Four year olds live in the moment and feel emotions intensely. Their coping skills are still developing so they rely on caregivers to help them calm down and relax. As a parent, you can teach your 4 year old healthy techniques to self-soothe when they get upset, excited, or have trouble winding down. Establishing relaxation skills at this young age equips them with tools for a lifetime of managing stress and emotions.
Here are effective, engaging ways to help your active preschooler relax:
Provide Comfort Objects
Let your child pick out a few special stuffed animals or blankets that they find calming. Having a designated “lovey” on hand when feeling upset, anxious, or over-stimulated gives them something soothing and familiar to hold. The tactile sensation helps activate the relaxation response.
Do Breathing Exercises
One of the easiest yet most powerful ways to calm a preschooler is to practice deep breathing together. Have them lie down and place a favorite stuffed animal on their belly. Instruct them to breathe in slowly through the nose, watching the toy rise up, then exhale through the mouth to lower the toy. This instills awareness of deeper breathing.
Read Relaxing Stories
A preschooler’s active imagination is easily engaged by stories. Read books with calming themes and sleepy characters getting ready for bedtime. Or make up your own story in a soft, soothing voice about their stuffed animals gently floating on clouds or riding in a hot air balloon.
Take Relaxing Baths
Warm (not hot) baths have an instantly calming effect. Add a few drops of lavender oil to the bath and turn down the lights to make it a soothing sensory experience. Give your child a wet washcloth to lie on their forehead and porous toys for squirting water. The warm water loosens muscles and distracts from stressors.
Listen to Calming Music
Play tranquil, upbeat music and invite your 4 year old to dance to the beat or close their eyes and visualize pleasant images. Sing familiar lullabies or play ambient nature sounds, such as ocean waves. Creating relaxing playlists together allows your child to access calming music anytime.
Practice Guided Imagery
Recording scripts that guide your child to visualize a calming scene, such as floating on a cloud or in a hot air balloon, engage the imagination to induce relaxation. Look for kid-friendly guided imagery tracks. Your own calm narration works too. This mental escape shifts focus away from stress.
Use Positive Self-Talk
“I am getting sleepy” and “My body feels calm and relaxed” are simple phrases your 4 year old can repeat when winding down for sleep or during a tantrum. This positive self-talk acts as a cue to relax when integrated into bedtime and tense situations.
Engage in Pretend Play
Four year olds love to act out scenes with mini figurines, stuffed animals, puppets, cars, trains, dolls etc. Take cues from your child’s play themes and narrate calming scenarios about the toys getting sleepy, giving hugs, or taking deep breaths. This role play allows them to practice relaxing skills.
Teach Simple Yoga Poses
Child’s pose, rag doll, and “savasana with legs up the wall” are calming intro yoga poses. Make it fun by acting out movements with a stuffed animal. Pair poses with breathing exercises. Stretching releases tension and refocuses energy on the body.
Remember preschoolers have short attention spans and learn through play. Keep relaxation techniques brief, engaging and imaginative. With regular practice, it becomes second nature for your child to apply these calming skills whenever feeling revved up. Make relaxation fun, and you’ll instill healthy lifelong habits in your little one.