As a school counselor, I often had kids come into my office in a heightened state, and it was my job to be able to help them calm down and get back to work in class. I had lots of items in my room to help achieve that. It’s always easier for kids to talk about what’s bothering them when they’re doing another activity or playing a game. As a mom, I know that there are lots of things that can help my kids reset when they are having a hard time, or getting into arguments or just have on their cranky pants. Here are some of my favorite items to help kids calm down and get back to the green zone.
Sometimes when kids are talking, they just need something to hold onto. If they have excess energy, sometimes they can use a fidget as a way to help release some of that. I kept several different kinds in a fidget basket in my office.
As a counselor, I’m always looking for new items to help kids learn to manage their emotions, calm down and relax. I have always wanted to get one of those zen garden kits. They seem quite calming and meditative. I just discovered how to easily create a portable zen garden at home.
There are so many kinds of stress balls out there. I’ve tried the kind that has mesh and goo squeezes out the side, but I will tell you that one often bursts quickly, yuck! You can purchase stress balls or make your own. I’ve made them with balloons and different materials like flour, lentils, rice or even play dough. They all have a different resistance and texture, so experiment and figure out which one works best for your child. See how our experiment with different stress balls worked here.
One year, during standardized testing, we moved a trampoline to my office to help one of my students get out excess energy and take movement breaks while testing. My office was super small, so this couldn’t be the set up every day, but it was an awesome tool to use. If you have some space, break out a trampoline or take your child to a place where there is a trampoline and let them jump for a few minutes.
Sometimes doing a simple puzzle can distract kids. Focusing on putting something together and doing it successfully can help kids get in a better mindset and can shift their mood.
The repetitive motion of the Jacob’s Ladder and the gentle sounds can be soothing to kids. I always had a couple in my office at school for this reason.
Paper and pencils
Sometimes kids can’t express what’s happening verbally. It’s easier to write about it, or even draw about it. I’ve even had kids do a timeline of events to help me understand what happened. Inevitably, when they explain it to me, it helps them process the situation as well. Then we can figure out what to do next.
My son NEEDS to move every day. However, with the winter we’ve had, we haven’t been able to go out and run in our backyard or the park. We used what we had on hand here, a Bosu Ball. My son’s new favorite activity is jumping on the Bosu ball at home. And recently he’s discovered he can flip it over and try to balance on it as well. It keeps his body moving and calms him down and he can “get his energy out”.
I always kept this game around because some kids found it quite soothing to play. There is something about the smoothness of the marbles and the sound that they make when you drop them into the different spots on the mancala board.
Recently my daughter came home in tears over an argument with a friend - I refer to it as the shopkin incident. She was just so sad and upset, and she couldn’t stop thinking about it. I started singing a silly song, which made her laugh. Then I put on an album full of silly goofy songs for kids, and she kept laughing and felt better. Music can be so powerful!