Ask the Expert: Calming Techniques for your Child

by Sarah Bailey, Inclusion Specialist, Child Care Answers

As the Inclusion Specialist, one of the biggest concerns I hear is how to help children teach themselves how to calm down. We focus on using social emotional skills to help reduce challenging behaviors. There has been a great push towards making a ‘cozy area’ in each classroom. The cozy area gives the child a place to go learn to calm himself when he is sad or upset. You can use a cheap dog bed, tent or large box for the child to be able to hide away (while still being seen), calm down, and relax. Adding items to help the child calm down can be great, too. You can add papers for the child to tear, a sensory bottle to shake and watch, or even just some pillows to hit or relax on.

Another idea to help children learn calming self-regulation techniques is to do different sensory activities. Play dough is a great activity to squeeze, knead, and roll out while releasing anger or frustration. Teachers can assist children in learning different techniques by modeling and talking to them as they play.

Anything fun we can do to teach children ways to relax when they get upset is great. Here is a fun sensory recipe using math, science, and social emotional skills.

“Get Out the Mad” Cookies

from PBS kids and Daniel Tiger

These cookies taste better the more you pound on the dough.

  • Target Age: 2-5
  • Learning Goals: Finding healthy outlets for anger; Following directions; Literacy; Measuring; Patience


  • 3 cups oatmeal
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups butter or margarine
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.


  • Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
  • Give your child a manageable chunk of dough. It’s okay for your child to mash it, knead it, and pound it. The longer and harder your child mixes the dough, the better the cookies taste!
  • When the mixing is done, show your child how to roll the dough into balls about the size of ping-pong balls, and place them on a cookie sheet.
  • Bake at 350 F for 10 to 12 minutes.

Take it Further

Following recipes involves reading and following directions. Your child can see firsthand how helpful it is to be able to read numbers and to measure carefully.

Talk About It

Help your child know that there are things he can do with his hands when he is angry besides hitting like pounding on cookie dough or play dough.

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