The Calm-Down Kit: Sensory Strategies to Ease Meltdowns

The Calm-Down Kit: Sensory Strategies to Ease Meltdowns

In our last post, we mentioned using a calm-down kit to help your child calm themselves in the middle of a meltdown. Since we’re an OT Blog, here are some sensory elements you can use for creating your kid’s personalized calm-down kit. 

Smell 

Using diluted essential oils or fragrances, add a few drops on a favorite stuffed animal or blanket. You can also consider lotions or hand soap if your child has a favorite.

Some fun calming scents include:

  • Apple 
  • Banana 
  • Cherry
  • Chocolate
  • Lavender
  • Orange 
  • Strawberry
  • Fresh cut grass
  • Vanilla
  • Jasmine
  • Rose
  • Chamomile

Taste/Oral Motor

Foods with different textures or temperatures can help a child stop and focus, not to mention keep them from getting hangry. 

  • Chewy foods like gum, fruit snacks, gummy bears, jerky, licorice 
  • Mouth fidgets that don’t pose a choking hazard, like a chew necklace
  • Crunchy foods like pretzels, chips, celery, apples, popcorn
  • Drinking liquids through a straw
  • Drinking warm fluids, like hot cocoa, tea, or milk

Touch 

Deep-pressure touch is an instant game-changer. Incorporate these into your calm down routine.

  • Deep pressure self-massage. Teach your child to firmly rub their arm or hand slowly in a downward motion (they can use the entire length of the arm). Using lotion may help your child understand this activity better. 
  • Hand hugs, as though your child is pressing a pancake.
  • Using heavy or weighted blankets
  • Use of vibration, like body massagers or massage pillow
  • Hand fidgets, like stress balls or putty 
  • Snuggle with the family pet
  • Sensory bin with dried beans or rice

See/Visual 

When stressed, it’s difficult to focus and calm when there is so much visual stimuli present. The goal here is to present an area where your child isn’t excessively stimulated. 

  • Dim or natural lighting
  • Simple decoration
  • Reduce visual clutter
  • Calming colors – greens, blues, indigos, violets
  • Watching repetitive slow movements, like watching fish in a fish tank or snow globes

Hear/Auditory 

Some quick guidelines for mid-meltdown communication:

  • Have an area where it is quiet, or noise is minimal 
  • When talking to your child, be mindful of emotional tone and volume
  • Reduce the amount of verbal instructions when your child and provide positive reinforcement as they begin to calm
  • Discuss or make up stories about how to handle future challenging situations 

Just like guided meditation, or the Calm app, audio can help reset a child’s mindset. Try calming sounds like:

  • Sound machine or App, like Relax Melodies
  • Soft vibration sounds 
  • Nature sounds
  • Calm rhythmic songs, like rhymes and lullabies 
  • Low-volume classical music

Rhythmical Deep Breathing

From yoga masters to veterans, they all have some form of structured breathing to help calm their heart rates and keep them centered. Try these to help bring your kid back to neutral.

  • Breathing in flowers – have your child imagine they are smelling a bouquet of flowers, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. 
  • Bee breathing – have your child breathe through the nose while covering their ears, then on the exhale, have them vibrate their vocal chords by making the “mmm” sound. 
  • Rabbit breathing – have your child pretend they are rabbits sniffing for food, performing 3 quick and short inhalations followed by 1 long exhale. 

Movement 

Activities that require joint and muscle activity can help bring back focus and breath control. If your child is up for it, change up their environment and get them moving.

  • Running or walking outside 
  • Yoga
  • Rhythmical movement, like a swing or rocking chair 

Other Fine Motor activities that can help calm are:

  • Coloring 
  • Drawing 
  • Painting
  • Activity Books
  • Legos 
  • Bead stringing
  • Lacing
  • Puzzles

Do you have any techniques or tools to help your child calm down? Let us know in the comments.

Also, check out our Activities Page and visit our Child(ish) Advice Pinterest Page for more activities and ideas. 


Sources:
Breathing Techniques: Exercises and types of breathing“, Andrea Garcia Cerdan. CogniFit, September 21, 2017.
Garland, T. (2019). How to Work with Children: A Sensory Approach. Webinar. 
Barker, L. (2012). Sensory Processing: Behavior, Memory, and Learning. Live Lecture. Atlanta, GA. 
Henry, D.A., Kane-Wineland, M., and Swindeman, S. (2007). Tools for Tots: Sensory Strategies for Toddlers and Preschoolers. Flagstaff, AZ: Henry OT Services.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s