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22 Simple Calming Activities for Kids

Little children are full of energy and it often seems like their batteries will never run out, but they also get overwhelmed, overstimulated and anxious.

Sometimes, all they need is a change of pace or activity to calm their nerves or reset.

While you can encourage activities such as breathing, closing your eyes or getting into a stretchy yoga pose, sometimes just a change of the type of activity will do the trick.

Try these calming activities in the classroom or at home. They’re great for toddlers, preschoolers and school-aged children.

They are simple ideas, but the kinds of activities that get kids sitting and concentrating for a while, which can be grounding.  

1. Playdough

Using sensory activities to calm down is one of the most effective strategies. Playdough is a wonderful substance that kids can play with for hours.

Moulding and squeezing it is a great way to get rid of tension and calm the mind. 

Read about the many benefits of playdough or make some homemade playdough.

2. Slime

Slime is an alternative that’s also popular with kids. 

It’s easy to make your own slime and will keep the kids busy and amused. Getting them involved in mixing it themselves can also be quite a relaxing activity.

Try these fun slime activities with your kids.

3. Carpet Games

Carpet games are great transition activities that will also calm down a group of children. They are quiet and don’t hype kids up. 

Some examples are Broken telephone and Simon Says.

Here are some 21 carpet games that are perfect for circle time.

4. Sand Play

Playing with sand is one of the most calming activities for anxiety and one that should be available for kids as often as possible. Preschoolers especially can be found in the sandpit every day.

The beauty of sand is that it offers no resistance and therefore is always a positive and successful experience. 

Little girl playing in sand

5. Water Play

Water play is just as popular with young kids as sand play, and for good reason. Playing with water is so therapeutic.

While this activity can get kids hyped up and excited, if you set it up a certain way, it can become calming and quiet. 

Instead of switching on a sprinkler or having 10 kids around a big water table, set up small troughs of water where children can play independently or in small, calm groups.

Here are some water play ideas to make it fun and new.

6. Sensory Stations

One way to have a calming session with a group of children is to set up an area with various sensory stations.

These can be anything from a container with beads or coloured rice to a table with glue and fabrics.

They don’t need to be complicated or time-consuming to set up. Here are some simple sensory stations to get you started.

7. Listening to a Story

Reading to children is the biggest gift you can give them for multiple reasons. One of those reasons is that listening to stories is incredibly calming, not to mention bonding.

There’s a reason bedtime stories exist as reading is one of the most calming things one can do before bedtime, even as an adult. 

Grandmother reading to hrandson

Here are four short bedtime stories and four funny animal stories.

To make the activity super calming in class, get kids to lie down and close their eyes while listening.

8. Reading Corner

You will find a reading corner in every good school and it’s a great feature to have in a home too.

Children find it calming to sit in a quiet space and page through a book or read it (if they’re old enough).

The trick is to create a cosy, private space for reading that kids will see as a sanctuary and place to go to for some alone time. 

Add beanbags and cushions and try to cordon off the area with a moveable bookshelf or screen.

9. Audio Stories

To let kids get completely into their own world, without any distractions, offer a corner with audio stories and earphones. This will settle any nerves and give children some time to recharge.

10. Puzzles

Puzzles require so much concentration and determination to finish that they are naturally good for grounding kids and settling them.

To make it relaxing, make sure the puzzles are age-appropriate and not impossibly difficult to complete. The activity must be successful to work.

Read about the many benefits of puzzles.

11. Playing Games

Any quiet games that kids can play on a carpet or table, without moving around, will be calming and have a similar effect to building puzzles.

Good games to offer include matching games or memory games, sequencing cards, board games, pegboards, etc.

(Get your own set of printable sequencing cards, puzzles and memory games here!)

Two kids playing board games

12. Calming Exercises

For a quick reset, get all the kids to do some exercises to calm their nerves and help them to concentrate again. 

Here are some examples of calming exercises for children:

  • Stretch your toes forwards and backwards.
  • Bend over and hold your toes.
  • Shrug your shoulders, one at a time.
  • Swing your arms backwards and forwards.
  • Pretend you are walking along a rope.
  • Stand on the tips of your toes.
  • Pretend to be a ball and rock backwards, forwards and around.
  • Lie on your tummy, lift your arms and hold them in the air like a plane.

Here are more exercises to improve attention span.

13. Brain Breaks

Use regular brain breaks, especially when teaching small kids, in between lessons or when they are losing focus or getting too rowdy.

Just like it benefits adults to get up from their desks and stretch their legs or have a cup of tea, kids’ attention will be reset and they will feel calmer after a movement break.

These breaks can be as simple as stretching or doing some “air drawing”. Here are 10 brain break activities.

14. Listening to Music

Have a music station set up in the class or at home with some relaxing music such as classical music or instrumental music.

Music is soothing for children and will immediately calm their nerves. Add earphones to give even more privacy.

15. Singing

Children love singing and spontaneously sing from a very young age. Use singing in your home and class to refocus kids and relax them.

There are many benefits of singing and the act of doing it can release tension and feel soothing. 

16. Construction Play

Playing with manipulatives is a calm-down activity that draws kids in as they work on their creations.

Construction play can take many forms, such as:

It’s an easy activity to do independently so kids can take some time out when they’re building.

17. Gardening

As many adults will agree, spending time in the garden or exploring nature with kids is therapeutic and a wonderful way to connect with ourselves and feel at peace.

Encourage your kids with these gardening activities.

18. Cloud Stories

This one is a gem for a cloudy day. Lie on your back outside and watch the clouds go by. Look for shapes in the clouds and tell stories about the images you see forming in the clouds.

You can even go back inside and draw what you saw.

19. Group Colouring Board

This is a great calming activity for the classroom. While colouring pages are not good for developing creativity, they have their place. Kids enjoy them and they can be very calming.

A fun way to include multiple kids is to create a colouring wall with a large colouring sheet taped to it for a group of children to colour in at the same time.

This will become a popular place to go to for some quiet time.

20. Drawing

Drawing is the most basic activity but one that kids should do daily. There are multiple benefits of drawing, one of those being how relaxing it is.

Drawing gives kids an outlet to show how they feel or put onto paper how they are experiencing the world. Children’s drawings are often used in therapy to give adults clues about kids’ feelings.

Little girl drawing a picture with markers

Children progress through predictable stages of drawing, and their drawings show their level of maturity and understanding of the world. 

21. Painting

Painting has multiple benefits too and is another fun alternative to drawing. 

Moving liquid paint over paper is quite soothing and therapeutic for kids and gives them a way to freely express themselves. Although messy, fingerpainting is probably the most soothing and liberating activity.

22. Cutting and Pasting

Cutting and pasting activities require a lot of concentration and are a good activity for calming busybodies.

To make it really relaxing, provide collage materials, glue and paper and let kids create freely without instructions or models to follow.

Child drawing a picture. Text reads "22 calming activities for preschoolers".

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Andrea Foulkes

Tuesday 1st of August 2023

I work with children with ASC.

Tanja Mcilroy

Tuesday 8th of August 2023

I hope these ideas will help, Andrea!

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