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Playful Ways To Soothe Big Emotions

by Robin Goldstein-Lincoln

To assist children in learning how to soothe their surge of emotion, try the following activities:

Soothe with Bubbles

The process of blowing bubbles naturally initiates a more expansive breathing pattern, which is inherently soothing. Bubbles can also serve as an excellent metaphor for how feelings, like bubbles, rise and then fall and dissipate. And, blowing bubbles is fun. After blowing bubbles, it will likely be easier to talk about the feelings you and your child have been experiencing.

Play Dough Squeeze

When children are experiencing strong feelings, they can release their emotional tension by using their hands to squeeze an object. For this exercise, shape some play dough into a ball. Then, have your children place their hands side by side, palms up, like an open book. Set the ball of play dough in their hands, then place your hands just under their hands, to provide some gentle touch. Look directly into their eyes and say, “1, 2, 3, squeeze.” Generally, children will want to squeeze the play dough several times until their tension has subsided. It can be helpful to practice this activity during pleasant or neutral times, so it's easier to apply at times of increasing emotional intensity.

Shift Focus

Sometimes children can become stuck and need to take a break from their big feelings. When this occurs, you can help your children by re-directing their attention or sparking their imagination. Some ideas include orienting your child to a sound (“Can you hear the birds chirping?”), to a color (“Can you find 3 objects that are the color red?”), to a shape (“Can you find 3 circles?”), to an open space (“Notice the space between your ears.”), to a smell (“Imagine the smell of freshly baked cookies.”), or to a taste (“Imagine you are tasting cold lemonade.”).


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