Relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga are often used by adults to clear the mind. But did you know that these stress management activities can also be useful for young children? Relaxation techniques can help channel negative emotions through a calming activity, which can change a frantic mind to a focused and happy one. Children that are introduced to these kinds of techniques from a young age are able to implement them early on, helping them to be independent and manage stress on their own.
Types of Relaxation Techniques
There is a variety of different methods that you can use to relieve stress. Each child is unique, therefore not every child will find the same relaxation technique effective. Below is a variety of stress management techniques that can be useful for preschool children:
Studies have shown that certain kinds of music can lower stress levels, as music can lower the heart rate, reduce stress hormone production and lower blood pressure. For a classroom of rowdy children, music can help children to relax, especially when it is time to bring their attention to quiet activities. Soft background music such as classical or instrumental varieties can help create an ambiance of relaxation, and can also give children something to focus on if they need it.
Using Guided Meditation
Direct children to guide themselves in a meditative practice by giving them leading questions, such as: what does it taste/smell like? Who was there? What colors did you see? How did you feel? You can even create visualizations that help to deliberately ‘remove’ negative emotions, for example, saying something such as: “Picture yourself blowing up bubbles and have each one filled with negative emotion. Then, imagine yourself popping them and watching the negative emotion drift away.”
By activating and releasing different muscle groups, you can help to move the mind away from distressful emotions through channeling focus onto something tangible. The best way to do this is to guide meditation sessions by asking the child to activate and release certain muscles. For example, you can say something like: “squeeze your hand into a fist, hold for 5 seconds, and then release.” It is easiest to start from one end of the body and move through the main muscle groups to the other end, from toe to head (or vice versa). By bringing children to focus their attention on one specific body part at a time, you are getting them to use a physical “tension-and-release” method as a practical way to relieve mental tension.
Deep breathing is an easy way to bring self-awareness, as it forces us to stop everything and to focus on ‘slowing down,’ physically and mentally. An example of this is to breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds, and to breath out the mouth for 6 seconds. You can implement this in conjunction with the previous exercise, where you focus on using certain muscles while breathing deeply.
Giving a child a guided meditation experience that involves active imagination can help to distract them, as visualizations provide a stimulated, relaxing experience. For example, you can describe the experience of lying on soft fluffy clouds or perhaps having fresh rose petals falling onto your face. Using the senses in guided meditation is important when visualizing, as it helps to fully immerse the child into the activity, and therefore the present moment. You can even get children to think of their own ‘happy places’ or memories, such as eating a favorite ice-cream or visiting favorite places.
Mantras are words/sounds that are repeated, usually to help in concentration or to install positive ideas. Repeating positive or soothing words can help children to change their frame of mind to a more positive one. Studies on positive mantras have shown that they are effective in creating positive affirmations about yourself. These self-affirmations are extremely important in young children, as their foundation of self and identity is still in the process of development. What’s more, mantras are a practical way of calling children’s attention or focus, as it directs attention to speech as an activity distracting them from negative emotions.
Sometimes, pent-up energy can trigger stress or make anxiety worse. Physical exercise is not only a great stress reliever but is also very healthy for young children. There are two ways in which exercise can be helpful: Firstly, the aspect of physical exertion during vigorous activity helps to let off steam. Secondly, physical activities also require a lot of focus, for example, concentrations are required to do rhythmic movements (such as variations of tapping or stepping). These exercises help the child to channel their energy into something productive. Some preschools such as Parkland Children’s Academy offers a range of activities for the energetic toddler, where even toddlers can turn excess energy into productivity!
Art and Creativity
What better way to de-stress than to express yourself through the creative arts? While the physical act of art can be relaxing, the creative process can help to relieve emotions. Channeling creativity can not only help distract young children but can also help children in terms of personal development, as creative activities will allow children to explore the creative side of their identity. Drawing, painting, listening and creating music, or just dance and movement are all great ways to relieve stress.
It is important to acknowledge that parents and teachers need to be open about stress and understand teaching young children the tools needed to manage stress will help them as they navigate through life. At Parkland’s Children’s Academy, we provide a wide range of fun and relaxing activities, such as preschool activities that bring out your child’s creativity. Come and see what we have to offer!