I’ve shared in another post the importance of helping our minds and bodies to relax. Often, your children need our help in calming their bodies, brains and emotions. Progressive muscle relaxation is a wonderful, research-proven tool for helping increase relaxation.  Because I’m a play therapist, I added a playful spin to progressive muscle relaxation to use with my clients and my own children. They enjoy it and perhaps a child in your life will to.

Our goal is to take a child’s body from this:

Spaghetti_spiral,_2008

to this

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to this

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Start by having the child lie down on the floor, couch or bed. Say, “Let’s pretend you are in a box of spaghetti – a hard, uncooked, crunchy noodle.” Now check a few parts of your child’s body to see if they are “crunchy”. For example, lift her arm and see if it bends easily. If so, add a comment like, “Ohhhh, this is a very crunchy noodle.” If not, challenge your child to make her arms stiff.

Next, say, “Now I’m going to dump you in a pot of hot water. Bubble – bubble – bubble.” Gently shake or wiggle your child’s body back and forth. Always check in to make sure your child is enjoying the exercise.

“Now I’m going to dump you onto a plate.” Pretend to scoop your child up and put on a “plate”.

“Hmmm….let me check and see if this noodle is done.” Pick up a leg and wiggle it back and forth. Gently lift an arm and see if the wrist  and elbow is limp and relaxed. Lift your child’s head to see if her neck is relaxed. If so, you might comment with, “Ohhhh. This is a tasty, floppy noodle. I can’t wait to eat it.” If not, you could say, “Uh-oh, we’ve got to put this noodle back in the water.” Repeat until your child begins to get the idea.

Finally, once your child is relaxed and “floppy”, say, “Yum! This is going to be a tasty noodle!” Pretend to “gobble” your child. This part will likely be ticklish, but, in my experience, children love it and ask for the activity again and again.

With practice, your child will learn to relax her own body. What a gift!