Being the parent, educator, or caretaker of a child can be an overwhelming and exhausting ordeal. It can be made even more tiresome and demanding when one is dealing with a child who is overly hyper. You might be at a loss for what to do to reel this energy in.
However, there is a myriad of tips, tricks, and techniques to help calm down your uniquely hyperactive child. These tips range from using musical therapies, labeling emotions to allowing your child to chew gum! Just remember that every child is special, and their needs will differ from other hyper children. Find the trick that works best for your child, and you’ll have unlocked the key to calmness (for both them and you!)
The Best Ways to Calm Down an Overly Hyper Child
As every child is different, you’ll have to test out different tools and techniques that work for your specific child or student. However, below you will find a plethora of tried and true activities and tricks that will help most overly hyper children come to a state of calm.
Meet them on their level
You’ve probably discovered how ineffective it is to simply say “settle down now” or “you need to calm down” to an overly hyper child. When a child is on an energy high, it is not as simple as telling them to calm down.
One of the best ways to ease a hyperactive child into a state of calmness is to meet them on their level. Children are much more likely to listen and cooperate when they have a sense of rapport with an adult or caretaker.
Rapport is built in many ways, but typically even fifteen minutes of undivided playtime or attention is a successful way to build rapport. While some days may not present many opportunities to show undivided attention, it is crucial your child or students feel seen and heard. Again, all it takes is fifteen minutes of intentional time to make a child feel a connection that creates a sense of trust and safety.
If you hope to coax a hyperactive child into a calm state, you cannot begin doing that cold, without any sense of trust, connection, or validation of their state of being. If the situation permits, it is wise to partake in whatever activity your child is currently engaged in. If it’s running around the garden in circles, jump in. Tag them and say, “you’re it!” Join in on the activity, help them run out their energy, and make them feel seen and heard.
While some children do just possess an endless amount of hyperactive energy, some children use their bursts of energy as bids for attention. It would be a shame to shut down a child’s bid for attention by shouting, “stop it” or “enough!” When a child is bidding for some attention, they need to be acknowledged. You can provide them with positive attention and interaction by joining in with their play.
The best way to curb energetic behavior while still acknowledging such a bid for attention is to either engage in play or at least watch the child play, acknowledge their actions, and then set a time limit.
Provide Warnings & Time Limits
Some children require a little more structure and systems in place to help them adjust from one moment to the next. If a child seems to breakdown when being told to suddenly stop an activity or that suddenly it’s time to calm down, put systems in place that give them plenty of time to adjust to a stopping point. Remember, our little ones are still learning to transition from one activity to another.
- Five Minute Warning Countdown – Start with a five-minute warning. Say, “we’ve got five more minutes, so play-play-play, but know that in five minutes, we’ll be settling down.” Then in two minutes, give another warning. “Two-minute warning, we’re almost at that point of slowing down, so do whatever you want to in these last two minutes.”
- Last and Final – Phrases like ‘last and final’ should be used only when you are prepared to institute the rule, absolutely. Meaning, you don’t allow them to continue running around 10 minutes after you say “last and final.” Last and final is the law. Children cope better when they understand their boundaries. When they understand that ‘last and final’ truly means the last minute they get to do an activity, they will be much calmer when the time comes to here “okay, time is up, time to settle.”
Time limits and warnings prepare an overly hyper child for the moment that they must reel in their energy. This is not intuitive for most children, but especially overly active children.
Every situation may not allow for such a grace period, but when you can yield this kind of leniency and understand toward hyperactive children, you’ll find they’ll more easily calm down than when being told to suddenly stop all activity at once.
Teach & Practice Deep Intentional Breathing
For the overly hyper child, becoming familiar with one’s breathe will be a tremendous help. It is scientifically proven that deep, intentional breathing can help slow one’s heart rate. This is no different for children.
Not only does controlled breathing help slow one’s heart rate, but the act of stopping to breathe also means the hyperactive child in question has stopped (physically) for a moment to focus on their body. Even the act of focusing on one’s body helps to channel a child’s focus inward.
Utilise Natural Remedies
Of course, there are some children with more extreme versions of hyperactivity, such as children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD.) However, even for kids with ADHD, there are many natural remedies that are safe for children to ingest, inhale, or put on topically.
You might be reticent to use any ‘supplement’ on your child. However, the list of herbs and minerals below is all-natural and safe for children and adults alike.
*Never give an herb or medication to your child without doing proper research and consulting your doctor beforehand.
Lavender is a miracle plant that not only smells amazing but has been linked to promoting calmness and mood stabilisation. Inhaling lavender, whether by diffusing the oil in a diffuser or placing a few drops in one’s hand and breathing in deeply, creates a calm feeling as the lavender impacts the limbic system, the part of the brain that controls emotions.
You can add 6-8 drops of lavender essential oil to their bath or diffuse the lavender in a diffuser nearby.
Magnesium is a crucial mineral that all human bodies need that often goes overlooked. Not only does magnesium help keep the bowels regular, but magnesium also helps to relax the muscles in the body and aids sleep. This important mineral has also been linked to anxiety and depression reduction, as it aids in activating the physical mechanisms in the body that promote calmness.
Children who are magnesium deficient may hold more tension in their muscles, have more unstable mood swings, experience poor sleep, and less regular bowel movements.
Making sure your child is either eating their proper dose of magnesium a day via their food or by supplement is an excellent idea to promote your child’s physical health as well as their mental well-being.
If you believe your child is low on magnesium, please consult your local doctor. Your doctor can conduct a blood test to see if your child is lacking in certain minerals and vitamins. Additionally, you can consult a nutritionist who may evaluate your child’s diet to ensure they are meeting their daily requirements.
Listen to Calming Music
When attempting to calm an overly hyper child, engaging all their five senses can be instrumental (pun intended.) Music therapy has had great success, especially with children who struggle with ADHD or similar behavioral challenges. Music, like classical and instrumental music, can help children to focus better and eases anxieties.
Here’s a list of some of the most calming classical music pieces:
- Ludovico Einaudi – “Elegy for the Arctic”
- Claude Debussy – “Clair de lune”
- Evard Grieg – “Piano Concerto II”
- Craig Armstrong – “Romeo & Juliet”
- S Bach – “Air on a G String”
- Johannes Brahms – “Wiegenlied”
Explore Alternative Learning Environments
It can be frustrating, especially during unprecedented times like pandemics, when the learning environment your child is in is simply not conducive to their excess energy and/or inability to focus. If this is the case for you and your child, seek out unique learning environment alternatives.
Even if you are engaged in remote learning now, you can change up small aspects of your environment. For example, your child is not required to sit while they listening. If it helps them to stand while they watch a Zoom lesson, let them stand.
Let them shuffle their feet. If their energy needs a way out, let it have its way without interrupting the learning process.
If instead your child is in typical in-person schooling, but you are receiving complaints from their teacher about their overly hyper behavior, work with the school on what your child needs. Do they need to come in five minutes late after recess to run it out? Does your child require a ‘walk around the school’ break every half hour? They may benefit from being a helper in the room where they turn off the lights during video time or they can hand out worksheets and books to their peers.
That might seem high maintenance to you. However, the key is to focus on whatever is in your child’s best interest. It also remembers that hyper energy is not the enemy. The society we live in suggests learning ought to be done a certain way.
However, learning in such an environment is not for every child, and unfortunately, regular schooling does not cater to uniqueness in children.
Therefore it’s on the parents and educators to work together to find a solution for a child with uniquely large amounts of energy.
Utilise your Child’s Proprioceptive Inputs
Before you tune out from this unfamiliar phrase, it’s important you learn about proprioceptive inputs. These types of sensations occur within our muscles, joints, and connective tissues that help to create body awareness. Proprioceptive inputs can be triggered or felt through the physical actions of pushing, pulling, and lifting weighted objects (even oneself!)
What does this have to do with calming a hyperactive child? Potentially everything. Proprioceptive activities help to calm and focus children of all ages. However, there is no “one size fits all” activity that will work for every kid.
You’ll have to find the right proprioception activity for your child. Below is a list of a few different proprioceptive input activities that can help your child center and focus on their body, thereby experiencing a sense of calm.
One very easy proprioception activity to do with your child is hand squeezes. This can be performed in 30 seconds at home or on the go. The effect of hand squeezes on your child should be that of calm.
What type of hand squeezes ignite body awareness and focus? Any time of sustained pressure in the palms. Try any of the following hand squeezes:
- Hand to Hand Press – Have your child press their palms against one another as hard as they can, for as long as they can. Many children look at this as a challenge and find it to be rather fun! Little do they know this kind of hand pressure triggers their proprioceptive inputs and will trigger their neuropathways to send calming signals to the brain.
- Wall Push-Ups – If your child is wiggling about, running all around the room, or can’t seem to focus on the task at hand, have them do wall push-ups. Extra points if you do the wall push-ups with them (and they’re more likely to do them if you join in.) Have them press up and away from the wall, repeatedly. Not only will these create mild physical exertion, but it will also trigger their body awareness to help them settle down.
- Patty Cake – in the same way, that your child can press their palm against their other palm, so too can they do that with your In this modified version of patty cake, you will encourage your child to press their palms into yours as hard as they can to try to push you back or knock you over. Kids love the challenge, and it is physically taxing for them to push that hard. It’s also hilarious to watch and will put both child and adult in good spirits.
If you are home or somewhere where you can feel free to be silly, crab crawls are an excellent way to engage those proprioceptive inputs. Not only that, but crab crawls can be a bit of a challenge!
To do a crab crawl, have your child sit on their bottom. Then they’ll place their hands behind them and their feet near their bottom. They’ll then raise their bottom off the ground until they are in a bridge shape. From there, they will use their hands and feet to move around the room like a crab!
This activity usually induces some giggles. It also fully engages your child’s joints and muscles to get those proprioceptive inputs going, and the results can be pretty startling. This kind of full-body activity can render some of the most amazing results when it comes to trying to instantly calm your child.
You are not limited to crab crawls, though! Your child crawl on their hands and feet, face toward the floor, like a bear! They can hop low to the ground like a frog. You can even give them obstacles to hop around or over. The key is to get their hands and feet pressing into the earth, to have their joints moving back and forth, and their brains fully focused on what their body is doing.
This is an excellent thing to try with your child when they have restless and relentless energy that needs to be channeled into an activity before it can dissipate.
Sing & Stomp
Another great activity to do at home, school, or the park where there are more freedom and space to shout and stomp is to sing and march around. Engaging one’s voice in coordination with one’s body is very centering.
Try songs with easy rhythms to follow and march to like “The Ants go Marching in.” Join your child as you stomp around, shouting, “Hurrah! Hurrah!” Encourage your child to really pump those arms back and forth as they stomp. Encourage them to really raise their knees and stomp their feet. If it helps, tell them there are nails in the ground them need to stomp in, and their feet are the hammers.
If you’re looking for a video to accompany your sing & stomp, try “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.” It’s chock full of rhythm and even some yoga moves!
This is not every parent’s favorite activity, I know. However, it can be very effective at getting children to calm down. It is also an activity that you can do on the go (unlike crab crawls.) If your child has chosen the moment, you go to the grocery store to run amuck, hand them a stick of gum and watch them chomp and chew their way to calm.
In this scenario, your child’s jaw is doing the work to engage their proprioceptive input as they chomp to their heart’s content. No, gum chewing is not a habit you want to encourage. However, if your overly hyper child chills out from a little stick of spearmint, it’s well worth it.
Talk about Emotions in a Contextual Way
One of the biggest challenges with overly hyper children is often they can act out on emotion, and those emotions can be very big. Helping a child work through and understand their emotions is critical to overcoming hyperactivity and to creating a healthy mental state.
Families that do not discuss emotions accidentally create a space that causes children to feel confused or unsafe. They don’t understand what they are feeling or why. They have no example of how to let those feelings out in a productive way, so those feelings take over in whatever way seems most effective at getting an adult’s attention.
Labeling what emotions are is the first step. When your child is throwing a tantrum, help label the emotion they’re feeling. Say to them: “I know. You are very frustrated. Sometimes being told no is frustrating, understand. It’s okay to feel frustrated.” The simple act of labeling and relating can help calm a child down.
When a child hears, “I understand, that is normal, that is okay to feel,” the weight around their emotions is eased significantly. Suddenly they are told by an adult that what is happening is not only normal but is okay, and they aren’t in trouble.
This way of relating to a child is not dissimilar from how we relate to adults. If your friend is angry, you don’t say to them: “Hey! Stop that! Stop it right now!” You talk to them, you ask them what’s wrong, and then you relate.
Remember: children are merely little adults who need help understanding a world that is new to them. Speak to them with understanding, empathy, and respect.
Some children also take well to calling their emotions “big feelings.” Because for children feeling sad, anxious, angry, hungry, tired, or excited doesn’t feel small. Their feelings feel bigger than their whole existence. Emotion takes over a child the way a riptide pulls anything in its wake out to sea.
Help your child understand their big emotions. Ask them: “Are you experiencing a big feeling right now? Do you want to tell me which big emotion you are feeling?” Create a space for your child to use their words to express themselves, as opposed to expressing their emotions physically.
When talking about our emotions is a safe activity to do that is met with empathy and understanding, as opposed to anger and shame, a child is less likely to have a hyperphysical or energetic response to their emotions.
By playing classical music you are setting the tone for a calm environment. You cannot expect an overly hyper child to calm down in a chaotic environment. If TVs are blaring, people are yelling, there’s construction outside, etc. you will never yield the kind of calm in your child you are hoping to see.
Set the right tone, play some easy to listen to music that inherently promotes calmness. It may not make your child stop in their place while they run, but the music will soothe their nerves and help them ease into a transition of being restful and chill.
The Key Take Away
Every child is different and, therefore, will require varying techniques, tools and activities to coax them from their overly hyper state into one of calm. The most important thing is to ask yourself why they need to expel so much energy, to reaffirm that whatever they are feeling and needing is valid, and to try to work with the overly hyper energy as opposed to against it.
Remember that this world is not automatically accommodating to children with uniquely demanding dispositions. Be your child’s advocate! Speak up for their needs. If your child is perpetually hyper and you know they need to do crab crawls, chew gum, or take a five-minute walk in between lessons, fight for their right to do these things that help them.
Now you are armed with several tools to use the next time you need to calm your overly active child.
For more tools and strategies, check out Ready Kids Virtual OT. All our resources are created by Occupational Therapists. They offer more strategies like these so you can better support your child at home.