Creating a Calm Down Kit
Managing stress and anxiety as an adult can be hard. Managing stress and anxiety as a child can be even harder. Children tend to have big emotions, and their ability to manage their stresses and frustrations, and communicate their needs to others is still an emerging skill. Children need guidance from trusted adults on how to manage their feelings, especially in those times when they are anxious or needing to calm down. Children need to learning age appropriate tools and activities that can help them when they are feeling anxious or in need of a mental break.
As parents and teachers, it is important to help children understand the signs that they are feeling stressed or frustrated (body gets tense, they start to feel warm, heart rate goes up, etc.). We want children to eventually find the confidence they need to decide on a tool for themselves and use it independently. Creating a Calm down tool kit can help students process and deal with these strong emotions, while giving them confidence and strategies they need to manage their own stress, anxiety, and frustrations in a healthy way.
Remind children how capable you think they are, and that you believe they can learn to manage their stressful feelings on their own. Some items that may be useful to include in your “calm down kit” include:
For a DIY version, fill balloons with flour and tie shut. Students can squish the ball to release tension in their body.
Clay or Play-Doh
Pre fill bags with balls of clay or play-doh. For students that have a hard time keeping their hands to themselves when they are frustrated, squeezing and manipulating the bagged clay kept in their pocket can be a huge stress reliever.
Include books about feelings that students can use while calming themselves. It can be helpful for students to relate to characters with similar feelings.
Noise canceling headphones
Sometimes we all just need a little quiet time. For some kids, a long school day is overwhelming and overstimulating, and a few minutes of quiet can be a huge relief.
A Stuffed animal
A stuffed animal that can be held and cuddled can release tension and stress.
A weighted blanket
Wrapping yourself in a weighted blanket is similar to the feeling of a big hug, and may help students feel calm and relaxed.
Fill an empty water bottle with a mixture of oil and water, and a few drops of food coloring. Secure the cap, and let students turn the bottle in different directions to watch the calming bubbles.
Some children need to release their tension physically. Letting them bounce on a small trampoline can be a great way to re-set.
Practice some calming breathing techniques together which will help release tension and relax tense muscles.
The act of blowing bubbles can be relaxing and distracting.
Take a bath
Parents, if your child is really stressed out, have you tried letting them take a warm bath? There is something about the water that is incredibly relaxing and calming and takes our mind off of other stresses.
Other strategies to teach your child or student may include:
Going to a quiet place
Getting a drink of water
Drawing a picture
Asking for a hug
Whispering the ABC’s
The goal of a calm down kit is to help children learn coping mechanisms they can continue to use as they grow up. It would be unreasonable to expect kids to handle their emotions perfectly all of the time. Modeling your own emotions appropriately will teach kids a lot about managing their own. It is also important to remember that when creating your calm down kit, to pay attention to the specific needs of your students or child. If certain toys or activities work really well at soothing your child, add those!
“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings” – Ann Landers