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Whether your kids are dealing with school anxiety, troubles in the world or other worries, these calming crafts for kids will help them focus and calm them down.
Things are pretty scary in the world right now. My daughter hasn’t been sleeping well since she first heard about coronavirus, and she made herself what she called a “panic box” (pictured above) full of items to calm, comfort and distract her when she’s feeling scared.
Luckily talking has also been really helpful so she hasn’t needed the box that much, but it got me thinking about things we can make for or with our kids that will help soothe them (and maybe us as well) during these hard times.
The first new thing we made for the panic box was a small calm down jar. She’s had a large one (made in a quart Mason jar) for years, but she wanted a smaller one for the box.
We filled a quart jar about three quarters of the way with warm water, dumped it into a bowl and stirred in some clear glue (the proportions should be about 80 percent water to 20 percent glue, but we just used what clear glue we had on hand). Then we added a vial of fine glitter.
You can add more glue after mixing if you want to make it settle a little more slowly.
There are tons of variations on the theme of calm down jars and sensory jars, like the slow motion calm down jar and scented rain stick sensory bottle from Childhood 101. Nell at Rhythms of Play has a great rundown of the basics and beyond for DIY calm down jars that you should definitely check out.
Water beads on their own are a great calming sensory experience, but you can also add them to calming jars, like in this project from Active Littles.
I also love the idea of an I Spy jar for calming, like this one from Team Cartwright. Just focusing on something else for a little while can help eliminate those hard emotions. Or try the Frozen Snowflake Sensory Bottle from Darcy and Brian, or the Unicorn Find it Busy Jar from Craft Gossip.
We first made bath bombs as the craft activity for the girl’s last birthday, and we have made them a few times since, including a raucous time with a bunch of Girl Scouts.
Bath bombs are great because making them is a little meditative (you have to pay attention to what you are doing, and sometimes do it slowly so reactions don’t happen while you are mixing ingredients) and enjoying them in the tub is relaxing.
Team Cartwright has a fun recipe for Easter egg bath bombs. Or check out the Rainbow Bath Bombs from Real Life at Home. These Cat in the Hat bath bombs from Homemade Bath Bombs would be fun for a storytime bathtime. Here’s another recipe from Red Ted Art.
Playdough, Clay and Other Doughs
One thing the girl included in her kit was some purchased Play-Doh, which is handy because it’s in a small and sturdy container. But she’s also been playing with homemade playdough a lot when she’s been home, and as long as you have some expired flour or don’t need it for food it’s a fine time to make some of your own.
Years ago I did an epic playdough recipe throwdown and this is the recipe that came out on top. You can easily halve it and it still makes a lot. We use food coloring to color it most of the time because we don’t usually have Kool-Aid in the house unless it’s just for making dough. Add some essential oils or spices you love to aid in the calming effects.
I think the original chocolate playdough from which that recipe was derived would be great for a stressful time as well, or try the edible playdough from Rainy Day Mum to engage even more senses. Look We’re Learning has an edible play dough recipe, too.
If play dough isn’t your thing, maybe try making salt dough, cold porcelain clay (aka air-dry clay), or use any clay you already have in the house for projects. Add essential oils or spices to any of these recipes for extra calming goodness.
Slime and Other Sensory Stuff
The first day she was home from school, we made slime. I normally hate making slime and am never really satisfied with the results.
But this time we had a secret weapon: Elmer’s Magical Liquid. I had not idea this existed until I saw it on my emergency craft store run the other day. And let me tell you, friends, it is magical.
You just need one bottle of glue — plain white, glitter, whatever you have on hand — and a quarter cup of the liquid. Stir it up and you’ve got slime. Like, really nice slime. It’s not too sticky, it’s amazingly stretchy, and you could easily mix in more glitter or little toys or whatever you want. Super satisfying.
There are lots of sensory options in the genre of slime, gak, floam, whatever you want to call it. I’m super intrigued by this butter slime from Little Bins for Little Hands (no it’s not made with butter, but it is a pretty butter yellow, and Sarah tells me it lasted for months and is smoother and less sticky than regular slime).
And don’t forget to make squishy sensory balloons (which you can make with any size balloon, not just he big ones used in this post from Mosswood Connections). These are great for games or to use as stress balls, as in this post from Natural Beach Living. Red Ted Art has a fancier version with hair and a face.
Kinetic sand is another fun sensory experience. Artsy Fartsy Mama has instructions on how to make your own. Or try making moon sand (which is similar to what we called cloud dough when I made it for the girl) using the recipe from Look We’re Learning.
Here are some more options:
- Galaxy Ooblek: Darcy and Brian
- Fluffy Unicorn Slime: Crayons and Cravings
- 3 Ingredient Ocean Slime and Two Ingredient Play Dough: Artsy Fartsy Mama
- Calming Giggly Slime: Natural Beach Living
- Floam Slime, Crunchy Slime and Ooblek: Fun with Mama
- Lavender Slime and Lavender Play Dough: The Art Kit Blog
- DIY Flubber, Snowman Slime and Glitter Mermaid Slime: Look We’re Learning
Knitting and Fiber Arts
Because I’m a knitter, sewer and yarn crafter I have a lot of experience in the realm of the wonderful calming that can come from combining kids (or anyone else) and yarn, cloth and fiber.
I’ve taught basic sewing, knitting and crochet to kids and they consistently find it relaxing. Even if you don’t have a lot of skills in this area there are things you can learn and try together.
Finger knitting is easy for kids kindergarten and up, and my daughter has lately taken to finger knitting at bedtime to calm down. (You can also finger crochet, but I don’t think it’s as fun.) Loom knitting is another option that is easier to learn than knitting with needles, and all the wrapping of yarn is meditative.
Simple sewing projects are also great calming activities for kids. They can draw on a piece of fabric and then stitch over it, hand-sew pieces of fabric together, make a pillow or sew a softie. (This pocket mouse from Rhythms of Play is super cute.)
What’s great about any fiber arts activity is that it’s repetitive. If you’re not into fiber arts or don’t have the supplies, maybe try stringing beads onto thread or pipe cleaners (use cut up straws if you don’t have beads) or pull out the lacing cards for little kids. You could even make beads out of clay, paint them and string them for a calming process art project.
Origami and Paper Crafts
My daughter loves origami (she loves the Origami Yoda book series and had an origami daily calendar last year) and you can find lots of different origami for kids projects online. Most of these call for origami paper, but printer paper is often thin enough to work.
You can also try using newspaper or other paper you have in the house to see what works best (the big size of creations made from newsprint is fun, too). Or just fold whatever paper you have in whatever way you want. Maybe it’s time for an epic paper airplane folding contest.
We don’t presently have the supplies at home but on a recent trip to the local children’s museum we tried paper quilling and found it to be really relaxing.
Painting on paper can also be really relaxing. Put on some calming music and paint with your kids for an extra soothing experience for all. And don’t forget the relaxing qualities of coloring, doodling and drawing!
More Great Calming Crafts for Kids
Consider this the lightning round of the best calming crafts for kids:
- DIY Finger Fidget and Dried Bean Stress Balls: Your Therapy Source
- Sesame Street character beans bags and Teddy Bear rice packs: Gluesticks blog
- Bedtime Buddies: Mosswood Connections
- Paper Hexagon Kaleidoscope: Artsy Fartsy Mama
- Lavender Salt Tray Writing Activity: The Art Kit Blog
- Mindful Art Activities for Kids: Kiddy Charts
- Building fine-motor skills with water, playdough and threading: Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds
- Zen Gardens for Kids: Projects with Kids
- Printable Fidget Spinner and Paper Squishes Emjoi: Red Ted Art
- Make a Worry Monster and Soothing Spray for Kids: Sun Hats and Wellie Boots