Having a restless, overactive child full of energy can be draining to the best of parents. It can be highly demanding and frustrating as well.
Here are six calm-down ideas that you might want to try with your restless little angel, to help him or her calm down and settle in. Some of these need to be done outdoors while others can be used in the comfort of your own home.
1. Mirror, mirror on the wall
A simple game that does not require any props or materials, ‘mirror, mirror on the wall’ is a game designed to sharpen observation skills and improve attention while dispelling excessive energy. It is an imitation game, which also develops the functioning of the mirror neurons in your child’s brain.
To play, simply invite your child to imitate you for a minute by repeating every action you do. Start with simple movements and gradually increase the difficulty level and the number of movements. After a minute, you switch roles, and you repeat the actions that your child does. By doing so, you reflect your child’s body-language, and this can help with improving her body-awareness as well.
2. Flights of stairs
If you live in an apartment or even in an independent house with a flight of stairs leading up to the terrace, you can use this activity to dispel excess energy in your overactive child. All you will need for this is a timer or a stop-watch (which most mobile phones have built into them).
What you would do is tell your child to walk up and down the steps a specified number of times within a time limit. For example, you can ask him to walk up and down a single flight of (maybe 20 stairs) four times in two minutes. The critical aspect of this activity is that the child must walk and not run. Besides safety reasons, this is important because it will help him develop self-control. Even though he wants to make a dash for it in order to complete the task within the given time, he is compelled to slow himself down and walk instead of running. When you play this game repeatedly, he will gradually learn to slow down and stay calmer for longer periods of time.
You can also introduce several variants to this game, such as walk by placing the left foot first each time, walk up two steps at a time, etc.
Check out some great ways to keep your child emotionally healthy in this article.
3. Beat-the-clock: An exercise to increase sitting-down time
One of the most common complaints that you might be hearing from your child’s school is that she does not sit down in one place, and is restless all the time, walks or runs around the classroom and so on.
If you have some simple puzzles or other such activities that require focus, concentration, and above all, sitting down, you can use this activity, which is called ‘beat the clock’. Of course, you’ll need a timer (for which you can use your mobile phone).
To play this game, you would simply tell your child to finish a puzzle before the time runs out. Start with simple puzzles and short timing, and gradually increase the difficulty level and the duration on the timer. Having some kind of an interesting reward or prize to be won waiting for her can add an element of thrill and motivation.
4. A trip to the park or beach
If you live along the coast, a trip to the beach can do wonders to calm your restless child. If not, you can always take him to the park, where he can play on the swing, slide, see-saw and the jungle-gym to work off the excess energy that keeps him from calming down. After 35 to 40 minutes of playing, he should be calm enough to return home for some sitting-down activities like beat-the-clock, which is described above.
5. Pillow fights
The most tried-and-tested method of letting your little one work off the restlessness is to let her engage in a pillow fight with you. Have some ground rules in place to ensure that the pillow stays intact, and maybe you can even designate a couple of large foam pillows just for this purpose.
Besides dispelling energy and helping to calm the child down, this activity can also be great fun and an exercise in bonding.
6. Impromptu dance party
Movement is therapeutic. It not only satisfies the need for kinesthetic stimulation in children, but also leads to a release of endorphins in the body, giving rise to a sense of well-being. If you enjoy dancing, just put on some music which you and your child enjoy, and kick off an impromptu dance party.
You can do this anywhere, anytime, as long as you have a music system and some floor space to move around. Perhaps you can move some of the light-weight furniture out of the way to create space in your living room, if that works.
If, even after trying out all these activities, you feel that your child continues to be restless and agitated, it may be worth getting him or her assessed by a professional to rule out the presence of some condition like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or hyper-kinetic disorder.
The author is a child psychologist who uses non-directive play to help children therapeutically.
Looking for more ways to calm your toddler? Flip through this ClipBook.