Learning how to calm down when experiencing heightened emotion is a very important part of a child’s development. When faced with big emotions such as anxiety, fear, anger, frustration, kids can lash out, behave inappropriately or, conversely, even try to suppress their feelings. All of this can lead to the adoption of unhealthy coping skills later in life.
Being able to self-regulate isn’t something that just comes with age. It is a learnt skill and parents can help their children learn and practice self-regulation in many ways. You can read more about the importance of self-regulation here.
One simple method to helping kids learn how to moderate their big feelings is building them their very own calm down kit. This is a go-to resource for them that they can access easily in order to help self-soothe. It contains “tools” that help to calm and centre your child. These are typically sensory objects that your child responds positively too. Your child may already have things that they use in this manner, such as a favourite toy, a squishy or a blanket, without you even realising.
Obviously each child reacts differently to various stimuli so the calm down kit should be tailored to your child’s preferences. Discount stores and major department stores are a great source of cheap sensory tools, making a calm down kit an easy and cost effective tool.
What do you need?
A kit bag or box
Ideally, your child’s calm down kit should be portable so that you can take it with you when you go places that may trigger big emotions for your child, such as travelling, outings and medical appointments. Consider something like a large pencil case, toiletry bag or lunch box.
Tip: Using something that has a pleasing texture to you child, such as a fluffy or sequined pencil case, makes the kit bag itself double as a sensory tool.
The options really are endless when it comes to what you put in your child’s calm down kit. You may have to trial a few different things or even have some items in reserve so you can swap things out if your child uses their kit a lot, just to keep it effective. As mentioned above, it doesn’t need to be expensive. In fact, the small toy aisle in KMart is a great source of sensory tools. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Fidget device – eg. a fidget spinner or cube
- Squishy or stress ball
- Putty or slime
- Bendy figurines
- Bouncy ball
- Pocket puzzle or maze game
- Roll on dispenser of essential oils – e.g. calming blend
- Rescue Remedy
- Headphones for listening to music or a meditation app (noise cancelling is extra effective)
- Ear muffs to block out noise
- Chewing or bubble gum
- Small bottle of bubble mixture
- Journal or notebook and colouring pencils
These are prompt cards for additional things your child can do to calm down. They should have simple instructions and be age-appropriate, so consider pictures for younger children. Ideas include:
- Belly breathing
- Star jumps
- Push ups
- Go for a walk
- Sing a song
- Count to 100
By equipping your child with the tools to help them regulate their emotions, you are helping them learn valuable skills while building their emotional intelligence and resilience.