15 Exercises to help reduce frustration and anger in kids
Have you ever had a kid in your class where you see them becoming increasingly agitated, their hands are clenching and if looks could kill, you would certainly be dead? The reptilian brain is in full control here and what you see is the child in survival mode – fight, flight or freeze. When they are here, reasoning goes out the door so don’t waste your breath. Actions speak the loudest here. I think about one of my mates here and know that if I told her to just breathe and calm down, she would certainly punch me in the face for my stupid input! Kids react in just the same way when in this state!
One powerful strategy to help them come back to a calm state is to match the energy the body is producing. All the adrenaline is coursing through their veins and they are primed for action – so give it to them!
Large muscle activities give kids energy-sapping opportunities to help reduce the effects of the adrenaline and gives them the opportunity to self-regulate. There is a heap of research that supports this approach in Zones of Regulation.
One way to use this in your classroom is to notice and recognise a child who is starting to escalate and give them some activities to do. Have them on cards, spread around the classroom as ‘station work’ and let them select 5 of them before they join the rest of the class. This doesn’t just work for frustrated kids, oftentimes, other kids are drawn to them, so let them do them! Here are some examples:
- Pushing against a wall – set a timer and try to push the wall over for 1 minute. Naturally, you wouldn’t put this station next to a movable wall divider! A vamp on this would be to do 15 wall pushups.
- Dead lift – put some heavy books/weights/sandbags in shopping bags and have one in each hand. Do 15 lifts of these.
- Box jumps – ideally, you would do this outside. The child jumps with both feet and up onto the top of the object, stand up straight and then jump back down. Do this 10 times.
- Jumping Jacks – these are pretty standard. Do 20 of these.
- Chair lifts – use a chair with armrests on either side and then lift themselves up off the chair and back down, 10 times
- Dips – this works the triceps, rest on the edge of a stable chair and dip down and back up – 20 times.
- Tyre flips – if you have a large truck/tractor tyre, flipping it end over end is a great way to let off some steam!
- Inchworms – from standing, bend down to touch the ground and then walk hands forward to a push-up position, complete a pushup and then walk the hands back to the feet and then jump up. Complete this 5 times – it’s hard!
- High knee running on the spot – 1 minute
- Line sprints on the basketball court – start at the end line, sprint to the first ⅓ and back to the start, then sprint to halfway and back, go to the other line and back, then finally to the other end and back to the start. Only do this 2-3 times or they will be there all day.
- Pushing a heavy box from one area to another
- Animal walking – walk on all 4’s from one outside area to another – do it as fast as you can!
- Wrap your arms around yourself and squeeze as hard as you can for 30sec. Repeat this 3 times
- Press your palms together in a prayer pose and push them together as hard as you can for 30sec. Repeat this 3 times.
- Situps – complete 60
The great thing about these activities is that they all force the participant to breathe – a lot! The benefits of exercise on not only the body, but the mind is quite extensive! These activities not only have the potential to diffuse the imminent volcano of emotions that are about to erupt from your stressed kid, but it can actually help them be focused and learn!
To make your life easier, I have created printable cards for you to place around your classroom if you want to try this out with your kids (or yourself!). I didn’t come up with each of these activities, but I have collated them so they are easy to access & implement. If you know of someone else who would benefit from these, sharing is caring! Here is a link to access a copy of the Large Muscle Exercises!
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Have an awesome week!