Play Your Way To A Peaceful Day!
“Play energizes us and enlivens us. It eases our burdens. It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities.”
We all seek to maintain steady control of our emotions and responses to upsetting events (big and small). Children, as well as adults, can all benefit from having a toolbox of healthy emotional regulation strategies.Practicing mindfulness and having several go to strategies for regulation is extremely helpful for breaking out of emotional rollercoasters and recalibrating yourself into a state of being calm and in control.
“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
Playing Your Way Into Mindfulness and Calm
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 nonjudgemental, 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 bring about emotional regulation.
*Please Note: we are sensitive to the varying degrees of stress and mental health issues that people may be experiencing. We are not medical professionals, and are in no way suggesting that these activities take the place of advice given by a medical doctor or mental health professional. That being said, there are several options that can help many people better regulate their emotional state . Throughout this blog, we will discuss many different types of calming activities, and behind them all is the powerful element of play.
Connection is a vital human need. When children feel seen and heard by caregivers, it forms a strong foundation for connection and trust. A wonderful way to build connection is to spend quality time reading together.
Slumberkins Social Emotional Learning books, snugglers, and affirmation cards help kids learn about emotions and build skills to strengthen their emotional health. The snugglers are adorable comforting plush friends that relate to the board book and affirmation cards.
DIY 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®), natural items (rocks, crystals, air plants, shells, etc), small rakes or brushes are chosen based on personal preference (items 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 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:
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. You can check out our sensory bottle blog post for directions.
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.
Recommended toys for stacking:
Additional Stacking Toys:
Similar to rock stacking, building blocks provide a playful and mindful experience. Activities, like building with blocks, provides opportunity for impulse control and calm steady movement. Whether putting together a specific block set or simply free building, block play requires planning, thoughtfulness, steadiness, and self-regulation. Safari Ltd. has several choices to help you build your way into a state of calm.
Recommended toys for block play click here.
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 an emotional regulation activity 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 bring a sense of calm to your day, 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 click here
Additional Informational Resource: How craft is good for our health
What is a Calming Corner? It is a safe nook that grants someone a little space to work through big emotions. These spaces often include cozy seating, soft lighting, and a variety of tools that help with emotional regulation. See some calming corner tools below:
Be Amazing! Sensory Stress Balls , Pop Tubes, Sense and Grow Textured Bean Bags, Sense and Grow Surprise Sand Dig-Ups, or Sensory Tissue Box are sensory rich options that assist in emotional regulation through manipulating objects to gain sensory input and release stress.
Plush Toys provide comfort and sometimes serve as a confidant for talking through feelings.Tonies® Toniebox is a screen-free digital listening experience that plays stories, songs, and more with some of your favorite characters.
Journaling provides a way for kids to write or draw about their feelings. These fun Customizable Journals make the journal writing experience even more enjoyable by adding emoji and letter pegs to decorate the front.
Various types of play dough and play foam provide sensory input to help regulate emotion and put children into a calm and regulated state.
Puzzles are another wonderful tool to calm anxiety.
For young toddlers, additional soothers and sensory exploration items for can be found here.
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 participate in mindful animal movement.
Using one of the large selection of Safari Ltd. animal TOOB® figurines, pull an animal figurine out of the TOOB and study it; what does that particular animal move like? Replicate the animal's movements with your own 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.
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, 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 a Safari Ltd. TOOB and “act” it out for friends or family members to guess the animal. Have fun, move your body, and shed some anxiety through activity and giggles.
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:
The animal movement activities can be especially fun to do with kids, they are a great way to bond and help them regulate their emotions. Kids are often very imaginative and greatly enjoy this type of play. There are no “correct” motions, and so you can just have fun, move your body, and be in the moment. These activities can also be used for breaks to get us up and moving during long days in front of computers.
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!
More information about Mindfulness: