As much as you want your kid to have a carefree childhood, it's not reality, especially if he has already started school or is facing changes at home. One in 10 children experience problems such as stress and anxiety, notes Education.com, so finding ways to help kids relax is essential. Playing simple age-appropriate games can help your child let loose, regain a sense of control, and forget worries for a while. If efforts to ease a child's anxiety fall short, consult a pediatrician for guidance.
Identifying Stress and Anxiety
Some stress is positive, motivating children to study for a big test or prepare for a championship game, for example. Many children experience negative stress, however, such as the stress caused by a divorce in the home or a bullying situation at school. Changes in behavior may be cues that your child is anxious or stressed; these can include irritability, moodiness, uncharacteristic crying or complaining, clinginess to a parent and changes in eating and sleeping habits, according to the American Psychological Association. Physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomachaches, can occur, as well.
Toddler and Preschool Games
Challenge your child to see who can wrinkle his forehead the longest. Keeping the forehead wrinkled for at least seven seconds can help your child relax, according to the Kreamer Family Resource Center. Another quick game is to challenge your child to breath in, puffing his tummy as big as he can. See who can puff their tummy out the furthest to add an element of challenge to the activity. All this deep breathing helps calm the nerve that runs from the diaphragm to the brain, says KidsHealth. Another game is blowing and popping bubbles, which is a relaxing activity for many children.
Elementary Age Games
Play a breathing game with your child by challenging him to take a deep breath and then have him imagine it filling his body from the tips of his toes to the top of his head. Repeat the activity several times. Outside games that cause laughter, such as tag, soccer or follow the leader, are also effective relaxation games. In fact, laughter is one of the best ways to relax and ease stress. Use the power of imagination to help your child relax by lying in the grass together and finding shapes in the clouds. Also, floating in water is relaxing for many children, so take your child to a local pool and see who can float on her back the longest.
Games for Older Kids
Have your child lie on his back with his legs up in the air and his feet flat. Place a book on his feet, and then lie down next to him and put a book on your feet, suggests Allison Bartl, author of "101 Relaxation Games for Children: Finding a Little Peace and Quiet in Between." The winner of the game is the person who keeps his book balanced the longest. Connecting with others is especially important to older children and can help ease stress. Encourage your older child to gather a few friends to play an impromptu game of tag, kickball or basketball in the relaxing atmosphere of the great outdoors. Of course, most older kids enjoy video games. While playing certain games or playing too long may be against family rules, gaming may help loosen up a stressed-out kid, while giving him a sense of control and improving his mood, according to a 2014 article published in "American Psychologist." Of course, monitor your child's video game time so you can be assured that he's playing appropriate games for his age.
- 101 Relaxation Games for Children: Finding a Little Peace and Quiet in Between; Allison Bartl
- Kreamer Family Resource Center: Relaxation Techniques
- FamilyEducation: Relaxation, Guided Imagery and Visualization Techniques
- Education.com: 10 New-Age Relaxation Techniques for Kids
- American Psychological Association: Identifying Signs of Stress in Your Children and Teens
- TeensHealth: 5 Ways to Deal With Anxiety
- American Psychologist: The Benefits of Playing Video Games
- Photo Credit Saša Prudkov/iStock/Getty Images