Tips to Help You Calm an Upset Child

Tips to Help You Calm an Upset Child

    1. If your child is upset, remind them to take deep breaths or count to ten. Make sure to model the desired behavior by doing it together with the child.
    2. Distract your child by singing a song, playing music, or pointing out something else in the area that might interest the child.
    3. Do something you know makes your child laugh.
    4. Allow the child to hold their favorite toy or stuffed animal.
    5. Engage your child in a physical activity such as going for a walk, jumping up and down, or playing on a playground.
    6. Use “First…Then” to help the child understand that they will get what they want if they are patient. For example, “First read a book, then watch TV.”

All kids sometimes have difficulty controlling their emotions. While some children can count to ten or practice deep breathing, others need a little extra help to calm down and move on. Thankfully, toys can help! Below are my favorite calming strategies that rely on toys, discovered and tested during my years as a special education teacher.

Use toys to re-direct emotions. Interrupting the strong emotion can help a child calm down and move past it, so that they can process what caused the strong emotion in the first place. Smaller items such as a squeeze ball, putty, play dough, or another fidget make effective calming tools and are easy to carry around. Put a couple of them in your purse so you are ready whenever the need arises.

Help them burn excess energy. When someone is feeling upset, mad, or anxious, a relief can come in the form of getting rid of that excess negative energy. Large toys that encourage physical activity, such as a net swing or a trampoline, will be your friends in these situations. Watch your child go from an unhappy frown to laughter as they play!

Surprise them. When children are experiencing strong emotions, a toy can act as a great distraction. Sometimes just the surprise of something different like a toy to interact with can help a child move on from whatever is making them upset. Then an adult can address the issue later when the child is calm.


    1. If your child is upset, remind them to take deep breaths or count to ten. Make sure to model the desired behavior by doing it together with the child.
    2. Distract your child by singing a song, playing music, or pointing out something else in the area that might interest the child.
    3. Do something you know makes your child laugh.
    4. Allow the child to hold their favorite toy or stuffed animal.
    5. Engage your child in a physical activity such as going for a walk, jumping up and down, or playing on a playground.
    6. Use “First…Then” to help the child understand that they will get what they want if they are patient. For example, “First read a book, then watch TV.”

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