Discover how you can use these simple yet powerful activities to help kids with anxiety.
You’ll find different ways to help your anxious kids calm down, focus, and practice other positive coping skills. These types of tools can be used in a fun way to promote healthy well-being and more.
Get tips and ideas from this former mental health therapist (and current homeschool mom of 5 boys) for empowering kids with anxiety.
Why I Think Activities to Help Kids with Anxiety Are Essential
Anxiety can be such a major impact on your life – no matter what age you are!
My personal struggle with anxiety started in elementary school, Kindergarten to be exact.
I battled separation anxiety plus perfectionistic tendencies. And this was back in the day when Kindergarten focused on scissor skills, alphabet, and coloring in the lines – much lower expectations than what current Kindergartners and young children experience!
Although I found healthy ways to deal with my anxiety, it still popped up from time to time. I think it’s one of the reasons I became so interested in psychology and mental health in college. I went on to get my Master’s degree in community counseling to help others learn positive skills for overcoming personal and interpersonal issues.
When I became a mom and my boys got older, I noticed some tendencies towards anxiety, depending on the situation and personality of the boy. I knew that I wanted to pull from my years of experience to help my boys have the tools they needed to deal with anxiety.
Homeschooling brought on a whole new level for needing simple activities to help kids with anxiety. I could see first hand what my boys were struggling with. And I could try different ways to help them replace negative feelings and thoughts with more positive and important coping skills.
With the prevalence in anxiety in kids of all ages, I knew that I had to share what I’ve found to help my boys, myself – and hopefully you and your kids 😊
Anxiety in Children
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults. Children can also be affected by anxiety. It can interfere with their ability to socialize, succeed in school, and enjoy everyday activities.
What causes anxiety in children?
Children can be anxious for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps they’re worried about a new school year, making mistakes, or a family move. Or maybe they’ve just seen too many scary movies! Whatever the cause, anxiety can be a real challenge for kids.
Anxiety is a common issue for children, and it can manifest itself in different ways. Symptoms of anxiety in children can include:
- trouble sleeping
- withdrawal from previously enjoyed activities
If your child has anxiety, it’s important to find relaxation techniques that can help them calm down and feel better. Some helpful techniques include deep breathing, positive thoughts (and affirmations), and exercise.
It can be tough to know how to help them, but simple activities can play an important role in managing anxiety.
10 Simple Yet Powerful Activities for Kids with Anxiety
The good news is that you can start with simple activities to help your children deal with anxiety. These activities are things that you can do at home and encourage your child to bring with them into other settings.
Of course, if anxiety is seriously interfering with your child’s day-to-day functioning and/or your child mentions self-harm, immediately consult a trained professional. Learn more about if your child should see a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.
1. Mindfulness Exercises
According to mindful.org, mindfulness is “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.“
Sounds simple enough, right? Well, it can be a challenge, especially if you’re distracted by a bunch of negative thoughts.
I view mindfulness as a positive filter that’s one of the best ways to help you stay in the present moment. This practice allows you to sift out negative distractions and irrational beliefs.
2. Guided Imagery
If you need a simple relaxation technique to use with your kids, guided imagery is a must!
This type of activity has your child envision a calm, peaceful setting or object. Your child can pick the image (like a favorite teddy bear or beach) or one is chosen to best pair with the process.
As your child pictures the image, a recording, instructor, or video leads them through a detailed description that leads to progressive muscle relaxation.
3. Drawing or painting
For many kids, art is more than just a way to pass the time. It can be a form of self-expression and a way to work through difficult situations and emotions. For kids who suffer from anxiety, the act of creating art can be especially therapeutic.
Drawing or painting can help to calm and focus the mind, while also providing an outlet for pent-up anxieties.
Kids who struggle with anxiety often feel like they have no control over their lives. But when they’re creating art, they’re in control of the process and the outcome.
The act of making decisions and seeing them through to completion can help to build confidence and coping skills.
And unlike verbal communication, art provides a non-verbal way to express inner thoughts and feelings. This type of activity can be especially helpful for kids who find it difficult to put their fears into words.
Coloring books and pages are other simple ways to help your child’s anxiety.
Physical activities are excellent outlets for anxiety. Your kids can release negative energy, jitters, and more.
My anxiety struggles tremendously decreased when I started playing soccer and running track. And I’ve noticed the same thing with my 2 older boys.
My younger boys aren’t into sports but still benefit from physical exercise activities to help kids with anxiety. We use our free printable fitness prompts game throughout the year. And our free Christmas fitness prompts to deal with anxiety around the holidays!
5. Get outside
It’s no secret that spending time outdoors in the fresh air can be good for your health. But, did you know that playing outside can also be beneficial activities to help kids with anxiety?
For many children, the outdoors provides a welcome respite from the demands of daily life. Being in nature can help to reduce stress levels and promote a sense of calm.
To help your kids get into enjoy the outdoors, it can be a great idea to have a simple activity to get you started. My boys and I love these freebies:
6. Recording thoughts and feelings
A good idea to help kids process their anxiety is to record their thoughts and feelings.
Your older children can use a notebook to write down what’s going on inside and around them. A journal can be a fantastic tool for allowing your kids to express themselves and work out big emotions. Even a blank piece of paper can work!
Making a comic strip can be a creative way to deal with feelings of anxiety. Kids can work through stressful situations in a safe space.
If your younger children don’t like to write, a voice recording app can also be used. Sometime, talking it out this way and then listening to their tone of voice, word choice, and more can be effective activities to help kids with anxiety.
7. Listening to music
For kids with anxiety, music can be a particularly helpful coping mechanism. Listening to calm, relaxing music can help to lower heart rate and blood pressure. It can also help to reduce stress hormones. Music can provide a distraction from anxious thoughts and help to create a sense of calm and peace.
Listening to music is also a great way to unwind after a long day. An added benefit is that it can help kids get a good night’s sleep.
Kids who listen to music on a regular basis may find that their anxiety symptoms lessen over time. So if your child is feeling anxious, encourage them to put on their favorite tunes and let the music work its magic.
8. Reading (or listening to) a book
For many kids, reading can be a way to escape from the stresses of daily life. It can be a chance to visit new places and meet new people, all from the comfort of their own home. But for kids with anxiety, reading can offer even more.
Books can provide a sense of calm and help to reduce anxiety levels. They can also be a way to learn more about anxiety and how to cope with it. Reading has also been shown to help kids develop important skills like concentration and focus.
How To Tame My Anxiety Monster (Mindful Monster Collection)I Am Stronger Than Anxiety: Children’s Book about Overcoming Worries, Stress and Fear (World of Kids Emotions)Everyone Feels Anxious Sometimes – A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety and Finding Inner Peace and Confidence – Anxiety Book for Children Ages 3-10 to Help Alleviate WorryWhat to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety (What-to-Do Guides for Kids)Mindfulness Makes Me Stronger: Kid’s Book to Find Calm, Keep Focus and Overcome Anxiety (Children’s Book for Boys and Girls) (World of Kids Emotions)Why Do I Feel So Worried?: A Kid’s Guide to Coping with Big Emotions―Follow the Arrows from Anxiety to CalmRight Now I Am Fine – An Anxiety Book for Kids Ages 3-8 that Teaches How to Overcome Worry and Stress with Practical Calming Techniques – A Children’s Book that Helps Promote a Calm & Peaceful MindImagine Meditation Kit for Kids – Award-Winning Mindfulness kit of XL Cards with Calming Guided Meditations for Empowerment, Focus and Relaxation. Great for Parents, Teachers and Therapists.
9. Cooking and Baking
Many children with anxiety have a hard time dealing with change or unfamiliar situations. One way to help them cope is to give them a sense of control. Cooking and baking give kids a chance to follow a set of instructions and create something tangible.
The focus required to measure ingredients, follow directions, and stay mindful of what’s happening on the stove or in the oven can help kids to step away from their anxious thoughts and clear their minds. As they measure ingredients, mix them together, and watch the transformation take place, children can feel a sense of accomplishment and control.
And then, of course, there’s the satisfaction that comes from eating something you made yourself! For kids who are anxious about trying new things, cooking and baking can also be a way to experiment in a low-stakes environment.
In addition, cooking can be a great way to bond with loved ones. Whether it’s making cookies with grandma or helping mom prepare dinner, it’s a chance to spend time together and create positive memories. So if your child is struggling with anxiety, consider enlisting their help in the kitchen. It might just be the perfect antidote.
A fantastic project that your kids can work on is making a recipe book. My younger boys have been doing this activity with our free printable pack and it’s been amazing!
10. Family Game Night
For kids with anxiety, a family game night can be an excellent way to unwind and have some fun. Board games provide a distraction from anxious thoughts. And games also give kids an opportunity to interact with loved ones in a relaxed setting. These type of fun activities can also help kids to develop social skills and learn how to handle competition in a healthy way.
The structure of the evening can help provide a sense of predictability and calm, while the games themselves can offer an opportunity to take some risks in a safe and supportive environment.
When kids are feeling anxious, they often withdraw from activities and isolate themselves. But since the focus is on having fun, it can take the pressure off of kids who might feel anxious about participating in other activities. These nights can help reduce stress and anxiety by providing a regular time for family members to reconnect and have fun together.
How Will You Use These Activities to Help Kids with Anxiety?
There are lots of activities to help kids with anxiety. These 10 activities are awesome ways to start.
If your child is feeling anxious, go over these ideas and encourage them to try one of these activities and see how it goes. You might be surprised at the difference it makes.
I’d love to know if you have any questions about these suggestions – and what ideas you have to share! Please let me know in the comments area below 🙂