Mindful and Sensory Activities To Help Anxious Children Break Free of Worry or Upset

We may receive compensation from the providers of the services and products featured on this website. Read our Advertising Disclosure.

Anxiety in children can manifest in various ways, including anger, sadness, irritability, self-doubt, or an unshakable bad mood. These intense emotions are part of normal childhood development, as kids learn to regulate their feelings. Usually, these emotions are fleeting, and children quickly return to their cheerful selves.

However, persistent bad moods, constant worrying, or regular, intense tantrums could signal stress or underlying anxiety in your child. One effective method to assist children with anxiety is to strengthen their sense of self, helping them to separate their identity from their emotions. I discuss this in detail in my article: “11 Ways to Help Kids Re-Center: Strengthen Your Child’s Sense of Self, Fix Bad Moods, and Reduce Anxiety.” A key approach in aiding kids to re-center during moments of worry or upset is through sensory play, which is both immersive and mindful.

7 Mindful and Sensory Activities to Assist Kids in Emotion Regulation and Re-Centering

Mindful or sensory activities, also known as re-centering activities, are excellent for helping children emerge from a bad mood, break a cycle of worry, or shift from anger to better emotional regulation. These immersive activities facilitate a state of flow, where your child is completely absorbed in what they’re doing, fully engaged in the present moment.

Flow states are typically achieved during deep play. This is when children learn new things, expand their exploration, and even process their stressors. Play is naturally therapeutic for kids, and sometimes they need a little assistance to reach this state. Sensory and mindful activities can be particularly helpful in guiding them back into a state of flow. They also serve as great brain breaks or transitions from e-learning to playtime.

  1. Embark on a Sensory Scavenger Hunt: This activity allows children to rediscover their environment through their five senses in a fun way. It also aids in grounding them in their preferences for sights, smells, textures, sounds, and tastes. My son described feeling “happy because I found my place in the world” after participating in the scavenger hunt, reflecting the activity’s ability to transition to a more grounded state, conducive to play and exploration.
  2. Create Chamomile or Lavender Scented Slime: Engaging in tactile activities like making scented slime can be incredibly immersive for children. These recipes are multi-sensory, offering calming aromatherapy benefits. For younger children, an edible slime alternative, like Edible Banana Marshmallow Pudding Slime, can be both tactile and tasty.
  3. Express Emotions with DIY Emoji Squishies: These are perfect for a calm-down area, helping children to identify emotions while engaging their sense of touch. My toddler son found relief from tantrums by identifying emotions with plush emojis, transitioning from expressing feelings to playful interactions.
  4. Cultivate a Sensory Garden: Gardening is a proven stress-reducer that promotes positive emotions. It encourages being in the moment and can increase serotonin levels. My son enjoys rearranging his fairy garden, while other options include a Sensory Play Garden or a sandbox with an attached garden. For indoor alternatives, a Montessori Peace Tray, akin to a zen rock garden, is a wonderful option.
  5. Craft a DIY Sensory Glitter Jar: These jars are captivating and can symbolize unsettled emotions. Children can shake the jar and watch the glitter settle, mirroring their feelings calming down. They also make for engaging independent play items.
  6. Engage in Mindful Coloring: Coloring is an inherently mindful activity, allowing for relaxation and presence in the moment. It’s beneficial for both kids and adults, so join your child in this stress-reducing activity.
  7. Play with Water: Water play has a magical quality to it that can dispel bad moods. Activities like sensory baths with glow sticks, splashing in a baby pool, running through a sprinkler, or playing at a water table are all immersive and help bring children back to a state of mindfulness.

These activities not only help children regulate their emotions but also reconnect with their core selves, an often-overlooked but crucial aspect of emotion management. If your child’s anxiety seems persistent, consider consulting a pediatrician or a counselor. Professional guidance can be invaluable in helping children navigate and manage anxious thoughts.