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Discover 5 healthy distractions to stop a meltdown without using an iPad!

I’ve done it, my friends have done it, we’ve all done it. Our child is upset or agitated and on the verge of a melt down.  As we sense the impending big emotion or conflict, we search for a quick distraction to diffuse the situation - and might reach for the iPad.  It’s quick and many times effective at calming the situation, but it doesn’t actually teach our children to soothe themselves. But I’ve got something different for you!


Here are 5 easy distractions that can calm your child in a healthier way.


The next time your child is heated up or melting down (or well on their way), try this method for an easy but healthy distraction (that doesn’t involve technology).  Pause for a moment and wait for the right moment to quietly invite them into a new direction.


1.  “Let’s sing a song”  

This one works wonders. When my kiddos were younger, I would often begin singing a familiar favorite song, like the first verse from Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. 


After singing the first verse, I would pause and quietly invite my child to sing the next line.   We would go back and forth alternating lines until we got to the end. 


There was something about a memorized and beloved tune that they couldn’t resist. And it usually provided them with just enough distraction that their logical brain turns up, their emotional brain turns down and they start to calm down. 


2.  Use fidget toys to engage their fine motor skills

Toys like puzzles or a Rubik’s cube, where they have to both use their fingers and think about what they're doing can provide a fun distraction because it’s a game!  It can also give them a physical outlet for their nervous energy.


3.  Give them something to focus on visually

Have you ever looked at a stream of water, bubbles, or a campfire and found it a little hypnotic?  Visually soothing toys such as bubble timers and glitter jars have a similar effect. It provides a mesmerizing visual that both stimulates your attention and soothes the rest of your senses.  


Glitter jars are one my favorites, with plenty of easy DIY solutions online.  Having one handy to shake it up and say, “let’s watch it until all the glitter falls to the bottom” can be an enticing and calming distraction.


4.  Going for a walk - or skip!

It’s no secret that moving your body can positively improve your mood.  So take a page from your own self-regulation strategies and suggest that you and your child go for a walk!


My daughter and I tried skipping as a distraction for big emotions, and we discovered that it’s really hard to skip AND feel sad at the same time!  There was something about that movement (using both sides of your body) that made the sadness melt away.  


And if your kiddo really needs to let loose, turn on some music and have a dance party!


5.  Picture books and mazes can redirect focus

Not every child enjoys mazes, puzzles or look and finds like Where’s Waldo, but if they do, this is a perfect activity to get their mind off of things. 


These are naturally quiet activities, requiring the body to rest as the mind becomes highly focused on searching for the answer.  If you’re in a location that doesn’t allow a lot of movement or noise, this can be a wonderful and appropriate distraction. A solid game of I spy works too!

5 Distractions to Stop a Meltdown Without Using an iPad
Slowing things down for a moment!


Choose the right moment


Sometimes in the height of an emotional storm, your child is so worked up that none of these distractions will even register with them. But if you can see that they are increasingly bothered by something or they can’t stop thinking about an upsetting situation, then these just might do the trick to reset their brain. 


Of course, with any strategy, there will be people who have a different approach.  They may think that it teaches our kiddos to avoid processing negative feelings.  But I’m actually a big fan because it helps the kiddos turn down their emotional brain, which is momentarily hijacking everything. Once that’s turned down, they can access their logical brain.  And teaching them to do that themselves is the greatest gift.

Need a cheat sheet or more ideas for healthy distractions?  Download my free list here.

Healthy Distraction CheatSheet.Tranquil Little One
Download PDF • 296KB

If you are interested in learning more about this topic and are looking for assistance in figuring out new and different ways to redirect your child, my Parenting Take 2 Program is a perfect match! In this 6 to 8 week private support program I will assist you in finding new ways to parent your child by creating a personalized set of tools specific to your needs and your child's needs. You share your challenges and concerns, I interact with your child in playful sessions to learn how movement and mindfulness will benefit them, and then we connect the dots! Learn more by clicking the button below.


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