How to help your toddler calm down
Toddlers. AKA Tasmanian Devils, balls of energy, Duracell bunnies, little whirlwinds. Are they born to be calm and sit still? No, they’re not.
They are here to explore the world. Their minds are like sponges, absorbing and making sense of everything they see, hear, feel, touch and taste around them.
But, it is also for these very same reasons that I think it’s important for toddlers to experience what it is to be still and to learn ways to find calm, amongst their daily adventures which at times can be very overwhelming.
Also for us as parents, we need our little people to have some moments of calm. We need to be able to respond to our toddlers needs in the healthiest way we can.
And let’s not forget the benefits of having a calm, emotionally and physically regulated toddler at bedtime.
The activities and experiences our toddlers encounter during their day can have a huge impact on their ability to settle to sleep at night.
How can I help my toddler keep calm?
Here are Calm Cat’s 5 top tips on how to help your toddler to calm down during the day and at bedtime. All of these activities are fun and engaging ways to promote calm during a day in the life of a toddler.
Set up a Calm Space or Zen Den.
Special areas set up for calm time are an excellent idea for two reasons.
They are a great way to encourage children to engage in and experience calming, relaxation activities as a part of every day.
They are also ready made ‘safe zones’ for children to be directed to when they need help to regulate their bodies and emotions, where they can release frustrations or meet their sensory needs in a safe way.
Create a cosy area with a tent or tepee.
Calm cat likes to include:
A nice rug on the floor, some cushions (great for giving squeezy hugs)
A blanket and some teddies (fab for belly buddy breathing)
A basket of activities that engage all the senses, such as fabrics with different textures (including the popular mermaid fabric!)
Sensory light toys or a disco light
Essential oil sprays or smelling jars, bubbles, a vibrating massager, stress balls, play putty, sand or gel timers and some quiet activities like books and puzzles
A white noise machine to play soothing music
And a Calm Cat Tool Box that includes breathing activities and mindful moments.
2. Start the day off with a morning exercise routine.
Calm Cat likes to get moving in the mornings and has put together an activity called ‘1 Minute Moves’. Essentially it is like a HIIT session for children.
You choose 5 animal movements, for example, frog jumps, bear walks, bunny hops, butterfly wings, and worm wriggles.
Then with a 1 minute sand timer to hand, pop some upbeat music on and perform each move for 1 minute with a rest of 15 seconds in between.
Regular and moderate exercise is key for child development. Although it is only a short 5 minutes (you can increase depending on age and ability of your children) it has huge benefits.
1 minute moves are great for physical regulation, expending energy, stretching muscles, increasing heart rate, not to mention the gross motor development. Similarly, the cognitive benefits are huge. Improved self-regulation, reduced fidgeting, improved focus and lifted mood through releasing dopamine, the happy hormone.
Calm Cat spends much of his day stretching. He has 4 different stretches that he likes the most.
The Standing Cat Stretch (Stand with feet together and reach arms up to the ceiling and stretch as tall as you can).
The Scared Cat Stretch (stand with legs out wide and stretch arms out to the side.
As you do this, open your mouth as wide, into a scared expression, as you can to stretch you facial muscles.
The Cat Arch (place hands and knees on the ground and round your back up towards the ceiling)
The Cat Curl (Curl into a ball, with arms around knees and stretch the back by squeezing the knees)
Each stretch is held for a count of 5 breaths, then released and repeated twice more.
Stretching is a great way to release tension and increase blood flow to our muscle, both of which help to create a calm and relaxed feeling throughout our bodies.
Also having a good stretch just feels good, especially with a big “Aahhhhhh!” at the end
Slow, deep breathing is Calm Cats favourite ‘go to’ calming activity as it is so easily to do and so powerful.
Calm Cat teaches children that long, deep breaths slow our heart rate down, calm our internal computer and get rid of any fuzzy feelings they may be experiencing when they are feeling frustrated, agitated, worried, cross or wound up.
It helps to distract from thoughts and feelings that are uncomfortable and helps us to focus on getting ourselves to feel better.
It’s important to practise slow, deep breathing on a daily basis with our little ones so that it becomes an everyday part of life and a go to tool for them during times of increased worry, stress or overwhelm.
There are so many ways to make it fun and engaging. Why not try making a ‘Windy Mill’ and see how long you can make it spin for with one long, slow breath,
Towards the end of the day Calm Cat likes to have some relaxation time so that he can get ready for a good night’s sleep.
There are lots of different ways he likes to help children relax and this often includes focusing on using one or more of the senses.
Calm Cat’s favourite way to relax is an activity called ‘Blissful Bubbles’
Find a comfy place for your little one to lay down.
Put on some relaxing music and a disco light and then blow bubbles into the light so that your little ones can watch the bubbles dance and float around in the shining bright lights.
You could also ask them to imagine what it would be like to be a light, bubble rising and floating up in the air.
The special thing about all of these calming activities for children is that they are just as beneficial to Mums and Dads too.
Joining in with your children and co regulating with them is also an important step in them learning to self regulate as they grow older.
These are my five tips on how to help your toddler to cope with their emotions. To find out more about Calm Cats, for info on classes and workshops, join the Calm Cats Community by heading over to calmcatsnorfolk on Facebook, @Calm.Cats on Instagram or check out their website.
Hannah and Calm Cat xx