17 Calming Sensory Activities for Kids to Relax and Regulate Your Child’s Mood
Kids are full of energy. From the moment they hop out of bed, they’re ready to go — jumping, playing, singing, talking (all before you’ve even had your coffee). It’s incredible to have such boundless energy, but it’s not always appropriate.
If your child is attending school, even a PreK program, there are moments throughout the day when they’re expected to sit still and listen. Some children have absolutely no trouble settling into circle time. But if your child needs a little help, we’re here for you.
Calming sensory activities can help your high-energy child self-regulate their mood and body. These are also great activities for managing stress and anxiety. Fewer meltdowns and more calm moments? It’s possible! Try out these 17 calming sensory activities.
Calming creative activities
A few years ago, coloring books for adults became all the rage. And for good reason — the focus and concentration used while coloring can help calm and focus an anxious mind. If your child is feeling stressed, try this classic activity.
Bonus — you likely have everything you need to start coloring this evening. Crayons or colored pencils and paper will do just fine. Or grab a coloring book or one of our free printable downloads for a little more structure.
Looking for something a little different? Let your child color their own messenger bag and fill it with some of the fidget toys on our list (keep reading for our favorites). Or decorate and color a calming puzzle set. The important thing is to allow your child the creative freedom to focus and create.
Write a short story
If your child always has a tale to tell, encourage them to write down their stories. The act of creating is powerful for focusing their mind. While writing their story, they’ll be working their creative muscles as well as their fine motor skills.
If your child is younger, or just doesn’t enjoy writing, they can still create a story comic book style. Encourage them to draw out their ideas. There’s more than one way to tell a story, and the benefits are the same.
When your kid has had a rough day, break out those craft supplies. Pipe cleaners, googly eyes, feathers, beads, or wax crafting sticks are perfect ways to find some calm after a hectic day.
Like the other options in this section, give your child the freedom to create whatever’s in their mind. If they have a favorite activity, suggest starting there. But don’t limit these creations with arbitrary rules or color selections. Their butterfly may turn into a dragon or unicorn when they are left to experiment.
Play with science
Discover slime or oobleck
Both slime and oobleck are excellent sensory substances that also introduce kids to scientific concepts. Are these crazy creations a liquid or a solid? They’re a little bit of both!
Your kids can even help you make it! You can find great recipes all over the internet, but our favorites are over at Little Bins for Little Hands. They have a ton of slime recipes to choose from, including this amazing glittery slime! Don’t have everything you need for slime? Try this oobleck recipe instead (it’s only cornstarch and water)!
Making slime is only the first part of the fun. When it’s ready to go, your child will love squishing these gooey substances while feeling it run through their hands. It’s a great way to explore with their senses.
Build with blocks
Your little engineer may find block building to be the perfect calming activity. Your child can explore weight and gravity while balancing tall towers or creating tiny towns.
This balancing act can be done with a whole host of objects. Children may stack their stuffed animals, toy cars, or just boxes. No matter what they use, this activity is a great way to create calm with what you already have around the house.
Create a sensory table or bin
This activity is easy to customize for your child! Have a dino-loving kiddo? Create a sand table or bin and let them dig up their dino toys. Do they love water? Try a water table or create a bin with water beads.
You can even create smaller bins that are suited for inside play. Fill a small tub with dried beans, or create edible sand with stale cereal. If you don’t mind a little more mess, you could even use jello. Lay down a towel and let your child’s hands explore!
Experiment with forces
Give your stressed-out kiddo a primer in physics. Break out some of those crafting pom-poms and a straw to blow them around with. Can they blow one all the way across the table? How hard do they have to blow to collide two together? This simple activity can calm them while keeping them entertained for hours.
Another great calming force to play with — magnets! Get down those magnetic tiles or train set pieces and they can explore the push and pull of magnetism while winding down from their day.
Stretch and move
Practice yoga and meditation
It’s amazing what a few deep breaths and a stretch break can do. Help your child find their inner calm with a yoga and meditation session.
There are many great yoga programs for kids. One of our favorites is Cosmic Kids Yoga. It’s free on Youtube and combines engaging storytelling with movement to create a calm moment in your child’s day.
If you’re interested in helping your child develop a mindfulness routine, Little Renegades has an engaging collection of activity cards to help even younger children find their peace. With both daytime and nighttime packs, your child can begin and end their day with a calm, quiet joy.
Take a nature walk
Kids belong in nature. The sunshine and beauty of the world speak to them in a special way. When possible, get your kids outside — even if it’s just in your backyard or for a quick walk around the neighborhood.
Not only will nature calm their bodies and minds, but some daily sunshine will help their bodies wind down at the end of the day. Better sleep and a better mood can all be found outside.
Have a dance party
Listening to music and moving your body is therapeutic. Before starting homework in the evening, put on their favorite jams and have a quick dance party!
This fun activity gives them the brain break they need before diving into more school work. It’s also just a fun way to move and play. Dance along with them and feel the benefits of connecting your body with music.
Create a safe sensory space
Build a box fort or tunnel
Sometimes your kiddo may just need a space to go inside and feel safe. This can be accomplished by creating a box fort or buying a special sensory tunnel.
It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Just a small space where they can curl up with a book, activity, or their thoughts. If they feel safe there, then you’ve done your job.
Install a sensory swing
A sensory swing is a great option for calming an anxious child. The swinging movement, often combined with a comfy cocoon design, makes for a soothing space for any child. Check out this post for a rundown of the different types of swings, and discover the best choice for your kid.
Create a reading nook
Snuggling in with a good book or activity is something many adults look forward to at the end of a long day. Give this calming gift to your child by creating a cozy reading nook away from the noise and bustle of your home.
Be sure to include lots of pillows and comfy seating. Burrowing into a pile of pillows can be very calming for sensory-seeking children. Add in a curtain to enclose the space, and plenty of sensory activity options, and your child is all set.
Bath time fun
Your child’s nightly bath is a great time to bring out sensory play. Throw some glow sticks in the tub and dim the lights for a fun change of routine. Or simply put on some calming music to help them relax.
You can even bring art into the bath! Look for some bath crayons or paint and let your child go nuts. Try colorful bath foam to keep things colorful. Or just add in some buckets and cups for water pouring fun. After a warm bath of sensory fun they’ll be calm and ready for bed.
Try out sensory toys
When their brain needs some extra focus, fidget toys are a great item to have on hand. And they come in all different shapes, sizes, and styles, making it easy to find the perfect toy for your child’s personality.
Fidget spinners are still a favorite. And there are also a number of popping toys to choose from. Or check out the wide variety of sensory balls — stress balls, tactile balls, massage balls, or stretchy balls are all great as calming fidget toys.
When things are melting down, a calming distraction may be just the thing to help restore order and calm to a situation. A sensory calm down bottle or jar is a great way to grab your child’s attention and soothe their mind.
You can buy one online or easily make your own. You could also bring back some childhood nostalgia and purchase or make a kaleidoscope for your child.
Many sensory-seeking children find chewing calming. Keep them from chewing on their shirt collars and hair with a chewing necklace or bracelet. They come in a variety of designs — shark teeth, beads, dragon pendants, butterflies, hearts, and more. Your kid will have a stylish necklace ready to go when their anxiety strikes.
Don’t fight your child’s sensory needs
Sometimes it’s difficult to understand why our children need these trinkets and activities. But children are always growing, and learning to regulate your emotions takes time. By providing safe sensory spaces, toys, and activities you are setting them up for future success.
Looking for more great calming activities for your child? Check out Purple Ladybug’s shop for a huge variety of crafts designed with your child’s safety and happiness in mind.