40 Regulatory Activities to Support Anxious Children

When anxiety affects a child they can find it challenging to know what to do. For some children they may have the ability to express their emotions and communicate their needs to you, however, for some, feelings can escalate quickly.

There are some simple activities that we can keep in our tool kits to support children to regulate if they are finding their emotions becoming overwhelming.

Self-regulation is about our ability to respond to our emotions and take control of them, for instance, to know how to calm ourselves down when we are stressed. When working with children, supporting them to learn strategies to use to control their feelings and behaviours helps them to feel in control. When supporting children to learn how to manage their feelings and behaviours you need to consider:

  • Helping children recognise feelings and name them
  • Regulating your own emotions, if you get stressed, they will feel more anxious
  • Help children identify what might help and practice different actions, for instance, a quiet space, to run it out, to have a break, to use a sensory box, breathing techniques.

Self-regulation takes practice, helping children to find the strategies that work well for them can support them to feel more in control and able to respond to their needs.

Additionally, modelling self-regulation to children allows them to understand that recognising and meeting our needs is a natural process, and allows them to follow our lead.

Regulatory activities can include: 

*Slow and rhythmic breathing (in for 4 – hold for 4, out for 4)

*5-4-3-2 (5 things I can see, 4 things I can feel, 3 things I can hear, 2 things I can smell)

*Blowing Bubbles

*Lay on the grass and listen for birds and bees

*Rhythmic actions e.g. swinging, see saws, rolling

*Rolling back and forth on a gym ball

*Weighted blankets or stretchy regulating sheets on beds

*Messy play

*Sensory playdough or putty

*Calm down jars

*Fidget toys or Rubix Cube

*Colouring / Mandala drawings

*Finger painting

*Running fast


*Star jumping


*Parachute Games


*Weighted blankets to snuggle under

*Digging activities (garden, sand pits)

*Meditation tracks

*Hypnotherapy audios

*Therapeutic stories

*White noise

*Musical instruments

*Cold drinks drunk through straws or sports bottles

*Crunchy or chewy foods

*Frozen fruit slices to eat

*Stroke an animal


For children prone to self-harming behaviours:

*Ice packs (pop them on a forehead or rear of neck)

*Hot or cold showers

*Ripping sheets of paper or card

*Stamp your feet

*Punch bags or gloves and pads

*Fill disposable plastic gloves with ice cubes and water and squeeze them

*Run really fast (or uphill)

*Play music loudly

*Moisturise your skin

*Run ice cubes or a prickly sensory ball on the inside of your wrists



This advice does not replace medical guidance

If implementing strategies in a school, work closely with parents and child to support consistency across settings.


Further help 

For more articles about mental health visit – ARTICLES 

To learn more about child and adolescent mental health visit – COURSES 

For resources to support child and adolescent mental health visit –RESOURCES 


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