Calming techniques for children

Some adopted children need a structured routine to feel that sense of security. They feel secure when they know what is happening in locations that feel familiar.


But, we know the summer holidays are far from structured.


Children who have experienced early developmental trauma and loss can sometimes struggle outside of a routine.


They can struggle to remain regulated, calm and to be able to think things through.


Dr Bruce Perry, explains the child’s brain can become stuck in the ‘brainstem’. This means it can go into “fight, flight, freeze” response.


It may be best to encourage your child to move from high anxiety states, to their calmer ‘thinking brain’.


There are a few activities to use as “Brainstem calming” techniques.


These techniques use repetitive, rhythmic activities, supported by a trusted adult. This will help a child to move from the brainstem (survival mode) to their “thinking brain”.


The best way to use these activities is to weave them into the child’s daily routine. So they have them little and often, every day.


Brainstem Calming Activities

  • One of the best quick calmers is diaphragmatic breathing. There is a technique called “hand breathing” which is a visual breathing exercise. Watch a ‘how to’ here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQVZgpyVQ78
  • Bubble blowing is also a good technique. It helps children to calm their breathing patterns
  • Action songs can be fun, but also the repetitive physical actions can help to calm the brainstem. For example “Row, row, row the Boat” or “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”
  • Aerobic activity, such as walking, running, see-sawing or bouncing on a trampoline
  • Chewing is also a great calming activity and food that is crunchy/chewy can be introduced. Options may include carrot sticks, apple, nuts, dry cereal, or even chewing gum (if suitable)
  • Rocking activities, such as a rocking chair, a swing, or even a “teeter popper” seat


Every child is individual and will respond to different activities.


There is a wealth of ideas online for sensory regulation strategies, but we hope these help.