In our fast-paced world, there are many stressors that children encounter on a daily basis, making it especially important to develop effective relaxation techniques from an early age. If a child is on the autism spectrum or experiencing issues with sensory processing, learning to self-soothe may be especially challenging. If you are a parent and notice that your child is struggling to self-soothe, there are many helpful strategies you can practice at home. If a child is enrolled in a therapeutic preschool program, their instructors may also spend additional time working with kiddos on building self-soothing skills.
Deep breathing: When children become anxious or overstimulated, deep breathing is one of the best ways to calm the nervous system. If you are a teacher in a therapeutic preschool and notice that one of the kiddos is frequently anxious or upset, it might be helpful to spend time with them one-on-one to show them deep breathing exercises. This might include a technique called “four square” breathing. This involves breathing in for four seconds, holding that breath for four seconds, breathing out for four seconds, holding that breath for four seconds, then repeating that cycle. This process of deep breathing can be an excellent tool for children to use to self-soothe. It can also be done in any setting, without attention being drawn to them.
Sensory corner: Therapeutic preschool programs often create a sensory corner or sensory room where children can go to relax or self-soothe when they become overstimulated. While a therapeutic program typically has fewer children in a class than a typical preschool program, children can still become over-stimulated. This might include low lighting, sensory toys, or a cozy chair.
Stretching: Some children find stretching or yoga poses to be very relaxing. If a child becomes over-stimulated during their therapeutic preschool class, it may be helpful to have them stretch to self-soothe in a sensory corner (or another quiet space) in the classroom. As the child’s muscles relax through stretching, the child may also start to relax.
Music/white noise: If a child is overstimulated during their therapeutic preschool class, having them listen to calming music (perhaps classical) or white noise sounds can be a great way for them to relax. They can do this in a sensory corner or quiet space.
Sensory bins: Many therapeutic preschool programs use sensory bins to help children develop important skills, including self-soothing. These bins, which are filled with materials such as sand, provide a calming (sensory) effect for children.
A therapeutic preschool program can benefit any child, as the structure focuses on building pivotal development skills. Do you think your child could benefit from this type of program? Contact CST Academy at 773-620-7800 to learn more about our therapeutic preschool program in Chicago, which works on speech and language development, behavior, feeding, and more!