My 3-year-old granddaughter has a lot of energy, and when she’s frustrated or overwhelmed, she can become extra stubborn and mean to her little sister. To help her release some of that energy, I offered to take her on a treasure hunt. Together, we created a list of items and went out to find them in nature. She was so excited to do something new and adventurous. I got the thrill of seeing her learn through the discovery of everyday things neither of us had taken the time to notice before. We both had a break from our normal routines and had a lot of fun together. Sharing this experience helped us to connect with each other and also to the world around us. We laughed and skipped as we left our stress behind us on the path.
Just like adults, kids need to learn how to decompress and prioritize mental wellness as a lifelong skill. Mental health activities not only can be fun for kids, they also can help lower anxiety and increase healthy brain chemistry. Here are 5 great ideas to try.
1. Learn new dance moves together.
Watch some teaching videos on dance moves and learn them together. Your kiddo is sure to laugh at you as you learn the choreography. Dancing, laughing, and using your body increase endorphins. For just a moment, you and your kids can set aside life’s pressures while you try to make your body do what you’re seeing on the screen.
2. Plant together.
Planting and taking care of a plant teaches kids how to nurture. It also teaches them to focus outward instead of inward. Here are some kid-friendly, easy-to-care-for houseplants to try. If you try a plant that produces a vegetable, you might just add a previously disliked food to their plate.
3. Create a good things jar.
Every night, have your child think about his day and write on a slip of paper one good thing that happened. Put the paper in a jar. When the jar is full, celebrate with a special activity, like going for popsicles or having a water balloon fight. Negativity is all around us. We have to put effort into bringing the good things to mind. Writing them down makes them that much more vivid.
4. Make up silly lyrics to familiar songs.
Science has proven that artistic expression improves mood and heightens connectivity in multiple parts of the brain. While the right brain is responsible for creativity, we use the left brain to implement what we imagine. So when you get creative with an activity like making up lyrics, you use both sides of your brain and improve your mood. Take a tune from the radio or your kid’s favorite sing-along song and mix it up: “Mary had a little ham, little clam, little yam!” Everyone will be laughing in no time.
5. Do a “let go” activity.
I often use this one as I tend to feel overly responsible for things. It’s easy to overlook how many peace-robbing things we carry around unnecessarily. As a family, take turns sharing something to let go of and then symbolically place it in the garbage disposal, toilet, shredder, or fireplace. These things can be someone’s negative behavior toward you, a mistake you made, anger, or responsibility for something that isn’t yours. Letting go relieves emotional pressures coming from things we have no control over.
Letting go relieves emotional pressures coming from things we have no control over.
What are some other mental health activities with your kids that you’ve tried?
ASK YOUR CHILD…
What are you grateful for today?