All children struggle with big emotions such as anxiety, anger, and frustration. When we treat our children’s emotions as valid and help them understand them, we provide opportunities for them to manage those emotions.
However, helping kids learn to identify strong emotions such as anxiety is simply the first step toward emotional intelligence. An emotionally intelligent child knows how to identify his or her triggers and how to respond to them. An anxiety kit is a tool that may help your child develop appropriate self-calming techniques he or she can use well into adulthood.
An anxiety kit can be a box or any other container in which you and your child place objects that can help him or her find calm. The kit should be easily accessible to enable your child to reach out for an object whenever he needs to.
Creating an effective anxiety kit: What you need to know
Activities that engage all kids’ senses are the most effective in calming them down. Although most people are aware of the five main senses (hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch), research suggests that there are actually seven sensory systems. The proprioception and the vestibular system are less well known, especially because they are primarily referred to in the special education field.
Proprioception, which has been referred to as the sixth sense, is related to our muscles and joints. It helps us identify our body position in space. In other words, it lets us know how our body is doing. For instance, this sense is related to our ability to tell how much force we need to exert for any given activity. In children, experiences such as fatigue can cause difficulty in proprioceptive processing which can lead to aggressive behavior, anxiety, frustration, and what can be generally defined as hyperactivity.
The vestibular system is related to our sense of movement and balance. It lets the body know how to react in order to maintain balance and coordination. Problems with vestibular processing are reflected in many aspects of kids’ lives. For instance, a child’ lack of focus, hyperactivity, anxiety, and impulsivity may reflect a need for vestibular activities.
The thing to bear in mind when creating an effective anxiety kit is that all children can experience difficulties with all their seven senses. While this does not mean that your child necessarily needs specialized help, these difficulties may have an impact on his or her behavior.
It is also important to be aware of the fact that different children will not react to self-soothing strategies in the same way. In other words, not all children will find playing with play-doh calming, and some might even become more anxious with physical exercises. It is important to experiment to find what works best for your child.
That said, an effective calm-down jar should have the following activities:
- Visually calming activities: sand-timer, sensory jar, indoor fountain, etc.
- Activities to unwind: Blow bubbles, blow a balloon, color a mandala, read a book, listen to music, etc.
- Activities to comfort: Favorite toys, hugs
- Activities to focus attention elsewhere: Rubik’s Cube , dot-to-dot pictures, images that induce positive emotions, etc
- Physical activities to release tension and work muscles: ride a bike, skip rope, jump on a trampoline, push against a wall, etc. (You can place calm-down cards with these activities in your kit and when necessary, your child can go through the cards and choose the physical activity he would like to do)
- Things to hold or squeeze: Stress Balls, Play-doh, etc.
- Oral sensory activities: crunchy foods (apples and raw vegetables), chewy foods (sugar-free chewing gum and dried fruits), chewy necklaces, etc.
Below is a list with additional activities
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