!

26. Get up and move around - Run for 15 minutes. Play your favorite music and dance. Do 10 jump ropes.

27. Go for a walk - It’s a chance to connect with nature, plus it allows them to get vitamin D, which benefits mental health[*].

28. Go swimming - You can also play simple pool games, such as Marco Polo and a splash dance!

29. Go to a park - Parks are wonderful places to experience nature and engage in a physical activity.

30. Go to a quiet place - Silence relieves tension. Noise-free zones include their bedroom and the garden.

31. Hug a pillow or stuffed animal - The act of hugging creates feelings of safety and trust.

32. Jump up and down for a minute - Jumping is a simple exercise to release tension and increase happy hormones.

33. Listen to a guided meditation for kids - Yes, parents can definitely teach young kids to meditate! There are plenty of free relaxation scripts for kids available online.

34. Listen to an audiobook - On top of helping them calm down, audio books can improve their vocabulary.

35. Listen to music - When your child feels emotional, play some peaceful instrumental piano or flute music.

36. List five things you can see - This helps them shift their focus to their environment. It can be done in their room or at a beach.

37. List four things you can feel - It could be the temperature of the room or the softness of their hair.

38. List three things you can hear - It could be people talking in the background (in a public place) or a dog barking.

39. List two things you can smell - It could be the scent of mom’s perfume or chicken soup in the kitchen.

40. List one thing you like to taste - Engaging their sense of taste is one way to reduce anxious feelings.

41. Look at animal pictures - Try images of baby animals. A polar bear cub, lamb, meerkat, chick, and penguin.

42. Look at a picture of a peaceful place - Images of nature can take your child on a mental vacation. You can “Google” seascapes, mountains, and other green spaces.

43. Look at photos - Pictures of happy memories spark positive feelings.

44. Look at stars - Appreciate the night sky with your naked eye. Kids can also use a binocular or telescope if you have one at home.

45. Look out the window - It’s a simple way to give the mind a break.

46. Paint - Let them paint what they feel.

47. Pet an animal - This is called “pet therapy.” Pet a rabbit, guinea pig, or dog.

48. Play a board game - A therapy board game on coping skills or diffusing anger is also a good idea.

49. Play a card game - This reinforces concentration and teaches the value of patience.

50. Play a sport - Sports activities, such as basketball, swimming, and cycling also help kids grow their self-confidence.

51. Play “I Spy” - It’s simple. Just name an object that you can see and make sure everyone can see it too.

52. Play music on an instrument - This gives kids an opportunity to express their feelings. It also creates a sense of achievement.

53. Play with Legos - This can be done alone or in a group to encourage collaboration.

54. Practice Yoga - Kids who can follow instructions may start doing yoga to manage their emotions.

55. Push your palms together - This helps ease muscle tension, one of the things that kids feel when they’re stressed or angry.

56. Read a book - Be sure to choose books that inspire a positive outlook in your child.

57. Read jokes or comics - Choose kid-friendly jokes. For example, “What do you call a fake noodle? An impasta!”

58. Ride a bike - Or you could teach them using a balance bike if they’re still beginners.

59. Rip up newspaper - The act of tearing provides an outlet for strong emotions.

60. Rock back and forth - This can be soothing for some kids who are troubled with negative thoughts.

61. Run around outside - Ensure safety by letting them wear running shoes and avoiding dim areas.

62. Run in place - When it’s raining outside, your child can find a spot at home where they can release their energy.

63. Sing a song - Let them sing their heart out!

64. Smell your favorite scents - Or choose a scent for them that’s known to have calming properties, such as lemon, lavender, and peppermint.

65. Spend time in nature - Parents can also make this a game. Set up treasure hunts in the garden or challenge them to collect shells at the beach.

66. Square breathing - This is also known as “box breathing,” a technique where you take small deep breaths to reduce symptoms of stress in the body.

67. Squeeze a stress ball - The act of squeezing a stress ball relieves tension.

68. Squeeze clay or play-doh - Squeezing play dough is an alternative to squeezing stress balls.

69. Stretch - You can do this together with your child. Reach for the sky or do the child’s pose.

70. Swing - Swinging sparks positive emotions. It also improves blood flow to the brain.

71. Take a break - Relaxing breaks can include dancing, watching a calming video, and learning another language.

72. Take a break from electronics - Power down technology, especially before bedtime or anytime they feel overwhelmed.

73. Take a bubble bath - Bubble baths have many benefits, including relieving stress-related muscle tension and improving mood.

74. Take a nap - A 20 to 30-minute nap improves their problem solving-abilities, plus it gives them a mental and emotional break.

75. Take a warm bath or shower - Warm temperatures relax tense muscles.

76. Take three deep belly breaths - Place one hand on your belly and the other one on your chest.

77. Talk to someone you trust - Talking to a friend or family member that’s willing to listen.

78. Tell yourself, “Be calm, be calm.” - Encourage your child to say this often so that it moves into their subconscious mind.

79. Tell yourself, “I am cool and calm.” - This is a better alternative to “I don’t lose my temper.”

80. Tell yourself, “I can deal with this.” - This compels kids to gain control over their emotions instead of letting a problem overwhelm them.

81. Tell yourself, “I can get help if I need it.” - Having someone you can trust during stressful times expands your problem solving skills.

82. Tell yourself, “I got this.” - This increases their motivation to find solutions to a problem.

83. Tell yourself, “I’m in control of myself.” - Back this up by getting a good night’s sleep and taking breaks.

84. Tell yourself, “I’m letting this one go.” - After saying this to themselves, they can channel their energy into a fun and creative activity.

85. Tell yourself, “I’m strong I can handle this.” - This sentence can be a great way to build self-esteem and remind kids of their strengths.

86. Tell yourself, “I won’t let this problem get me down.” - This releases you from excessive worrying and anxiety.

87. Tell yourself, “Relax it’s okay.” - Some chilling out ideas include visualizing a calm and safe place and making a gratitude list.

88. Tell yourself, “Time out I’m taking a walk.” - This removes a child from a stressful situation.

89. Tense and relax your muscles - Be sure to take a deep breath throughout the exercise.

90. Think happy thoughts - Focusing on pleasant thoughts will improve a child’s ability to cope in life.

91. Think of something funny - Or seek out friends and family members who are lighthearted.

92. Use a weighted blanket - The weight of the blanket effectively calms their bodies and may even help them sleep better.

93. Visualize yourself calming down - This means focusing on feeling better instead of your trigger.

94. Watch a movie - Find a movie that makes your kids laugh!

95. Watch the clouds go by - Clouds can represent emotions. Moving clouds is a good reminder that emotions are not permanent.

96. Write a list of your top ten coping skills - Encourage your child to remind themselves of skills they can use to get through stressful times. This can be anything from deep breathing to meditation.

97. Write a story - This engages their imagination and helps with problem-solving.

98. Write down three things you are grateful for - It’s always helpful to remind yourself of the good things in life — friends, a good book, and having a pet.

99. Write down your feelings - They may express how they feel on a piece of paper or journal.

100. Write in a journal - This can also be practiced regularly even though they don’t feel stressed.

101. Yell into a pillow - It’s cathartic in that it allows kids to let go of intense emotions.

Download our 101 Calm Down Strategies for Kids

Looking for a printable version of these calming techniques for kids? Download it now!

References:

  1. American Psychological Association. How to help children and teens manage their stress. 2022 July 06
  2. Martin R, Ochsner K. The Neuroscience of Emotion Regulation Development: Implications for Education. 2017 August 01
  3. American Psychological Association. How to help children and teens manage their stress. 2022 July 06
  4. Sharma A, Madaan V, Petty F. Exercise for Mental Health. 2006
  5. Penckofer S, Kouba J, Byrn M et al. Vitamin D and Depression: Where is all the Sunshine? 2011 June 01

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