9 Activities To Help Kids Cope With COVID-19 Stress
What is Covid-19 Stress?
Have you been having trouble sleeping and/or feeling restless, anxious, irritable, or stuck in negative thought cycles? If so, you may be feeling the effects of stress. During current times, we have been thrust into a state of unknown with added elements of worry about jobs and heath for our family and friends, and this can cause a great deal of stress.
We are worried about what the future holds and when/if things can go back to “normal.” It is often difficult to find relief from worry and rumination during stressful times. Stress causes our bodies to be in a hyper-aroused state. Practicing mindfulness is a very helpful way to break out of this intense emotional gridlock.
“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).” – James Baraz
Let’s preface this by saying that we are sensitive to the varying degrees of stress that different people may experience. We are not medical professionals, and are in no way suggesting that these activities take the place of advice given by a medical doctor. That being said, In times of stress, there are several options that can help many people find some relief. Throughout this blog, we will discuss many different types of stress relief, and behind them all is the powerful element of play.
“Play energizes us and enlivens us. It eases our burdens. It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities.”
*If this blog inspires you to try out some of the activities below, you can find the whole COVID-19 Stress Collection here.
Playing Your Way Into Mindfulness
Mindfulness describes the state of being fully present in the moment, focusing on a specific thought, object, task, etc. When in this state of being, your mind is objective and non-judgemental, focusing on the moment with acceptance and peace versus dwelling on the past or projecting into the future.
What activities can bring us into a state of mindfulness? Play is a powerful tool for entering a mindful state. Play is the act of engaging in an activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose…adults play too! The following are some peaceful play experiences for both kids and adults that will help to relieve stress and anxiety.
Zen Sand Gardens
A Zen Sand Garden is a shallow tray that is filled with sand, any sand will do, but most people find that the fine sand is more soothing. Miniature items, such as TOOB® figurines or Good Luck Minis®, are chosen based on personal preference (items that remind you of a peaceful experience or that you may find relaxing or calming).
Once you have prepared the sand filled tray and chosen miniature items, you will slowly arrange the figurines, serenely move them around the sand, and use additional natural or miniature items (air plants, mini rake, rock, sticks, etc.) to enhance the experience. Adding repetitive physical movement, such as raking or drawing patterns in the sand, will amplify the peace and calm.
Here's a few recommended TOOBS® and Good Luck Minis® that many people find calming:
Additional Zen Garden Tools/Accessories:
Tranquility jars are a fantastic way to zone out and calm the mind. There is something so soothing about watching the gentle swirling and floating patterns of objects in liquid. To create a Tranquility Jar, you will need a sealable container (glass or plastic) a liquid, and miniature objects (such as TOOB® figurines or Good Luck Minis®). Other items such as glitter, small shells, etc. can be added as well.
When choosing the container, you’ll want to be mindful of clarity (how well can you see through it), size (is it comfortable to hold in your hands and also large enough to allow small items to move around), sealable, flat bottomed, and a large enough mouth to be able to put items through. Some highly recommended containers are mason jars, clear plastic wide mouth bottles, and Voss water bottles.
You can simply use water as filler, or for a slower movement pattern, use a more viscous liquid like glycerin, liquid soap, or mineral oil. To add color to the liquid, use a drop of liquid water color paint. Fill the jar almost full, allowing space for mini figurines. You can always adjust the liquid amount after adding figurines and before securing the lid.
After choosing your filler, it’s time to add the Good Luck Minis or TOOB figurines of your choice and any additional items (such as glitter or glitter glue). Note, our TOOBS® are usually 2-3 inches long, and our Good Luck Minis® are typically about an inch long. Test movement to see if you want to amend the liquid or number of figurines. The last step is to secure the lid and rotate the jar to create movement. Enjoy the peaceful experience of watching the items swirl and slowly settle. Listening to quiet music during the experience adds an extra element of tranquility.
Often seen on hiking trails or as yard art, you may have heard of or seen rock cairns or rock stacks. These are not just a frivolous new fad…humans have always stacked rocks for spiritual and burial practices or as directional markers. Why are humans drawn to stacking rocks? Balancing objects upon one another can be a very mindful activity that creates a sense of calm and focus.
Stacking can be even more stress reducing by adding a playful element, such as Safari Ltd. figurines. You can use figurines of graduating size or of the same size (for more of a challenge). Many people like to stack animals of a similar theme, but it’s also fun to mix and match. Who knows, the Wolf Dragon may be a great base for a Hippo.
The idea is to stack the animals on top of one another by carefully balancing each one. When stacking objects, the largest and sturdiest figurine is generally placed on the bottom to serve as the base, and then figurines are slowly and methodically added one on top of the other (with the smallest being on top).
This can be a solo relaxing activity or it can be turned into a game between multiple people (see who can make the highest stack or take turns adding animals without causing the stack to fall). Whether solo or as a game, both bring in the elements of play and mindfulness that reduce stress. Tip: A basket of animals can be set out in a break room or on your desk to provide a fun way to relieve stress at work!
Recommended toys for stacking:
Additional Stacking Toys:
Similar to rock stacking, building blocks provide a playful and mindful experience. Safari Ltd. has several choices to help you build your way out of stress.
Recommended toys for block play:
Arts, Crafts, and Coloring
Arts and crafts are filled with playful experimentation and discovery. The repetitive actions of many art or craft activities puts people into a “flow” state, which is the ultimate state of mindfulness.
The key to arts and crafts being used as a stress reducer is to find something that you enjoy and that allows you to enter into a “flow” state. For some, a new challenge (such as learning a new skill) brings focus and mindfulness, for others, they may need to pursue an easy and repetitive activity (like coloring).
These activities can be done as a bonding activity with a child/friend or solo if you need some quiet time. To help you unwind, have fun, and relieve stress, Safari Ltd. offers several beginning arts and crafts options from drawing and painting to creating bead jewelry.
Recommended products for arts and crafts for kids:
Tranquil Animal Movement
Have you ever watched a bird at the beach or an elephant at the zoo? The intentional movement of animals is very focused and mindful. There are many Yoga poses named after animals, but you do not need to be experienced in yoga to experience mindful animal movement.
Choose from the large selection of Safari Ltd. animal TOOB® figurines. After receiving your animal TOOB, pull an animal figurine out of the TOOB and study it; what does that particular animal move like? Replicate the movements with either your whole body or part of your body.
For example, if you pull out a bird, you can move your arms in slow flapping motions or raise up into a slow stretch and back down again. An elephant figurine may prompt you to walk slowly around an area with large and intentional steps while alternately raising your arm up and down like a trunk. Having fun with your movements adds an element of creativity.
The animal movement activity can be especially fun to do with kids, it’s a great way to bond and help them reduce stress. Kids are often very imaginative and greatly enjoy this type of play. This activity has no “correct” motions, and so you can just have fun, move your body, and be in the moment…all things that relieve stress and anxiety. This activity can also be used for stretch breaks during the week to get us up and moving during long days in front of computers.
Active Animal Movement
This may seem to counter the above activity, but being active and exercising, especially outside in nature is a fantastic way to relieve stress. So grab a Safari Ltd. animal TOOB, and instead of focusing on the calm and intentional movements that the animal may make, focus on adding more dynamic movements to create a kind of training circuit.
For example, with the elephant, you can do high knee “stomping, “ and for a bird you can do rapid arm circles for flight. This is another playful bonding activity that is great fun to do with your kids. Adding another layer of play and bonding, this activity is a fun way to play charades. Secretly choose an animal from the TOOB and “act” it out for friends or family members to guess the animal. Have fun, move your body, and shed some of your anxiety.
Animal Breathing Exercises
During big emotions, deep breathing exercises can act as a reset for minds and bodies. Big emotions like fear and anger can often trigger the fight, flight, or freeze response. Deep breathing relaxes the body, and allows us to enter a mindful state. In a mindful state, the brain can move away from the more reactive primal part of the brain to the more logical part of our brain allowing us to better process and regulate emotions.
The most important aspect of mindful breathing is to focus on your breath. Pay attention to the inhale and exhale. Breathing slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth is the most effective method. Many people get bored focusing on their breath, and so to add a playful element, you can breathe like an animal. Once again, you can use figurines from Safari Ltd. TOOBS® or Good Luck Minis® to serve as prompts.
Choose a figurine, and similar to the Tranquil Animal Movement activity, deeply think about and picture the ways that the chosen animal moves. When you can picture the movements of the animal, think of ways to incorporate mindful breathing into that movement.
For example, if you choose a butterfly, you can sit on your bottom with the soles of your feet touching. Slowly flap your bent knees up and down like butterfly wings. Breathe in through your nose for 3 flaps and then out through your mouth for 3 beats. The key is to be very intentional, focus on the inhale and exhale and count the beats…bring yourself fully into the moment.
Additional Mindful Breathing Resources:
More information about Mindfulness:
Our lives are filled with periods of stress and calm. Times of stress will pass, but in the meantime, please take care of yourselves. We are wishing everyone peace and calm during these tumultuous times!
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