As I sit here writing this, I can’t help but to reflect on how much has changed in the past month. The roles we play, our social connection and sense of community, our work, and so much more.
Navigating through this time with kids can be hard; they have had massive shifts in their lives. Parents have had to expand their role to fill that of teacher, coach, guidance counselor, and many others. Here are five activities that can be used at home (or in nature close to home) to help your children process big feelings in relation to this chaotic time and promote self-regulation skills.
This is a fun game to play with kiddos to promote mindfulness of the body. Mindfulness is pulling ourselves into the present moment. When explaining to children use simple, succinct definitions such as “mindfulness is noticing what is happening right now.” Mindfulness practices can help improve focus and concentration, as well as increase self-regulation skills.
In emotions charades, either purchase cards with faces depicting different emotions (these are great: https://www.playtherapywithcarmen.com/collections/focus-on-feelings/products/flash-cards-with-words-focus-on-feelings© ) or create your own cards with your children using art supplies. Create faces that show anger, frustration, sadness, happiness and any emotion you can identify together! Shuffle the cards and place them face down. One player then selects a card. The player will not only use their face, but their entire body, to act out the emotion silently to other player, who is trying to guess what it is.
This game helps create awareness of how the body reacts to different emotions. You can even ask questions to further process the emotion. For example, if your child is acting out fear, you can ask them questions like “what helps you to feel safe? What does safety feel/look like to you?”
Yoga practices have been shown to help children with mind-body awareness, self-regulation, improved self-esteem and social-emotional learning (just to name a few!). Cosmic Kids Yoga has an entire YouTube channel with tons of great videos geared towards children of all ages and interests (including Frozen, Pokemon and Harry Potter!). You can access it here: https://www.youtube.com/user/CosmicKidsYoga
If videos aren’t your thing, here is a link to free animal yoga pose cards: https://wyqualitycounts.org/animal-yoga-for-kids/
According to recent research, repetitive, rhythmic movement (think rocking, swinging or kneading playdoh) and sensory experiences calm the part of our brain that signals danger. Creating aromatherapy playdoh together is a great way to integrate both movement and sensory input to promote feelings of relaxation.
You can also make multiple batches with different smells!
- Lavender can help to promote relaxation and sleep
- Citrus scents energize
- Pine can reduce stress
- Peppermint can improve focus/concentration (be cautious with peppermint-since it is a stronger scent, I would reduce the amount needed by half)
Nature Mindfulness Activity
As mentioned before, mindfulness is anchoring ourselves to the present moment. The Child Mind Institute shares that spending time in nature benefits children by building confidence, promoting creativity, and reducing stress. This activity combines both nature and mindfulness to create a sensory experience that can promote regulation and tranquility.
This nature mindfulness activity does not require any materials, just you, your child and thirty uninterrupted minutes outside in nature! Walk through a park, yard, greenbelt or any other natural landscape and identify:
- Five things you can see
- Four things you can hear
- Three things you can feel
- Two things you can smell
- One thing you can taste (for safety considerations, I recommend only pointing out something you can eat or bring rosemary/mint or any other safe herb from home with you to reduce risk of eating something harmful!)
If your child needs a visual, you can print out a scavenger hunt sheet with things for them to find in nature. Here are some great resources:
- https://theinspiredtreehouse.com/activities-for-kids-sensory-motor-scavenger-hunt/ (also incorporates motor movement!)
Safe Place Guided Imagery and Art Project
This is a confusing time for everyone, including children. Having strong feelings of fear, sadness and anger are understandable and to be expected! This activity helps children to imagine a safe place they can visualize when they begin to feel scared.
Start by reading or playing a safe place guided imagery script, like one of these:
Following the guided imagery set out art supplies (whatever you have at home-markers, crayons, colored pencils, paint, paper). Invite your child to create their safe place on paper. They can draw a literal picture of it or create an abstract piece utilizing color/shapes to express how safety feels to them. Allow them to choose a meaningful place to keep their piece. If they do not wish to share their safe place, that is totally ok!
Art is a useful tool to express other emotions as well. It can provide words and language around emotion that is difficult to verbalize out loud. Children can use color and shapes to show and externalize how big feelings including fear, anxiety, sadness and joy feel to them.
Perhaps the most important tool to remember during this time is relationship. Connection and attachment are healing in themselves. In order to fully be present with your child, we must also do things that nurture our soul as well. I invite you to take a moment to yourself right now by placing one hand on your heart, the other on your stomach and feel your breath. Quietly extend compassion to yourself in this chaotic time.
You are seen, you are heard. We are all doing the best we can.