Do you have times where your kids are just bouncing off the walls or being hyperactive or rough? They don’t seem to listen to anything we say and just do frustrating things like throwing, hitting or running away.
For a tired parent these times can be really challenging. Sticking the kids in front of the TV or iPad can seem like a quick fix, but often they’re even worse when it’s time to turn it off and they have a massive meltdown when you try and switch it off!
So here are five quick and simple ways to calm your kids down when you need it (that don’t involve a screen)!
1. Give them a mental puzzle or game to figure out
Puzzles or games get them out of their emotional brain and into their rational or decision-making brain, which is the part of the brain where self-control resides. So get them using their brain with a puzzle or game that’s tricky enough (but not too tricky) for their age. Eg. For 1-2 yo: ask them to point to different parts of their body; for 3-5 yo: a simple maths sum, or counting how many round things or red things there are in the room; for older kids a trivia question or harder maths sum, and so on.
2. Take them outside into green space
Even just the sight of green nature has been shown to calm people down and make us happier (here’s the science about this). The beach can also work just as well. Taking your children outside gives space to burn off their bottled up energy. I often notice kids go a bit crazy when they first get outside and slowly calm down after they’ve let off steam. You can then give young kids a calming task like collecting seeds, flowers or shells. Even 5-10 minutes outside in the back garden can work wonders if you’re short of time.
3. Have a good chat with them
It’s often when we are busiest that our kids go a bit ‘feral’ – partly because we aren’t engaging with them. So it can help to stop for a short while, give them our full attention and have a chat. First get their attention by looking them in the eye and cuddling or touching them. Then telling them all about what’s going to be happening tomorrow, or planning Dad’s birthday party or talking about their next football session can engage their minds enough to cam them down. They usually love a good one-to-one chat with Mum or Dad!
4. Give them an ‘adult’ household job to do
Some children love to do jobs that are normally Mummy and Daddy’s jobs, for example my daughter loves cleaning the windows with a spray bottle! Chopping vegetables or fruit is another good one (with a child-friendly knife). If you give them something to do that’s out of the ordinary, it’s fun for them. And involving them in preparing dinner or whatever you’re doing also helps them feel closer to you.
5. Get them exercising
Getting them outside to ride their bike or go for a run is a great way to burn off excess energy, but you don’t always have time for that. So there are quicker ways to get them physically active. Go out into the back yard and get them playing a game like “What’s the time Mr Fox?” or doing running races. If you can’t get outside you can still give them physical challenges to do like ten starjumps or pushups.
Of course it’s great if we can avoid our kids getting over-stimulated in the first place - avoid the obvious causes like food or drink stimulants (cola, chocolate, excess sugar), over-stimulating screen time like video games or aggressive movies, or a lack of quiet time in a day.
But, even then, we'll still have days where they get cabin fever and become a bit crazy! So keep this list in your phone or print it out and it will be a quick reference when you really need it.