Some Strategies for Calming Children

The way you can measure a society’s soul is by the way that it treats its children.
Nelson Mandela

Issue No. 64- 10th September 2008

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Some Strategies for Calming Children

Hyperactivity in children is an increasing problem and one that does not have a simple solution. Expecting all children to be able to lie still with eyes closed while you play relaxing music is unrealistic. Most children will not be able to do this without prior experience. Instead, start off with some calming activities and gradually work up to lying down with eyes closed. Following are some strategies that might help.

Firstly, play relaxing music, that is, classical (especially baroque style) music at 30-60 beats per minute, which will have a calming effect on the brain, and hence the body. Give the children something to focus on, such as listening to a quiet and relaxing story. Make sure the tone of your voice reflects the mood. Slow down the pace and deepen the voice.

Alternatively, while the children stand still with eyes closed, give them scarves or ribbon sticks to use creatively while moving the body (not the feet) slowly and rhythmically to the music. Or, have them stand around a parachute, slowly lifting it and letting it gently fall while a few children lie underneath with eyes closed. The music will set the tone for this activity. Or, have them seated around the parachute making very slow, gentle waves that someone can roll slowly in.

Next, have the children lying down as they focus on each body part in turn to feel it stretching and relaxing. Then focus on slow, deep breathing to acknowledge the sensation in the body, especially with eyes closed and hands covering ears. Try to fill up the abdomen like a balloon as you breathe in then suck it in as you breathe out. Concentrating like this without the distraction of sight and sound, and imagining your body as a balloon, is very powerful in teaching children to focus.

While the children are lying still with eyes closed, and not so close that they can touch one another, try guided listening in which the child fills in the details of what is happening in the story. Especially good in this respect is a program called ImaginationGYM which has workbooks for the children to later draw what they saw in their imaginations during the story-telling.

When the children have been lying still for some time, you may find some of them have drifted off to sleep, especially if you are doing this after lunch.  Let them sleep. Mary Mountstephen uses a policy she calls ‘snooze or choose’ where the children choose a very quiet activity to do alone, such as reading a book in the quiet corner while the other children have a sleep.

All these techniques work and they work remarkably well. You need to do the activity or activities you feel most comfortable with, otherwise it won’t work. Your tone of voice and your intention, combined with the music, will achieve the desired outcome in time. You need to keep doing these activities daily, at least once. Bear in mind, however, that closing the eyes is very threatening for some children. Respect that, and allow them to do so when they feel ready.

If, on the other hand, you have children who simply cannot relax despite plenty of relaxation activities conducted daily, it is not the fault of the teacher or the parent or even the child, but indicates there is an underlying factor.

Some problems that could be affecting a child’s ability to relax are food allergies or sensitivities and chemical overload. (I have written about this in newsletters 16 & 46 ‘ go to

To be able to lie perfectly still is a motor skill, believe it or not. The Move to Learn program developed by Barbara Pheloung will help as it addresses fundamental movements. On the DVD you can see the exercises being demonstrated. They are fun for all the class to do but the greatest breakthroughs will be with the children with learning difficulties, including the hyperactive ones. For example, have the children line up and roll along the floor (a mat is advisable). Observe what happens. Who rolls like a lump of wood? CLUNK! Who rolls in a straight line smoothly and rhythmically with body parts isolated?

In every classroom up to 20% of children are not reaching their potential. These exercises can help them, especially if combined with dietary changes, including supplementation.

Specialist intervention is called for when nothing seems to be working. The child may need to be referred to a music therapist, behavioural optometrist, kinesiologist, dietician or occupational therapist.

There is no simple answer or simple exercise that will be a miracle cure for the very complex problem of hyperactivity because every child is different. But ALL children need relaxation activities every day. Relaxed children are better learners.

I stock resources which give further information on all the above. To access, go to and click on products.

Quotes of the Week

There is more to life than increasing its speed.  Ghandi

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished
From ‘The Gift of Zen 2008 Calendar’


Kids Are Quick

TEACHER:   George Washington not only chopped down his father’s cherry tree, but also admitted    it.  Now, Louie, do you know why his father didn’t punish him?
LOUIS:        Because George still had the axe in his hand.

TEACHER:  Now, Simon, tell me frankly, do you say prayers before eating?
SIMON:      No sir, I don’t have to, my Mom is a good cook.


Some comments from the recent PD in South Perth

What was the most useful thing you learned today?

‘The different areas of child development that music can have a positive effect.’                        
‘All of it!’                                                                                                                         
‘Many things ‘ movement and using materials/objects.’                                                    
‘Shorter daily sessions.’

What would you tell others about this presentation?

‘To try it out, great resources, presentation supports the use of the resource.’                    
‘Practical, fun, gives lots of material to work with.’                                                              
‘Great, and try and go to a workshop.’

About The Author

Marlene Rattigan B.A., Dip. Ed. (ECS), CELTA

Marlene Rattigan is an Early Childhood teacher, a teacher of English as a Second Language, and from 1987-2000 was a nationally accredited fitness leader. Her background is in music education. A keen interest in motor development in children led to the creation of Kidz-Fiz-Biz which she taught successfully for 13 years. Marlene also conducts workshops for children, teachers and parents at schools, in the community and at festivals. She has produced teaching manuals complete with audio CDs which are an extension of her ‘Kidz-Fiz-Biz’ program.

PO Box 6894, East Perth WA 6892, Australia
T: +61 8 9325 1204 M: +61 (0) 410 64 2781 E:

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Until next time – continue being a legend in your classroom.

Marlene Rattigan, Editor
Kidz Newz

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