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How to help your kids calm down

Updated: Dec 24, 2022

Something I struggle with is having a 4 year old boy with a serious amount of energy, and on a good day it feels like staying home has tripled that amount.

I’m often left wondering what on earth I should do with all of that energy and how to help him calm down, so I wanted to use this space to share some what I’ve learned.

But, first things first…

Why does it feel like kids have so much more energy than we do?

According to Romper, it’s not that kids have more energy than adults, it’s just that they metabolise it differently, which makes it easier for them to keep playing when we’re tired and also to recover more quickly from physical exertion. You can check out the science here

So, don’t feel bad about not being able to keep up with your kids!

I’ve also discovered recently that children 3-4 years old should “...spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, of which at least 60 minutes is moderate- to vigorous intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better...” - World Health Organisation.

That’s three or MORE hours of physical activity a day, you guys! THREE.

There’s no way my son gets 3 hours of physical activity in a day, especially not during lockdowns and when it is not as safe outside the 700 sq ft apartment as it used to be, so it’s no wonder he’s bouncing off the walls literally all day.

I could feel guilty about not providing that time, but I choose to use this information to remind myself that if it looks like he’s moving ALL THE TIME, it’s because he’s missing his physical activity quota.

So, with all of that energy coursing through their little bodies, how do we help our kids to calm down?

As you may have guessed now, the secret to getting kids to be calm isn’t about helping them to slow down, it’s about helping them release all that energy they have inside.

Here’s my list of things to do when my kid is getting a bit nutty (side benefit to this is that these are a fantastic way to connect, which helps regulate them too):

Get outside in nature

Of course, this was almost impossible during MCO, so kudos to you parents who made it through this time. Now that we’re in recoveries, this is the best time to get outside as much as possible.

Build it into your daily routine so that they know what to expect. Sometimes we’ll just lie on the ground and point out the different shapes of clouds. Other days we’ll take and extended walk around the building looking for spider webs, birds and fallen flowers. Anything goes outside, even yelling and making lots of noise.

Pillow fights

If you can’t get outside or it’s raining, a good pillow fight works well. I find it best to confine all pillow fights to the middle of a big bed as there’s less things around to break and accidents are less likely to happen.

We have a couple rules for this kind of play - if someone says stop you have to stop no matter what and, no throwing in people’s faces! Other than that, anything goes. My son particularly loves having me throw a pillow at him hard enough to throw him off balance.

Note: our bed is cornered on 3 sides so it’s very hard for him to fall off. It’s also only two mattresses thick so pretty low to the ground.

Let them “freak out”

I made up a “freaking out” game spontaneously after a rather hilarious incident (ask me in person if you know me) that left my son with a lot of pent up emotions stuck in his body and it was late at night.

I knew he needed to “shake it off”, so I told him I would countdown slowly from 10 whilst he “freaked out” i.e. rolled around the bed, flailing his body about as much as he wanted. After the “freak out” we count 5 deep slow breaths together. I did this with him as many times as he wanted until he felt himself again. He now asks for this any time he's feeling wonky!

Dance party

Music is one of those things that can change a mood instantly. Get your favourite tunes on loud and dance as crazy as you want. Honestly, my son never asks for a dance party, but if I start the music and go for it, he joins in every time! Also, don’t think you need to play “child-friendly” music like Disney songs all the time. I play all kinds of music at home, it’s fascinating to see what they naturally like listening to.

Focus their energy on something specific

Not all the time, but occasionally when my son gets antsy, it’s because he’s lost focus in what he’s doing and needs help refocusing. It’s good for kids to be bored enough to figure out what they want to do, and sometimes they just need a little bit of direction.

Sometimes that looks like joining the activity he’s doing and just playing with the same thing in a different way, or I’ll ask him to join me in a specific activity. Usually, it’s cooking and we’ll make some of the things we have in the fridge every week, like fruit popsicles, cut fruit or fresh juice or pesto.

It felt like lockdown had lasted forever, but I think we started to get used to it and all of this time together has helped me learn what works and what doesn't with my kid. Beware what you try though, as once you start something new, they’re going to ask you for it 1000 times more! You were warned.

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