We all need strategies to cope with stress and tough emotions. This is especially true for children and teens who are still growing and learning. Specifically, I’ve put this list of calm-down tools together to act as a “toolbox” of supports for educators and parents looking for new ideas. They go beyond typical coping strategies because they are all printable and digital activities you can use today.
Why use calm-down tools? Telling an upset child to “calm down” in the moment almost never works. Having tools or supports, though, can help give that child a more tangible strategy to start to feel calm. It’s important to note that not every child gets calm the same way. This makes sense – we are all different and what works for one isn’t going to work exactly the same for someone else. This is why having a “toolbox” of different activities is extremely important.
Practices makes progress. Remember to practice using calm-down tools you plan to try with your learners BEFORE they are upset. This is important. When we are upset or overwhelmed, it’s more difficult for our brains to think clearly. In order to effectively use calm-down strategies, we all need practice when we are calm.
Teaching Coping Skills Explicitly
Before I delve into all the free tools I’m sharing with you, it’s worth mentioning that I have many lessons, games, crafts, and activities to teach coping skills at a deeper level. Sometimes this can be especially important for kids and teens who continually struggle with managing their emotions. If you need a little bit more direction and support, feel free to check out some of my favorite coping strategies resources.
Give some of these free calm-down tools a try:
1. Emotions Check-In. Thinking about emotions is one of the very first steps in understanding how we feel. This builds self-awareness and improves self-regulation. Use this free emotions check-in activity to give it a try.
2. Positive Affirmations List. Positive self-talk is powerful! It’s a great tool to help kids and teens manage emotions. Use this positive thoughts and affirmations list to choose your favorite self-talk statements. Learn more about positive self-talk and why it is such a valuable coping skill!
3. Coping Stategies List. In order to effectively calm down, kids and teens need to know which strategies they can use! I love the idea of a coping strategies list because it is always something to refer back to. Post it in a calm down area, keep in a binder, or hang up on the wall.
4. Mindful Breathe Boards. Mindful breathing is a critical coping skill that every child and young adult should know. Make the practice a little more concrete with breathe boards. Using a free mindful breathe board, have kids trace the shapes as they breathe in and out. Post them on a wall or laminate them to be used again and again.
5. Coping Strategies Notebook. The idea behind a coping strategies notebook is really simple: Dedicate one page to each coping strategy your student uses to calm down. This can be used as both a lesson to learn coping skills and a tool to use later on when a child is upset. Grab this free coping strategies notebook to get started and give it a try.
6. Mindful Morning Check-In. One of my favorite morning activities, this free printable and digital mindful morning check-in practices deep breathing, mindfulness, gratitude, and positive self-talk all in one. It comes with a student page as well.
7. Mindful Coloring Pages. Gather your favorite coloring utensils and these free mindfulness coloring pages to start a mindful practice. Mindful coloring helps kids and teens develop skills for self-regulation and self-awareness – important skills that we all need.
8. Calming Posters. Use these free printable calming posters to post in a calm-down area or use as discussion starters. Saying include “Just breathe,” “Just keep going,” and “Just start a new day.”
9. Gratitude List. Practicing gratitude can be a helpful calm-down strategy. It reminds us to be thankful of the things we have in our lives. Use these gratitude activities to make a gratitude list from A to Z.
10. Power of Yet Posters. Use the power of yet to help remind kids and teens that they can do difficult things. Just because they haven’t done something, doesn’t mean they can’t. They just haven’t done it yet. Grab these power of yet posters to keep nearby.
11. Conversation Starter Cards. Some kids and teens really benefit from talking to someone when they are upset. Use these conversation starter cards to talk about activities, hobbies, family, friends, and more. After you’ve finished some of these, you can make up some of your own.
12. Break Cards. Everyone needs a break sometimes! Teach your learners to ask for breaks in a more positive way with these free printable break cards.
13. Mindfulness Journal. This one is a bonus just for subscribers here at Pathway 2 Success. It’s a sample of my complete mindfulness journal, but this free journal is a great way to start a mindful practice with your learners. Head over to the free resource library to get yours, or head over here to learn more about joining the club. It’s free and I send you social emotional updates a few times a month- I would love to have you!
Remember that different skills work for different learners. Try a few and see how they work for your students!