With the UK's ongoing lockdown situation, stress and anxiety levels within your family may be higher than ever - especially within your kids. Calming activities are a great way to help children of any age to relieve tension, unwind, and recognise and cope with anxiety - a technique that will benefit them for life. We've rounded up our top twelve activities that you and your little ones can do together to help them learn to calm themselves down - check them out and see which ones work best for you!
Try a Deep Breathing Exercise
This may sound simple, but going through some deep breathing exercises with your kids is a great place to start. Have your child inhale for four seconds, hold the breath in for two seconds, and then slowly exhale. You can help further by talking them through it, reminding them to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Do this a couple of times and you'll likely be able to see the change in your child's mood. The act of deep breathing is scientifically proven to help in combatting anxiety and stress - and has a wonderful physical effect on the body in terms of calming down.
Get out the Paper and Crayons
Let your kids get creative with paper and crayons, it'll give them something other than their stresses to focus on - and is also a fantastic mindfulness activity to reduce any anxiety that they may be feeling. The repetitive and rhythmic motions of doodling and colouring in enables children to completely take their mind off of anything that may be bothering them. You may even find yourself drawing alongside them!
Have a Giggle
Put on your little one's favourite TV show, tell each other jokes, or play a silly game - laughter really is the best medicine. Humour and laughter significantly help to diffuse stress and are a great way to relax your muscles. The after-effects of laughing also help your children with regulating their breathing - not to mention, they're sure to be in a much happier mood than before.
Do the Downward Dog
This fantastic yoga pose is a wonderful way to help calm down your little ones. It's incredibly simple to do and has some great benefits. Start on your hand and knees, and slowly move into position so that your hands and feet are planted to the ground but your lower back and bottom are in the air, in a triangular formation. You'll find that the stretch activates several muscles in your body, helping them to burn off all of the extra blood glucose that was produced by the body's fight-or-flight instinct. You'll be able to see an almost instant calming effect take place upon your children's faces!
Have a Warm Drink
Curling up and having a warm drink with your child is one of the most enjoyable things you can do, especially on a cooler day. The effects of taking sips of a hot drink are that it really warms your body from the inside and has a nice, calming effect on the drinker. While you enjoy your drink of choice, a cup of warm milk or hot chocolate for your little one can take their mind off anything that's bothering them and makes for a tasty treat.
This relatively simple activity is surprisingly very helpful in reducing anxiety and can be used and practised over and over again in stressful situations. Try counting with your child back from one hundred (or whatever they can manage at their age). The act of counting backwards will give their brains something to concentrate on - and it can also be pretty fun.
... and encourage a sing-along! Music is found to have a strong effect on both children and adults' moods, sleep, anxiety, and stress levels. Let your little one choose their favourite songs to listen to and have a sing-song together at home. The activity releases endorphins that will not only relax your child but improve their mood significantly. Alternatively, you could try playing some relaxing music in the background of other activities and see how that may help your child.
Take a Bath
A nice, warm bath is one of the best ways to unwind and destress from a long day - for both kids and adults. Pop your little ones in the tub with plenty of bubbles, introduce a couple of bath toys that they'll love to play with, and let them relax for as long as they'd like while you sit by their side. Not only is this a good way to get them feeling all nice and clean, but it also allows them to take their mind off of any stresses with no interruptions. You could even play some relaxing music in the background or read them a book, and watch the stress fall away. The same way a bath works for you as an adult, your kids will leave feeling completely relaxed.
Use Discovery Bottles
Making your own discovery bottles or jars can be a fun and exciting activity for one day, but they also make for a fantastic calming activity when needed. Filled with objects such as liquid and glitter, bright and colourful pompoms, beads, buttons, slime, or other visually stimulating trinkets - turning the bottles over and watching the objects slowly move around are perfect for reducing stress. Focusing on the bottles helps to relax your breathing, take your mind off of anxieties and enjoy the sounds and movements. They do have a wonderful soothing effect on both the kids and yourself.
Play with Playdough
Most kids already adore playdough, but did you know that it can also have a very calming effect on them? The act of kneading, rolling, pressing, flattening, punching, and pulling playdough gives little ones the chance to relieve any stress they may be feeling, reduce their worries, and focus their minds. It also provides great sensory feedback to the brain. Playdough is super easy for little hands to manoeuvre, and there's very little mess - which makes for an entirely stress-free activity. It also has the same effects on parents - so make sure you get involved if you're feeling the need!
(For an added calming effect, why not try making your own lavender-scented playdough?)
We've all got bubbles stored somewhere in the house, which conveniently is absolutely perfect for a stressed-out child! Allowing your kids to blow bubbles is a fantastic activity that requires focus and helps them to regulate their breathing. It also involves plenty of giggles and will put them in a great mood. Who doesn't love to pop bubbles? The simple activity will immediately help to relieve tension, and as an adult can bring back some great stress-relieving memories for you, too!
Make a Bracelet
... or a necklace, or any piece of jewellery that they'd like! With just some beads, pipe cleaners, or thick string - your child can get creative and come up with their very own designs. The activity enables little ones to completely focus their mind on the task at hand and forget their surroundings, allowing for an enjoyable and calming experience. Arts and crafts, in general, can completely absorb the minds of children and adults alike - and so can be very therapeutic to take part in. Beading also has several other benefits for children including improving their motor skills, their visual perceptual skills, and their concentration. It's an activity that can be picked up and practised over and over again, so really works well as a calming activity.
Rachel grew up in Switzerland and currently lives in north-west London. She is an avid reader, writer, and a real foodie and loves discovering new hotspots and trendy places to go in the city. She also enjoys planning days out for her family, she especially loves taking her little cousins swimming and to the park. When she has some free time she loves going to concerts, baking, or visiting her family at their home in Essex. She can sometimes be found travelling a bit further than Essex and loves meticulously planning and researching a trip before heading off to explore new places in Europe and further afield.