Playful Stress Management Skills for Kids: Balancing Mind And Body For Optimal Health
Dr. Timothy P. Culbert is a board certified developmental/behavioral pediatrician in the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota area. He has written 4 books for kids on holistic self-care for Free Spirit Publishing titled the “Be The Boss of Your Body” Series. In 2009, he served as lead editor for a volume in the Weil Integrative Medicine Library Series from Oxford Press titled “Integrative Pediatrics”. Dr. Culbert is currently Medical Director for Integrative Medicine at PrairieCare Medical Group, a large regional organization providing comprehensive pediatric and adult mental health services.
- Coloring and other arts and crafts are great ways to help children decrease stress and increase happiness.
- Physical play is always a positive way to help relieve stress. Try a game that also makes children use their cognitive abilities to really help learn those self-care skills.
- Puzzles are a great method to increase cognitive abilities, as well as help make the child feel empowered.
- Begin with trying to schedule two 5-minute practices each day. After a few weeks increase practices to two 10-minute practices each day. Some suggestions are the morning or night, or before or during homework time.
Dr. Culbert is a board certified developmental/behavioral pediatrician in the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota area. He has written 4 books for kids on holistic self-care for Free Spirit Publishing titled the “Be The Boss of Your Body” Series.
Kids have many sources of stress in their lives these days—and we know that unchecked, stress can have many negative effects on long-term physical, emotional and cognitive development. Stressful experiences can leave kids feeling overwhelmed and “dis-empowered”. Chronic stress can also lead to mind/body imbalances that lead to poor health and even disease.
As advocates for children, all adults –parents, health care providers, teachers and others-can help to promote the idea that kids participate in their own health and wellness, by learning and mastering a variety of self-care skills. Playful Self-care skill development and practice offer a chance for kids to be in charge and “take back the power” for themselves while “being the boss of their body and brain!”
With regular practice, self-care skills –also referred to as mind/body techniques and relaxation training—can lead to less worries, more happiness, enhanced emotional and social regulation and better attention!
"Playful self-care skill development and practice offer a chance for kids to be in charge and “take back the power” for themselves while “being the boss of their body and brain!”
Although we all have heard that a regular daily practice of stress reduction and “relaxation” is very good for us, many, if not most of us, find it difficult to commit to a daily practice. Instead of presenting the need for kids to learn and practice relaxation or meditation techniques as another item in their daily list of dreaded chores (along with homework, showering, and picking up their room), we can instead offer playful ways to engage kids in the learning and practice of self-care Mind/body techniques so they see it as fun! Here are a couple of examples.
- Coloring is a simple activity that helps the mind relax while also building your child’s fine motor skills and creativity. All you need is a coloring book and a couple of crayons!
- Imaginary play allows children to act out emotions and work though their fears while creating a world where they feel in control. Let them take the lead and just step back or play along without interfering.
- Physical play is not just fun. It is a proven way to combat stress in both kids and adults. If you don’t have a lot of time, try doing a couple of popular yoga moves, such as cobra or downward dog, together and see if you can get better at it every day.
- Arts & crafts build creativity, a skill most valued by 21st century employers in their employees, but they are also one of the best ways to relax. Not to mention all the wonderful artwork you’ll have to showcase to your family members and mom friends!
- Puzzles and other games that stimulate thinking are not only great for developing your child’s cognitive ability. They can also take their mind away from a stressful thought or situation, as well as empower kids by building confidence in their own abilities.
Most of us can have a more sustained health promoting benefit from self-care skills practice (and getting that “relaxation response”) kicked in every day. Start by shooting for two 5-minute practices each day-maybe in in the morning before school (start the day in a happy calm state), and one before bed (fall asleep quicker). Adding a practice before and during homework can help it to go faster as you stay more focused. Eventually shoot for 10 Minutes twice a day.
Although people can have immediate benefits from mind/body technique practice, after 8-12 weeks you might really notice some amazing longer-term changes in your brain and body—and in your life in general—maybe you are less likely to be angry or frustrated, maybe you feel more content or peaceful each day, perhaps you are able to think more clearly and efficiently?! You could also notice less trouble with things like headaches, stomach aches or feeling fatigued!
Just as we write prescriptions for kids for PILLS of every kind- for pain, infections and attention—we should all be in the habit of writing prescriptions for self-care SKILLS of every kind- especially self-care skills that promote health! A prescription for the development and practice of playful mind/body techniques is a great start!
The best play is already perfectly engineered to let kids delight in curiosity, push the boundaries of possibility, and inspire their imaginations to roam freely. By making coding easily accessible to kids, we give them a million ways to play, dream, and ultimately change the world.