Calm Down Breathing for Kids

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Teaching your child a few simple calm down strategies can make a big difference. The most basic one and perhaps the most important is breathing. Calm down breathing is a skill that is very effective when a child is under stress, struggling with anxiety or having a meltdown.

3 Calm Down Breathing Techniques for kids #parenting #specialneedsDeep breathing has been scientifically proven to combat stress and anxiety. It is used in meditation and yoga. With children, calm down breathing is an essential technique to learn to help with self-regulation.

When a child goes into their fight, flight or freeze response, their heart rate increases and their breathing becomes rapid and shallow. This decreases the oxygen to their cells, which obviously does not improve brain function in the moment. This makes it all the more important to practise good breathing technique and get that oxygen flowing well again.

These three calm down breathing techniques are extremely effective and easy to learn.

3 calm down breathing techniques:

  • Have your child put their hand on their stomach and feel the rise and fall while they breathe.
  • Have them inhale for 4 seconds, trying to fill their “belly balloon” with air, hold the breath for 2 seconds and then exhale.
  • Teach them to breathe slowly in through their nose, out through their mouth. The best way to teach this method is to have them make eye contact with you and do it at the same time as you while you give them the verbal cues of “in through your nose” and “out through your mouth”. I find this one especially helpful during a meltdown.

Teaching breathing techniques should be done while your child is already calm and can concentrate. Ideally, if you practise breathing techniques often enough, they become motor muscle memory and will be easier for your child to access during times of distress.

When they are distressed, you can give them scripts (“in through your nose, out through your mouth”, “fill your belly balloon” or “let’s breathe”) to help them along. These should be short and simple.

Blowing bubbles through a bubble wand or doing bubble painting is another way to practise calming breathing so that that motor muscle memory kicks in when those moments of fight-flight-freeze occur. Blowing softly to spin a pinwheel is another good way to practise calm down breathing.

You can read about other calm down methods for kids here and get the relaxation prompts which are so helpful once your child learns how to use them.

The Big List of Christmas Playdough Mats

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Playdough mats are an excellent sensory and learning experience for kids. With the holiday season approaching, I wanted to share these free Christmas Playdough Mats and playdough activities with you. It is such a big list of Christmas playdough mats!

With the holiday season approaching, I wanted to share these free Christmas Playdough Mats and playdough activities with you. It is such a big list of Christmas playdough mats!Playdough mats are a wonderful sensory and learning activity for kids. They also happen to be a great way to keep kids busy while you wrap gifts or do holiday baking or get the house cleaned up for all that company that may be coming your way.

Christmas Playdough Mats and Activities:

The Christmas Playdough Mats Activity from The Natural Homeschool includes cute playdough cards and suggestions for using things such as cranberries and glitter with the playdough.

Shaunna over at Fantastic Fun and Learning shares a Candy Cane Play Dough Writing Tray. What a neat Christmas sensory activity for preschoolers!

In this article from Schooling a Monkey, you’ll find Preschool STEM Challenges and Experiments using Christmas playdough.

These Christmas Playdough Mats at Totschooling are some of the cutest I have ever seen!

My favourite page of these printable from Picklebums is the Santa Needs Some Clothes.

Fantastic Fun and Learning has Free Printable Christmas Ornament Playdough Mats.

Sheryl at Teaching 2 & 3 Year Olds created an Easy Snowman Building Playdough Activity that needs very little set up.

For kids who are learning their numbers, these Christmas Tree Playdough Mats for Numbers 1-10 from Life Over C’s are a great fit.

For kids who are ready for addition, these Christmas Tree Math Playdough Mats at School Time Snippets are a fun way to learn.

This Playdough Christmas Tree Craft for Kids from The Educator’s Spin on It is really cute.

The Christmas Tree Counting Play Dough Mats over at Simple Fun for Kids combine a bit of learning in with the play.

These Free Christmas Playdough Mats from 123Homeschool4Me have a lot of variety.

This Decorate a Play Dough Christmas Tree kit made by Mama Papa Bubba would make a lovely gift to give. She’s also created an adorable Build Your Play Dough Snowman Kit.

With the holiday season approaching, I wanted to share these free Christmas Playdough Mats and playdough activities with you. It is such a big list of Christmas playdough mats!

More Christmas Playdough Mats:

Scented Christmas Day Playdough Recipe from Nurture Store

Christmas Tree Playdough from Homegrown Friends

Printable Christmas Playdough Mats from Emma Owl

Christmas Cookie Tray Counting Mats from 123 Homeschool 4 Me

Christmas Tree Playdough Mats at Simple Fun for Kids

Cute Christmas Counting Playdough Mats from Natural Beach Living

Christmas and Winter Playdough Mats from This Reading Mama

Counting Gumdrops Gingerbread Man Play Dough Mats from The Kindergarten Connection

Christmas Counting Mats from Pre-K Pages

If you’re looking for the perfect homemade playdough recipe to use with these Christmas playdough mats, I’ve got you covered! Check out these Christmas playdough recipes.

5 Critical Steps to Take When Your Child has a Meltdown

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Meltdowns, tantrums, rages… no matter what you call them, they can be of the most challenging parts of parenting. We’ve all been there. In the moment when your child has a meltdown, it’s hard to know what to do, particularly if you’re out in public and have to contend with public scrutiny.

5 critical steps to take when your child has a meltdown. This takes a bottom-up approach.While it is always important to determine the underlying cause for a meltdown, such as whether it is a sensory meltdown, a response to a trauma trigger, a fight, flight or freeze reaction, or just a plain old tantrum, during the meltdown, you just need to help your child get calm.

Yes, there are ways to try to prevent meltdowns from happening in the first place. Those are determined largely by the root cause of the meltdown. However, once the meltdown has started, none of those strategies will work.

The critical steps to take when your child has a meltdown:

    1. Stay calm. There is no helping your child to stay calm when you are not calm yourself. Breathe.
    2. Water and food. Meeting a child’s most basic needs can help them to go from fight, flight or freeze mode to being able to access more of their cognitive functioning. This will bring the intensity of their meltdown way down. A healthy snack and water are particularly important for children who may have been neglected or gone hungry in the past, even if it was when they were too young to remember.
    3. Sensory. Whether or not a child is experiencing a sensory meltdown, sensory input, particularly proprioception, or heavy work, can snap them right back into a calm state. I particularly like to offer them lavender playdough. They can use it to squeeze and squish and it provides immediate sensory feedback. Squeeze balls, mermaid pillows or pushing a laundry basket filled with books also work well.
    4. Connection. Children need connection. This can be achieved during a meltdown by making eye contact, helping them to breathe in and out slowly while you breathe with them, and providing reassurance. Avoid saying “calm down” and instead choose some of these alternatives.
    5. Self-regulation. The ultimate goal obviously is to promote self-regulation so that a child learns to calm themselves. This usually works best when the other steps on this list have been already taken and those needs have been met. Remind the child of their calm-down strategies. It is best to have practised (and practised and practised) those strategies at times when they were calm. If you have a calm-down kit for your child, this would be the ideal time to pull that out.

Recently, a friend called me for advice while her daughter was raging in the background. She had tried offering water and a snack and both suggestions were rejected (rather pointedly I will add). I asked her if she had any playdough. She was able to find some. I could tell that she was skeptical of my suggestion, but she offered it to her daughter anyway. The response was immediate. Once that playdough was in her hands, her daughter’s screams stopped and she was able to finally articulate the underlying reasons beneath the rage. It was then that her mom was able to validate her feelings and make that connection with her.

I know that not all of these suggestions will work initially. In fact, you may end up having that glass of water thrown in your direction (be sure to use a plastic cup)! But using these 5 steps will help to de-escalate your child’s big emotions. Once they are calm, you can try to determine what may have caused the meltdown in the first place.

The reason these 5 steps are so critical when your child is having a meltdown is because they address things in the brain from the bottom up. They meet the child’s basic survival needs such as breathing, food and water, and then begin to work their way up from there. If you think about Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs with physical survival needs being at the base, then physical safety needs, then love and belonging needs, these steps begin to make more sense. After love and belonging (met in these steps by CONNECTION), comes self-esteem needs. This is where the self-regulation step comes in.

Determining the root of the meltdown:

Keeping track of behaviours such as meltdowns can help you find the root causes for them by finding patterns and triggers. You can use make notes in a calendar or use the forms such as the sensory triggers log and the behaviour tracker in the More Calm in the Chaos printable planner.

Some common causes of meltdowns:

(click each link for more information)

Create an Anti-Anxiety Kit for Your ChildCalming Your Child’s Fight, Flight or Freeze Response

Despicable Me Minions Sensory Bag

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We are fans of the Despicable Me movies, particularly because of the adoption theme. I made the kids a Despicable Me Minions Sensory Bottle for the kids a few months ago. I like to make a new sensory bottle every week or two, so once they had tired of it, I used what was inside to create a Despicable Me Minions Sensory Bag.

Despicable Me Minions Sensory Bag #minions #sensoryIt’s funny how when you take exactly the same items and put them in a new format, it breathes new life into the activity. I added a few extra things to the sensory bag just to change it up a bit. I think it turned out really cute!

Despicable Me Minions Sensory Bag

Materials needed:

To create the Minions sensory bag, fill a resealable plastic bag about half full with liquid hand soap. Add the Minions mini figures, the yellow buttons and black and yellow elastics. Remove the air from the bag and seal.

In my case, I emptied the contents of the Minions Sensory Bottle into a bag, then added the elastics and buttons before sealing.

You can also seal the bag to prevent leaking or being opened by your child by folding duct tape over all sides of the sensory bag. This Minions duct tape would be perfect to use. As with all sensory activities, adult supervision is recommended.

Looking for other simple sensory activities? Join me for a free 5 part email series Sensory Solutions and Activities and get your Sensory System Behaviours Easy Reference Cards.

 Despicable Me Minions Sensory Bottle

Superheroes Sensory Bag for Superkids