When I worked with very young kiddos, (aged 3-6), I created the Relaxation Backpack and the Journey to the Island of Calm to introduce relaxation practice. The Island of Calm is the destination for any relaxation practice. It’s the place you and your child want to be before you begin any of the more complex, multi-step relaxation techniques. The more you and your child practice getting to the sense of calm, steady, tranquil being, the easier and easier it is to get there. As you pack your backpacks full of your tools for the journey, it can be fun to use a visual aid to make the practice fun. Get a backpack. Use colored bricks for each item and add the tool to the backpack as you are teaching the skills. Have your child help you put the item in the backpack, or put it in her own backpack after you are finished.
Explain to your child that the Island of Calm is a place where your body is very relaxed and peaceful and tension has melted away. When you get there, you will know it. Your body might feel heavy like a stone resting on the edge of a still lake. Or it might feel free and happy like a butterfly dancing in the flowers. You might feel light like a cloud floating in the sky. Each time you practice, you might feel differently, but your body and mind will feel good all the same. Everyone’s experience is special just for them, unique to them. Are you ready? Let’s get started packing your bags to journey to the Island of Calm.
1. The first item to take with you on this journey is your imagination. Let’s get your imagination all warmed up and ready to go.
- First, get in your space, get your body comfortable, and close your eyes. You can put a hand over your eyes if you have trouble keeping them shut. With your eyes closed, see a star. Open your eyes, take a deep breath. (pause) Now, close your eyes and see a star! Open your eyes, take a deep breath. Awesome job! Were you able to see a star? You imagined it!!
- Note that there are many differences in the way that each of us uses our imagination. Some of us feel things in our imaginations, or experience the sense of touch. Some of us hear sounds. For example–close your eyes and imagine the sound of a dog barking. What does it sound lie? Is it high or low, loud or soft? Open your eyes. Could you hear it? Now, lets’ try one more. Close your eyes and imagine that you are eating a lemon. See the lemon in your hand. Put a slice in your mouth and suck on it. Taste that tartness. Now open your eyes. How was it? Is your mouth watering? Everyone uses their imagination differently: seeing, tasting, touching, hearing…. every way is totally okay, okay just for you.
2. The next item to take with you on this journey is a calm body. Try this “Wiggles Out” game to get ready for relaxation practice.
- Stand up in place. Start with your toes. Wiggle wiggle wiggle your toes as much as you can. Great! Now tell your toes to be still and sink into the floor. Next, wiggle wiggle wiggle your legs as hard as you can, really get those wiggles out! That’s it. Now tell your legs to be calm and feel heavy. Now it’s your arms’ turn. Go: wiggle, wiggle your arms. You are doing it! And let your arms relax and rest. Wiggle your fingers as fast as you can. Your fingers are now quiet. Finally, wiggle your head gently all around, let it do a little dance from side to side. Now let your head relax and rest on the floor. What a great job you did! Your body is now feeling very calm and relaxed.
3. The next item in your backpack is positive self-talk. It’s all about how you talk to yourself. We’re going to play “Pass the Happy Ball” to practice.
- It’s important to talk sweetly, with lots of love, when we talk to ourselves. Why do you think that is an important tool you need along the way? Thinking good feeling thoughts, “happy” thoughts, can help you to feel relaxed and calm and makes it easier to do the relaxation activities. Also, thinking happy thoughts can help us solve “problems” more easily. Let’s practice.
- As the ball comes around to you, it’s your turn to share something you like about yourself. (Complete one round).
- As the ball comes around to you, whisper “I am calm and relaxed.”
- As the ball comes around to you, state in an excited voice, “I am awesome and wonderful.”
4. A fourth item you will need in your back pack is a deep breath. During relaxation practice, I will often ask you to “take a deep breath.” One of my favorite ways to do this is with the balloon breath. We are going to learn and practice the balloon breath using this expandable ball.
- Explain the balloon breath. Breathing in, allowing the stomach to expand out making a balloon, breathing out, the stomach collapses back down. Practice a couple to make sure your child understands the concept.
- Next hold the magic expanding ball in front of the belly button. As you breathe in, slowly expand the ball and pause, holding the breath slightly once it is expanded. Then release the breath, moving the ball back to its original compact size. Make sure that you pay extra attention to the exhale, blowing out the air as long as you can. Pause. Repeat!
5. One of the final things we are going to pack in your backpack for relaxation practice today is a Body Talk Body Check. This is a way to check in to see if you are ready and to get ready if you aren’t quite ready.
- Take a moment to feel your body. What does it feel like inside? Are there any places that feel tense or jumpy? Just talk to those places. I’ll show you. My knee feels a little wiggly, like it isn’t very calm. So I will ask it: “Knee what do you need in order to relax?” I listen. It says that it needs a little stretching. So I give that to my knee. I stretch it out. I check in to see. Yes, it feels better, like it is ready to be still and relax. Now you try it. See if there is a body part that needs something. Let’s ask it what it needs and give it to that part so that it can relax.
- You can talk to your body anywhere you are to help it calm down: at school, before bed, at the table before you eat, even in the car.
6. The Island of Calm. Now that you have packed your bags with all of your tools for relaxation practice: your imagination, a calm body, positive self-talk, deep breathing, and body talk/body check, you are ready to make the journey to the Island of Calm.
- Close your eyes and allow your body to melt into the floor, right where you are. Let your head relax and rest on the floor. Close your eyes. Imagine that you are lying on a sandy beach. You have all the items you need for complete relaxation. You are safe, warm, and loved. As you rest there on the beach, see how the sand feels beneath you. Can you feel the warm sun? What do you hear? Maybe you hear some sea birds in the distance? Maybe you hear the waves lapping on the shore. You have all you need to feel completely relaxed right now. You have done a wonderful job getting ready. Just allow your body to be calm and lie still for just a moment. (Pause). You can open your eyes when you are ready.
Tags: beginning relaxation practice, learning relaxation practice, preschool kids relax, preschool relaxation, progressive relaxation, progressive relaxation for kids, relaxation techniques for kids, relaxation tools, relaxation tools for preschool, stress reduction for young kids, tense and relax