Nonverbal and Visual cues to relax are essential for establishing a relaxing, calm atmosphere for learning. Less talk more focus is how it goes in my school. Here is an idea about how to use fun, playful, engaging reminders to help kids practice relaxing several times a day within your classroom. By practicing this over time, eventually relaxation practice becomes an automatic response for kids when they experience tense or dis-regulated moments throughout the day.
Relaxation reminders can help kids, (and adults) remember to pause, take a deep breath and let go to feel relaxed for a moment. As a teacher, these tokens of relaxation can be an easy nonverbal way to trigger the relaxation response for kids. But, it takes some set up and instruction first.
During circle time, introduce the concept of a token of relaxation. Show students that when you place this very special bug, fairy, butterfly, etc… on their desk or in their hand, it’s a reminder to pause, take a deep breath, re-focus your attention to what is right in front of you, and to let go of tension to feel peaceful inside.
I like to use these “Love Bugs” and Fairies wooden pieces, (which I found in the dollar bins at Target btw). I place a wooden token in their hands and let them, saying something like this, When you get this very special love bug in your hand, it will help you remember to relax. When you feel it in your hand, pause and take a deep breath. Then practice with your students/child. If you want, you can also introduce catch phrases such as “Bee Relaxed” or “Fairy Relaxed” to also be verbal triggers paired with the nonverbal cue.
It’s best to practice and rehearse the use of these relaxation tokens several times when your students are calm, focused and relaxed to really establish and reinforce the nonverbal cue paired with the relaxation response. Be sure to offer a lot of praise for the students who complete the token response by doing the relaxation practice.
Be mindful of not offering the token when a child is really emotionally dis-regulated to avoid the token becoming an object to diffuse anger (such as throwing it or refusing to use it). Offer it calmly and eventually nonverbally, by just placing it quietly on their desk or in their hand, the most powerful method for establishing a calmer atmosphere in your classroom.