Games to Teach Kids to Listen & Calm Down

By Rosenya Faith
Mother reading to two small children.
Mother reading to two small children.

Whether you're trying to circumvent a toddler's tantrum as she moves from crafts to snack time or reining in your 8-year-old's exuberance during an afternoon play date, utilize fun and games to help calm your youngster. Start young -- the earlier you teach your child to control her vivacity and temper, the more she’ll be able to exercise these in everyday activities.

Move First

Before you can expect your child to calm down, sit still and pay attention, he needs an opportunity to get the wiggles out that have been building up inside. Encourage your child to run, hop, skip, jump and play hard before a lengthy period of sedentary activity. You can play a game of tag with your youngster, or hide-and-seek. If the two of you are stuck indoors, play freeze dance, organize a scavenger hunt around the house or make an obstacle course from couch cushions, tables, laundry baskets and other common household items. If you’re pressed for time, or short on space for an obstacle course, have your child shake and shimmy on the spot until all the wiggles are gone -- or at least, under wraps for the moment.

Concentration Calm

Simple concentration games can help your child calm down, readying her listening skills. You can draw on her back with your finger and have her guess the letter, word, shape or image you're tracing. Play "I Spy" -- an opportunity to reinforce other lessons of the day, such as colors and letters. Assemble a jigsaw together or play a memory match game. Have a younger child mimic your facial expressions or copy your movements in a game of “Simon Says,” but keep the motions slow and calm to avoid over excitement. With older children, play a storytelling game, building on each other’s tall tale as you go, but do it all in whispers.

Transition Time

Outside playtime is over, and it’s time to move indoors for lunch; making the transition from one activity to another is a difficult task for a child. You can teach your child to calm down and listen after an energetic activity with a variety of simple transition time games. Turn cleanup time into a game with a tidy-up song. Set the timer and have your child sing along while he hops, crawls or tiptoes in a hurry to put away a particular number of toys. You can modify the game by having him use only one hand or picking up toys of the same color. When it’s time to move from outside to inside, call out the name of an animal and encourage your child to imitate its walk and sounds.

Listen Up

Create a rainstorm together if you're calming down a group of kids; sit in a circle and tell the children to follow each of your instructions. Have them rub their fingers together, then their hands, snap fingers, clap softly and then loudly and then stomp their feet. Help your child wind down and pay attention with Red Light, Green Light, as you move from quick movements to slow ones, encouraging her to listen for your instructions every step of the way. On the first green light, tell your child to run, then hop, walk, and tiptoe slowly. As you slow the activity, use a softer voice with each command. You can also help your youngster calm down and tune in with noise games. Have her cover her eyes and then make a variety of different noises, such as turning on a light switch, flipping through the pages of a book or jingling crystal beads. Have your child guess the source of each noise.

About the Author

Rosenya Faith has been working with children since the age of 16 as a swimming instructor and dance instructor. For more than 14 years she has worked as a recreation and skill development leader, an early childhood educator and a teaching assistant, working in elementary schools and with special needs children between 4 and 11 years of age.