Teaching children to relax begins by helping them to understand the difference between feeling tense and feeling relaxed. We can do this by playing tense/relax games. Showing them the difference between being very relaxed and very tense can be fun and engaging.
1. Start by saying that we are going to understand and practice the difference between being relaxed and being tense. Explain that when our bodies are tense it is difficult to feel good, to play easily with friends, to learn and to sleep well. It is important to check in often and see how we are feeling so that we know how to help ourselves feel better when we aren’t feeling good.
2. Today we are going to play the tense and relax game. First we will play with food. We are all going to pretend that we are carrot sticks. What does a carrot stick look like? It is very straight, tall, and stiff. Let’s make our bodies into carrot sticks. As the teacher or parent, do a quick check by gently trying to move the child’s arm or a leg. Explain that if we are very very stiff, we shouldn’t be able to move the arm or leg very easily.
3. Next, we are going to be a floppy noodle. How does a floppy noodle look? Maybe it hangs over at the waist with arms flopping by the sides? Demonstrate some possible floppy noodle poses. Then do a check in to see how floppy your noodles are.
4. Finally, play the carrot stick/floppy noodle game. Call out “carrot stick” and everyone has to become very stiff and tense all of their muscles. Call out “floppy noodle” and everyone must relax all their muscles and become limp and droopy.
Variation: use a nature theme and play the same game while becoming strong mountains/flowing rivers.