5 Free at Home Activities for Helping Children Learn Self-regulation

Learning to self-regulate emotions is a big step for any child.  Many of the children I work with as a occupational therapist struggle with this skill.  I have been collecting resources for parents to use at home for several years, so here are a few of the best tools for parents to try at home to engage their child in learning this new skill:

When a child is very upset the brain isn’t able to process and learn.  You need to get them refocused on a new sensation, then work through the moment together.
child pouting

1. Turn on music softly (or start singing), just loud enough to hear, but they have to quiet down to hear it completely.  This can help a child’s brain refocus on a new goal- hearing the song.  Once they have quieted, then slowing work together to sit and calm while finishing the song.

2. Go into a small, dark space together with a flashlight.  Throw a blanket over a table, crawl inside a closet, or even just the bathroom.  Work on just regaining focus on one thing- the light of the flashlight.

3. Try some water play.  Water has amazing qualities to calm both adults and children.  The sounds and
sensations are, for most people, relaxing.  Turn on a faucet and let a child play for a while (or put them in the tub), see what happens.

Adults often add more sensory input and stress to the situations with our good intentions of helping.  Instead, try doing less and waiting.  Rushing a child to calm down faster rarely works. 

4. Turn off the lights, turn off the sounds, and just stop moving and talking.  Sit and wait with them.  Sometime there is just too much sensory information going on.  Remove as much sensory input as possible, and allow yourself to be a calm role model.  When the child is ready, help them regain composure.

Mother nature is always a great remedy to try.

5. Go outside.  Listen to the sounds of nature and go on a walk together.  The change of scenery and calming outdoor sensations can help to refocus a child.take a walk

Looking for more ideas?

Paige Hays is an occupational therapist who provides in-home, pediatric occupational therapy services in the south metro area of the Twin Cities, MN. She is a mother of 2 girls, avid DIYer, and a highly skilled and experienced OT. She specializes in working in pediatrics, with diverse expertise ranging from cognition and sensory issues to working with children with neuromuscular disabilities or complex medical needs. www.paigehays.net