Relaxation For Children in the Classroom November 30 2011

Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, having a list of relaxation exercises around for the children you’re in charge of can be invaluable.

You may well ask, “Why do children need to relax at all?” We’re all too keen to see childhood as a carefree time, and yes, using words we so commonly associate with the adult world like ‘stress’ can seem like we’re rushing them into adulthood a little too quickly. Yet, stress still happens to us throughout our lives, even if it comes from different sources. Whether it’s the uncomfortable feeling of starting school in a new place or the ever increasing expectations piled upon children who must perform in exams to be in the top half of the class, stress has the same debilitating effect on children as it does on adults. Loss of sleep, low self-esteem, moodiness, anger, lack of concentration and all the rest.

Promoting relaxation through games and activities helps combat these everyday feelings of anxiety. These are techniques that, whilst unlikely to be used in exactly the same way in adulthood, allow children to start forming an understanding of how relaxation techniques can help them overcome life’s problems. Well, that and they’re a great way of getting rambunctious children to settle down for a bit!

Imagination and Visualization

Children’s imaginations are incredibly powerful, and they’re also a complex way of coping with information and situations. Just look at how many children develop imaginary friends when companionship is lacking (and yes, Imaginary friends are a stress-battler in the first place). You can harness this power to slow things down from time to time.

  • Encouraging children to imagine their ‘happy place’ is one common technique. Get them to be quiet and close their eyes. Introduce each sense one by one (What can you see? / hear? / feel?) and tell them to think of the smallest details. Then associate some action (“hold onto your thumb”, “touch your first fingers together”) so that they can always ‘go back’ when they wish.
  • Variations involving travel to the ‘happy place’, or imagining travel (floating and flying particular) are popular and effective.
  • Activities that involve managing breathing are also great stress managers. ‘Sleepy starfish’ is a good one: get the child to sprawl on the floor and imagine being on the bottom of the ocean, relaxing and breathing deeply, silently blowing bubbles that rise to the surface.
  • Getting a sinking feel can also be very relaxing. Tell children to imagine they’re butter melting into bread, slowly sinking into the floor.
  • ‘Sleeping Lions’ is a favorite of all teachers who desire immediate classroom calm – all children have to keep totally still and the teacher plays the hunter, the real goal being to make a game of calming down.
  • Engaging your own imagination to create these scenarios is all part of the fun, but there are plenty of other ideas on the internet – or ask parents or teachers whether they have any tricks!

Additional Great Relaxation Tools

Lightly sprinkling imagination-fuelled quiet time into a child’s day can work well, but kids aren’t always so easy to fool. Here are some additional ideas that may involve a little more noise and activity, but a whole lot of relaxation:

  • Laughter is the best natural medicine we all have – it releases endorphins, reduces blood pressure and decreases stress hormones. Watch a funny movie, act silly or whatever it takes to get the kids laughing (just don’t let it get out of hand, or you’ll have to play sleeping lions).
  • Calming activities keep children occupied whilst being less overtly about establishing ‘quiet time’. Creative activities are the best of all: playing with play-dough, drawing, painting, joining the dots or colouring engage the mind whilst encouraging relaxation.
  • Getting enough sleep is a habit that too many adults break – best to form the habit as young as possible and keep it going for as long as possible. Young children need 11 to 13 hours of sleep every day, older children 10 to 11. Never cave in to having a television, games console or home computer in the bedroom either.

Steph Wood is a copywriter and blogger who loves kids and writest