Do you ever find yourself panicking when your child becomes seriously stressed out, really anxious or angry, and you’re just not sure how to help? In that moment, I find myself frantically searching my brain for effective calm down activities for my adopted child, and sometimes coming up short.
So, I decided to make this list as a reminder to myself. I hope it will help you and your child too.
I’ve seen lots of articles with tips to help keep your child calm and regulated throughout the day. These are so great. Prevention is always the best way. Helping your child avoid the meltdown stage is best.
However, life happens and often these are things outside our, and their, control.
These simple activities are all things you can do in the moment, when they are feeling angry, stressed or anxious.
They will not all work for every child, but try them out and see which help your child.
One or two of them may require a little preparation ahead of time to get set up, like the calm down corner, or having bubbles and playdoh stocked in the cupboard. Once you have them there, they are ready to use when the moment arises.
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1. Drinking through a straw
This works really well to help someone calm down, whether cross, stressed or anxious. It works better if you use a thick liquid, like a smoothie or yoghurt, as it takes more energy to suck it through the straw.
This Stainless Steel Travel Mug, from Amazon, is awesome. It keeps cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot. This would be perfect for on the go, as you could use it for thick liquids like soup, a smoothie, or a yoghurt drink, and it would keep them the right temperature, ready for when you need them. I mean, lets face it, we’re not always near a fridge or microwave when the moment strikes!
2. Blowing Bubbles
Blowing bubbles is another great calming down activity. It helps to slow down your breathing, as you take deep breaths in and then big, slow breaths out to blow the bubbles. It’s also so relaxing watching the bubbles slowly floating away.
3. Playing with Playdoh or Kinetic Sand
Playdoh is such a great sensory activity. It uses up excess energy pushing it, kneading it, rolling it and you can even punch it a bit! Doing this helps to focus on the moment and relaxes your body.
Sometimes it can help to use scented playdoh. If you make your own playdoh, you can use calming scents, like lavender or jasmine.
As an alternative to playdoh, my kids absolutely love this kinetic sand, from Amazon. They will play with it for ages and emerge so calm and relaxed.
I actually quite like playing with it myself. It’s a bit like a mix between beach sand and playdoh, but its not greasy like playdoh can be, and it doesn’t stick to you like sand does.
4. Deep Breathing Exercises
This has to be something that you have practiced countless times with them when they are calm, before they will manage to use it in a stressful situation.
It is not something to teach in a heightened moment. That could potentially make the situation worse!
However, once they master this one, it is one of the best as it can be easily used anywhere and everywhere. Think how often we use this to calm ourselves down as parents.
For more information on good deep breathing techniques check out, Deep Breathing Exercises for Kids, for some fun ways for your child to practice.
5. Noise cancelling headphones
This is good for sensory overwhelm or if your little one is sensitive to noise.
Putting on a pair of these before a noisy event, like a big party or fireworks can help to avoid upset, and having them in your bag at other times can help if a situation arises that upsets your child.
These Alpine Muffy Kids Ear Defenders, from Amazon look to be the best. It’s worth paying a little extra as some of the cheaper brands don’t do such a good job of cancelling out the noise. I bought my son a cheaper pair and he complained that he could still hear everything!
6. Listening to their favourite calming music
Calming music means something slightly different for all of us, and we all have our own tastes.
When they are little, it could be that having you sing their favourite nursery rhyme or song is reassuring.
Help your little one to find the kind of music that works best for them, and then have it to hand somewhere easy for them to access when needed.
7. Spending time in a calm down area
This is best if it has been specially created for them so that it’s personalised to their needs and tastes.
It should include something comfy, like a beanbag, chair, blanket or cushions. There should be some kind of calming light, like a lava lamp, fairy lights, or low lighting. This light, from Amazon, projects calming lights onto the ceiling, and has the option to play white noise too.
Easy access to small sensory toys here is a must too.
Exercise can help calm us down, although it can occasionally have the opposite effect, so you’ll need to judge this for yourself each time.
Sometimes older kids find that going for a jog can help, running round the garden, or having a little obstacle course set up outside to run off some energy.
A more popular option is bouncing on the trampoline. This is one of my favourite activities to help my adopted child calm down. I know many adopters whose kids find this really helps them to stay regulated, and calm when they are stressed.
This little indoor trampoline, from Amazon, is super handy as it folds up when not in use, so doesn’t take up too much space, but allows your little one to bounce off the stress, no matter what the weather! The handle can be adjusted so it grows with your child, making is suitable for older children too.
Swinging can help too, and for younger kids, things like frog jumps or jumping jacks.
9. Punch something (that’s safe and non-breakable!)
A punch bag, a pillow or cushion is great for this.
Let your child know, when they are calm, what the safe options are for punching, kicking, and hitting.
Then in the moment, try to calmly direct them to these options, to replace hitting people, animals or breaking things that they will later regret. This is a great way to redirect frustrated and aggressive energy.
10. Eating a Crunchy or high-resistant snack
When angry, stressed or anxious, eating something crunchy, or very chewy, that takes a lot of energy often helps us calm down.
Foods like, carrot sticks, apples, rice cakes, crackers, or ice chips work well for this.
11. Try a Weighted Blanket
Sometimes feeling some pressure or weight can help grounds us.
It might be a tight cuddle from a trusted adult (as long as there is consent), or a weighted blanket, like this one from Amazon.
There are also Sensory Compression Blankets, like this one from Amazon. These are made of a stretchy lycra sheet that goes around their mattress providing firm, even pressure. They can crawl under it to lie down and feel calmer.
A weighted cuddly toy placed on their lap can help too. This Weighted Cuddly Bear, from Amazon, is a great option and comes with his own carry case so he is easy to transport and have close to hand when your child needs him.
Sensory Body Sox, like this one from Amazon, are another idea. As you can see from the image below, it is made of stretchy lycra material and provides some pressure and resistance to move against.
12. A familiar comfort item
This might be a favourite cuddly toy, a childhood favourite or comfort object. This has a familiar smell, feel, and hopefully positive memories and associations.
It can help for your child to keep this object close to them, so have it ready in their bag if they are away from home in case it is needed.
Sometimes for older children, it can be a keyring with a photo of a special person, or a small piece of their old comfort blanket in their pocket.
13. Sensory Toys
Playing with sensory toys is one of those activities that is super easy to facilitate and can be used anywhere, when out and about, to help an adopted child calm down.
There are such a huge range of great sensory toys available now and they don’t all cost the earth anymore. These Sensory Fiddle Tubes, from Amazon, are my favourite. The Teaching Mama has a great list of The Best Calm Down Toys for kids which is definitely worth checking out if you want more ideas.
14. Rip up or scrunch paper
This can really help to release anger or stress.
If you want more resistance, try using some cardboard or big carboard boxes to rip apart.
15. Push hard against a wall
This helps to release extra pent up emotion, excess energy and provides resistance feedback which helps your little one calm down.
16. Pop Bubble Wrap
This is such a satisfying activity and helps to engage your kid in a slow paced activity, as they individually pop each bubble by hand. Alternatively, they could lay in on the floor and jump or stomp up and down on it to release pent up anger or frustration.
Swinging is a great sensory activity that can help an adopted child calm down. It could be a swing in your garden, or nearby park. Alternatively, on Amazon, you can buy these sensory swings that hang from the ceiling. This allows your child to use it at any time when they are home, and in any weather. This one also comes with LED lights, which is pretty cool!
The Best Calm Down Activities for your Adopted child to help with self-regulation
I hope that some of these calm down activities will help your adopted child to feel safer, more relaxed and happier when they inevitably get stressed or angry (lets face it, we all do at multiple points in our lives!)
Having these simple strategies to hand when you need them can really help you and them.
Over time and as they grow older, your child will learn to grab these things themselves when they begin to feel upset, as they will be learning what helps them and works for their bodies and brains.
That’s the goal. Self-regulation and a happy person. It begins with co-regulation.
So remember, with all these ideas, stay close to your little one (or big one!) and be that calming, reassuring presence they need. Even if they say they want to be alone, let them know where you will be, somewhere close by, if they need you.