4 Calming Strategies for Kids

Are you looking for more ways to help your child manage big feelings? Then check out these four calming strategies for kids.


A few weeks ago, our baby turned one. I had a teary-eyed moment on the couch. My four-year-old came up to me and said,

“Mama, when you are sad, just breath like this” and he modeled taking deep, calming breaths. Mindblown.

This is a child who has big feelings. They are loud feelings. They are anything but subtle.

And yet, he has learned the power of deep breathing so well, he was coaching me.

You’re here because your child needs more tools to calm down.  So read on and you’ll find what you need about calming strategies for kids.

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What can I say instead of calm down to my child?

You know when you’re upset.

You hate it when someone says, “Just calm down,” or “It’s not that big of a deal.”

It feels invalidating of your experience.  So you are right!

There are better things to say than, “Calm down.”

You can say:

  • It’s normal to feel this way.
  • You’re feeling sad.
  • This is a big feeling.
  • Do you want to think about your happy place?
  • Let’s try rainbow breathing.
  • Let’s draw a picture.

Read on and you’ll find how to use these phrases and strategies with your child.

Calm Down Strategies in a PDF

Having calming strategies for kids available at your fingertips is so important.  So grab these free calm down strategies in a pdf.

It has 10 different strategies for your child. The calm down strategies pdf also has pictures.  This is helpful for both readers and non-readers.

Our brains store images much better than spoken language. So seeing a picture of the strategy is more effective than just being told with words.

What are some calming strategies for kids?

Calming strategies for kids are easy to access tools that children can use before they get too upset. They are most effective when they are used in the upset phase, prior to the out-of-control phase.

While there are 10 calming strategies for kids on the calm down pdf, here’s a more in-depth explanation of how you can implement 4 strategies

1. Talk to someone

The importance of naming feelings can not be overstated.
We want our children to learn to calm themselves, but first, they need to be able to name their feelings quickly and easily.  This is called emotional fluency and it’s the first step towards self-regulation.
Self-regulation is really just keeping ourselves calm in stressful or upsetting situations.
You can practice this with a feelings chart. Having a chart in one place is so helpful because the brain deals with visuals or pictures better than spoken words.
  1. Help your child find and name their emotions on a feeling chart.
  2. Then give them the language, “You feel sad right now. You’re thinking about how you miss Grandma.”
  3. Use empathy: “It’s really hard because you love Grandma so much.”
Believe it or not, my four-year-old (who can scream like a pterodactyl) gets calm with just this strategy.  With practice, your children will be able to talk about their emotions independently as a strategy to calm themselves.

2. Take a deep breath

What does take a deep breath even mean to a child?  It’s kind of abstract.

A few years my daughter came home from kindergarten and told me about rainbow breathing.  She modeled taking a deep breath in and making the first half of the arc of a rainbow.

Then she’d exhale as she finished the arc and drop her arm by her side. We created a visual of a rainbow to remember to breathe through all seven rainbow colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and purple.

This calming strategy helps your child relax their body. When their body feels calmer, your child will be more able to think rationally.

For most parents, taking a deep breath seems to be a go-to strategy.  Your breath is always with you so it’s accessible and convenient!


3. Think about a happy spot

Teaching a child that they can think about happy place or another pleasant thought is a form of mindsight.  While it’s important to acknowledge big feelings, shifting your attention temporarily can prevent an emotional meltdown.

In the parenting classic, The Whole Brain Child, the authors explain that showing our children that one thought or feeling is just one part of them is a powerful technique.  They suggest parents help the child acknowledge the upsetting thought or feeling and shift their attention.

When your child is beginning to experience a big feeling, acknowledge it.

Then ask, “Do you want to think about this now, or would you rather thinking about playing soccer later?”

You don’t want to deny the big feeling, but instead, teach the power of shifting attention until your child is calm.

You will want to plan to circle back to the initial big emotion when you are both calm.

Here’s what it looked like at bedtime last week:

Child: “I don’t want to go to sleep. I’ll miss you.”

Me: “I understand that. It’s tough to be away from mama. Do you want to think about that now, or do you want to think about something else now?”

Child: “I’m going to think about (a silly jingle) I heard today.”

This child fell asleep and I circled back the next day with empathy.

4. Draw a picture

One day my five-year-old came home from preschool. She sat down with her markers and some paper and made this picture above.
It was a self-portrait with a thought bubble.
She explained, “Today was Reed’s birthday. It’s hard for me to wait for my birthday.”
Coloring can be incredibly calming as a way to shift attention, but it can also help children learn to express their own feelings.

How do I teach my child to calm down?

Now that you know about the strategies, how do you really use them to teach your child to calm down?

Prior to any meltdowns, when both your child and you are relaxed, look at the calming strategies printable with your child.
Say to your child, “Which one do you want to practice?” Let your child have ownership.
And try it together. Explain that the next time your child starts to feel annoyed (mildly angry) or nervous (mildly anxious), you’re going to remind your child to try a strategy.

How do you calm a tantruming child?

Every parent wants to know how to teach their child to calm down during a tantrum or meltdown.  There are two things to understand about calming a child in a tantrum:

The difference between a tantrum and a meltdown

A tantrum is when a child is upset they can’t get their way. A meltdown is when the child is overwhelmed by emotions or the sensory experience.

You’ll know it’s a tantrum if you give in and your child immediately calms.

While neurodiverse children are more prone to meltdowns, neurotypical children can struggle with big feelings, too.

Some children are highly sensitive; experts estimate approximately 20% of the population is more sensitive to feelings, sensations, and experiences.

During a tantrum, try empathy

It’s truly a tantrum when you’ve said no or created a boundary. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Use empathy without giving in
  2. Try a strategy that you’ve worked on
  3. Re-evaluate after the tantrum when everyone is calm

But teaching your child to calm down happens prior to the tantrum or emotional meltdown to be effective.


When my four-year-old coached me to take deep breaths through my own sadness, he showed the power of calming strategies for kids.

He has found them to be so effective, he was empowered to coach me, the person who had coached him.

So give it a try, and commit to experimenting with different strategies.

Just remember, while you want to end the tantrum in Target, your ultimate goal is to raise to an emotionally healthy child who grows into a healthy adult.  These calming strategies for kids are an excellent foundation.

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