5 Dollar-Store Finds You Can Use to Calm Your Kids
By Janice Quirt
Mar 16, 2017
The benefits of meditation and breathing for kids have been much touted lately, and with good reason — they can bring about stress reduction, decreased anxiety and frustration, and an all-over lower tantrum count. But kids respond to different cues and language than adults, so it can be helpful to find ways for them to relate to the experience of deep breathing and mindfulness. We’ve found 5 finds you can pick up at the Dollar store (or maybe from your home toy cupboard) that will help the kids breathe deeply, relax and find some calm. That’s good for them, and even better for parents and their stress levels. Be sure to lead by example and join in the stress reduction.
Who doesn’t love a slinky? One of our favourite cues for lengthening the spine to allow for smooth, fluid breath involves this fun toy from our childhood. Imagine the backbone is a slinky that you can gently separate, expanding the spaces between the vertebrae, but with soft shoulders and a broad collarbone. Have the kiddos hold the slinky lengthwise in their hands and gently draw it apart vertically as they breathe deeply in through the nose and lengthen their own backs. Providing a prop for this imagery can really help kids visualize the cue and lead to better posture and deeper breaths.
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This is another fun favourite, and there are two ways to use the sticky goodness. One is to cue drawing out the exhale in a slow and steady fashion. Kids can slowly and gentle pull the silly putty apart as they breathe out, squishing it back together with an inhale. It helps to make the exhale slower, more measured and mindful. The other use for silly putty is as a fidget aid when sitting (relatively) still and breathing. Some kids have a tough time being perfectly still and can benefit from having the silly putty in their hands to squeeze as a release for excess energy.
The idea of the fan is for the wee yogis to become aware of the feeling of the air around them — its temperature, the sensation of clothes resting on their bodies, and how they feel in general. Then ask the kids to start to fan themselves slowly and lightly, and ask them to observe how the air currents feel on their skin and in their hair. What happens to the temperature? What happens when they fan faster, and then slower. Do they like the feeling? What speed do they prefer? Have them take a few deep breaths without fanning after to restore some calm. If you don’t have or can’t find a fan at the Dollar sore, it’s easy to make one from pleating construction paper.
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Kids (and adults too) tend to be drawn to river rocks and beach stones (found in the plant and garden section of the dollar store). They are beautiful and may cue lovely memories or images of a relaxing scene in nature, be it the ocean, a lake or perhaps a babbling brook. Rocks also provide a lovely grounding that is calming for kiddos. Have the kids select two rocks and hold them gently in their palms, allowing the fingers to relax and curl naturally inwards. The kids can close their eyes or let them go softly unfocussed. Have them take some deep breaths and ask them to notice how the rocks feel in their palms — are they warm, or cool? Are they smooth? What do they remind them of? Can they picture a lake, river or ocean in their mind’s eye? Can they smell the water, feel the sun on their faces, and perhaps even imagine dipping their toys into the cool water? This one works very well for the parents, too!
Use a small stuffed toy for this one, and have the kiddos lie on their backs and place the stuffed toy on their lower bellies. Using only their breath, ask them to make the stuffed toy move up and down as their bellies rise and fall, as if the stuffed toys were on a trampoline. Have the kiddos explore different depths and speeds of breathing to switch it up for their stuffie friends. It’s OK if the stuffed animal slides off — that’s how they know that they are breathing deeply into their bellies. A lot of kids are apical breathers — that means that when they take a deep breath in their shoulders hike and they only breathe into the tops of their lungs. Sending the stuffie for a bounce means a deeper, more calming breath.
Try out some of these cues with the kids and watch frustrations dissipate, and some calm (and giggles) appear. Good for the kids, and good for the caregivers too!