If you’re looking for stress relief activities for kids, we’ve got 13 ideas to inspire you!
When we think about stress, we tend to view it as an adults-only condition. While we may be aware that certain events, like school presentations, tests, performances, and sporting events may cause our children to feel anxious and worried, we assume these feelings are isolated and short-lived. We forget that even though they aren’t juggling kids of their own, a marriage, a home, a job, and everything else in between, that doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling. They’re actually juggling a lot of things, like school work, extracurricular activities, family commitments, and household chores while also meeting the expectations of their friends, which can be difficult.
On the surface, it may seem as though your child is relatively unfazed by the ups and downs life throws at him or her each day, and while this may be true, teaching your child appropriate stress management techniques can be extremely helpful as he or she grows and the demands placed on him or her increase.
As parents and caregivers, it’s our job to teach our children that when we take care of our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, we reduce emotional issues like stress, anxiety, and depression as well as the physical reactions they create, leaving us with more energy and motivation, and making us better able to handle the challenges life throws at us.
Here are 13 stress relief activities for kids we swear by!
13 Stress Relief Activities for Kids
1. Mindful breathing
When a child is experiencing feelings of stress and anxiety, his or her breathing pattern will change. He or she will start to take short, fast, and shallow breaths, which does nothing but amplify feelings of worry. Mindful breathing – taking in a slow breath through the nose, holding the breath for a few seconds, then exhaling slowly through the mouth – will help your child focus on something other than stress and anxiety, and once his or her breathing has slowed, he or she will feel more calm. Mindful breathing is the perfect tool because it is portable and can be used anywhere at any time your child needs it. This is especially important when you can’t be there with your child to help.
The Bubble Blowing Technique is one of the best mindful breathing techniques for very young children, as it allows them to learn through play. To make it work, give them a small container of bubbles so they can practice blowing bubbles with a wand. They will learn quickly that if they blow too hard or too fast, the bubble will burst before it has time to take shape. But by blowing slowly and with purpose, they can blow a perfect bubble. Have them practice the technique with real bubbles before removing them and letting them use only their imaginations.
2. Do a sensory check-in
When your child is feeling overwhelmed, ask him or her to sit in a quiet place and use each of his or her 5 senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste) to identify with his or her surroundings. What does your child see, hear, and smell? It may seem a bit silly at first, and if your child feels that way, that’s totally okay! The point is to focus on the sensory input he or she is receiving from the world around him or her instead of the invasive, anxious thoughts he or she is feeling. And when those anxiety-provoking thoughts do threaten to take over, remind your child to dismiss them and imagine them floating away.
3. Counting or reciting
This is one of my favorite stress relief activities for kids as it can be used absolutely anywhere, and it continues to help me when I feel overwhelmed and anxious. When big worries start to brew, remind your child to count or recite something. You can make this as easy (count from 1 to 20) or complex (recite the alphabet backwards) as your child needs it to be, and over time you can teach your child to do this silently so they have an invisible and portable strategy to calm their mind and body!
Yoga for stress isn’t anything new. Some of the benefits of yoga include mental wellness, relaxation, improved respiration and lowered heart rate, so it’s no surprise that many parents with children who suffer from anxiety disorders are turning to yoga for relief. I’ve also noticed more schools are including yoga in their weekly lesson plans as a way to teach kids how to calm their bodies when they feel overwhelmed. If you’re looking for an easy way to introduce your kids to yoga, these yoga cards for kids are a great place to start!
Journaling is often considered an adult thing to do, but kids of all ages can benefit from journal writing, and it’s another one of my favorite stress relief activities for kids. Learning how to write our feelings out on paper can make a big difference in all of our lives, and teaching kids how to express themselves freely and work through their problems through their writing can be a very valuable life lesson. Guided journals offer an easy way to get kids used to the idea of journaling, and there are tons of different themes and ideas to choose from. Here are 6 of my favorites!
- Gratitude Journal. Described as a ‘toothbrush for the mind’, The Five-Minute Journal for Kids is a great kid’s journal for beginners as it doesn’t take a lot of time to complete, but helps get kids into the habit of carving out time each day to jot their thoughts on paper. The Five-Minute Journal is unique in that it is designed to train our brains to begin and end each day with feelings of happiness and positivity. By encouraging our children to focus on the good in their lives, we help improve their mental well-being by steering them away from negative, overwhelming thoughts. The Five-Minute Journal is also available for adults, so you can purchase a set for the entire family and make it a ritual you complete together at the start and end of each day. Learn more about The Five-Minute Journal for Kids HERE.
- Mom and Me Journal. If you’re looking for a way to connect with your child while also teaching him or her the importance of regular stress management, one of my favorite journals for kids is one you complete together. There are tons you can buy online – Just Between Us: Mother & Daughter and Between Mom and Me: Mother Son Journal are both great – and they provide wonderful opportunities for you to discuss lots of fun topics with your child to help you get to know one another a little better. They contain journal prompts for kids and parents as well as fun quizzes, blank pages to draw pictures on, and lined pages to write fun lists together.
- Fill in Journal. Not all kids are designed to write long-form journal entries, and that’s 100% okay! Whether your child is too young for a formal journal or has trouble focusing for long periods of time, Me: A Compendium might be just the kind of kid’s journal you’re looking for. It’s filled with a bunch of fill-in-the-blanks ranging from a child’s description of him- or herself to his or her likes and dislikes, and is designed to encourage creativity with space to draw pictures. Get your copy HERE.
- Draw and Write Journal. My daughter started keeping a draw and write journal when she was in first grade, and it was one of her most favorite things to do each day. The exercise was pretty open-ended, and the only ‘rule’ she had to follow was that she had to write a complete sentence each time she wrote in her journal. My daughter wasn’t much of a writer prior to grade 1, but by the time she reached grade 2, she was writing complete fiction stories, and creative writing is definitely on the list of her favorite stress relief activities for kids! We really love this draw and write journal from Amazon.
- Scrapbook Journal. If your child is artistically inclined, scrapbooking is a great activity to get them involved with as it provides a great creative outlet and gives them a place to collect and reflect over their best memories as they grow, which can be very calming and therapeutic. Beginners will probably need a scrapbook kit to get them going, but as your child gets older, let them choose a notebook and some gel pens, and then watch as they work with other materials already available to them at home.
- Writing Prompts Journal. Older children with big emotions and worries will benefit greatly from writing their thoughts in a blank notebook each day (consider buying your child a diary with a lock for added privacy), and if they have trouble coming up with things to say, this post has a month’s worth of writing prompts for kids to inspire you and your little one! You can go in order, or write each idea on a popsicle stick and create your own ‘journal prompts for kids’ jar your child can draw from each time he or she is stuck and doesn’t know what to write about.
6. Taste testing
Taste testing is another great idea for those who are looking for stress relief activities for kids as it helps little ones stay in tune with their senses. To play, have your child close his or her eyes and then ask him or her to use only his or her sense of touch, taste, and smell to figure out the different foods you present to him or her. You can make this as easy or hard as you would like, and it doubles as a fun way to get kids to try new foods!
7. Make a calm down jar
Also known as a ‘glitter jar’, this is simply a jar filled with glitter, glue, and water, as well as any other props that appeal to your child. They are easy to make and can be extremely soothing as they help decrease stress and anxiety. The act of shaking and watching the contents of a calm down jar settle forces the body to focus, which in turn allows your child to organize his or her thoughts and ‘center’ his or her nervous system. The idea is that, as the items within the calm down jar fall, so will your child’s heart rate and rapid breathing, allowing him or her to gain control over his or her emotions.
To make your own calm down jar, mix glitter glue with hot water, add a few drops of food coloring and whisk vigorously until the glue ‘melts’ and mixes properly with the water. I don’t follow a specific glue/water ratio when I make mine – I just sort of throw it all together and hope for the best, LOL, but you can adjust to your preference. Next, add additional glitter, whisk vigorously one more time, transfer the mixture into a clear jar, and top the bottle up with water so its completely full. Allow the water to cool to room temperature before securing the lid with glue (I use a glue gun) to ensure it is properly sealed and won’t leak.
9. Straw painting
Some of the best stress relief activities for kids are those that encourage children to focus on their breathing. When a child takes deep, meaningful breaths, they unconsciously bring themselves back to a place of calm. A great way to do this is to create straw painting masterpieces with your kids! All you need to do is plop some watered down watercolor paints on a piece of paper, and then ask your child to spread the paint around by blowing air through a drinking straw (psssst…we use these metal reusable drinking straws and love them!). It’s simple, fun, and effective in getting kids to de-stress.
10. Guided meditation
A list of stress relief activities for kids wouldn’t be complete without guided meditation scripts! There are so many to choose from online, but I like this collection of 30 guided meditation scripts I found on Teachers Pay Teachers best as they can be used both in the classroom and at home to help kids find their way to a place of calm, help them focus, and improve their productivity when they are feeling overwhelmed.
11. Make DIY stress balls
While you can buy stress balls pretty inexpensively on Amazon, making your own is a lot of fun! Giving kids something to focus on when they are feeling anxious will help them feel more comfortable, and they will walk away with a great tool they can use to help calm their mind and body when feelings of stress threaten to take hold. To make your own stress ball, all you need are balloons, a funnel, and your choice of filling – flour and rice both work well. I suggest using multiple balloons to avoid a mess if your stress ball tears!
12. Art therapy
Art therapy is often used to help kids cope with a major life event, such as a serious medical illness, the divorce of their parents, or the death of a loved one, but it can also help children who struggle with low self-esteem, stress, anxiety, depression, and learning disabilities, and has been shown to help children with behavioral issues and developmental delays like autism and ADHD. The direct benefits of art therapy may not be immediately noticeable, but over time it can:
- Improve self-awareness
- Reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression
- Help a child deal with feelings associated with sickness, trauma, and grief
- Improve communication skills
- Boost self-esteem
- Allow children to see problems from a different point of view
- Improve problem-solving skills
If your little one struggles with stress and anxiety, this post has more information about art therapy along with calming activities you can try together at home.
You’ve probably noticed adult coloring books for stress relief and relaxation popping up at book stores everywhere, but many of us forget that coloring can be a great stress-reducing activity for older kids too. Once our children are past the preschool and kindergarten years, we tend to put the coloring books away, but there are tons of great teen coloring books designed to help your kids unwind and de-stress!
Whether you’re a therapist, parent, or teacher of a child who struggles with stress and anxiety, I hope these stress relief activities for kids help you teach the little ones in your life that when we take care of our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, we reduce emotional struggles as well as the physical reactions they create, leaving us with more energy and motivation, and making us better able to handle the challenges life throws at us!