I absolutely hate the saying 'Terrible Twos' - but there are some days I want to believe in it with all my heart. That my sweet little boy currently beating me round the head is victim to some horrible age related disease that he will surely grow out of just around his third birthday. There are days I find myself shouting 'stop shouting' and days where we do more time-out than quality time. There are days when Vin is yelling 'porridge porridge' so loud I'm worried that the neighbours are going to call social services because it sounds like I never feed my kid and I glance despairingly at the bowl of porridge lovingly prepared less than five minutes ago and head into the kitchen to make him another bowl as requested. Only to present second bowl of lovely porridge to be met with a look that says 'what the hell is this mama?' Then he kicks the fridge and falls asleep under the dining table. And as I am slowly tiptoeing away and simultaneously kicking myself for not noticing the signs of tiredness I step barefoot into a bowl of porridge. The cold one.
So, I figure I need to change my gameplan - I need some tools, an arsenal probably, for creative and playful calm down moments. Here's what I came up with...
1. Sensory Tub - We all know how therapeutic sensory play can be. How many times have you sat meditatively as you swish your hands through your kiddo's waterbeads, sunk your hand into a bowl of rainbow rice or let handfuls of sand trickle through your fingers? I set up a little Zen Garden of a sensory tub using dried Butter and Haricot Beans. I chose them mostly for the colour, but also because they are cool and smooth and quite peaceful feeling. Past experience tells me that the bigger the filler the easier the clean up, and if you're feeling drained and frazzled the last thing you want to be doing is sweeping coloured sand out of the carpet! I am usually about props, little people, scoopy things and pouring tools when it comes to sensory play, but this time I went very calm - a set of chopsticks and a wooden spoon. I also added an empty glass spice bottle - the idea being that the opening to the bottle is quite narrow, the beans have to be picked up individually and placed in the bottle one by one.
2. Playdough - I have written before about the benefits of playdough - the sensory pleasure, the focus on a task, the act of creating (or destroying) is very soothing. Here I added lavender oil to our usual recipe inspired by The Imagination Tree's Aromatherapy Playdough Post.
Again, normally I add lots of props - beads, cutters, straws, feathers, sequins etc - to our playdough, for this batch we just have a wooden rolling pin and some plastic cutlery in our toolbox. Of course if the kiddos want to they can add other elements (I'm sure they will) but the point is to soothe, rather than overwhelm and excite.
3. Music Therapy - I'm only jokingly calling this one music therapy, I have no idea what music therapy actually entails - but this one uses very calming sounds to centre the child. I made a simple 'water xylophone' by filling glasses with different amounts of water and adding a popsicle stick as a 'beater' - I used a few drops of food dye in each cup to make this a visual experience too, but it is not neccessary. The more full the cup the deeper the note - the sound is very pleasant even if they're bashed quite hard (though I wouldn't suggest this with a child in the throes of a tantrum unless you want to be mopping up green stains from the carpet!)
4. Mind Jar - I've seen this idea all over Pinterest but the first time I saw it was here. The put together is very simple - a jar or bottle filled with water and glitter glue (I used glitter paint) - the superglue the lid shut and you're done. The idea is that the child shakes up the glass and watches the glitter swirl and settle - this would make a good 'time-out' timer if you practise time out in your home, otherwise it's just very meditative to watch.
5. Sensory Bags - again this is a twist on an old idea. We've done a traditional sensory bag with hair gel once before - usually they're for mark-making practise or made into suncatchers. Here I filled my bag with baby oil and added a big squirt of blue food colouring, the colouring being water based won't mix with the oil and creates a lovely 'Rosharch' Effect. It's also very cool in temperature (though I'm sure it would warm up if you left it in the sun) which is nice if you're feeling hot and flustered (as my boy does when he's nearing melt-down). Again, this is not one to be played with during an actual melt-down as it will split if it's squashed too vigorously!
Some more thoughts for your tantrum proofing -
take a bath - use a drop or two of a calming oil like lavender or chamomile, or a bubble bath containing the scent
Put together a calm down basket
Journalling - writing/ painting/ creating through your worries is great for older kids (and stressed out mamas)
What have you found works for calm-down time in your house?