Progressive Muscle Relaxation, part 2: variations for kids

I frequently get asked if PMR is appropriate to do with younger kids (read the general, adult-oriented PMR overview here), and am happy to say that it is an easy and AWESOME little stress reliever for kiddos. As with 99% of interventions for little ones, parent/adult interaction is mandatory! Spend 5 minutes being silly with your kid, and enjoy the both of you feeling happier and calmer afterwards.

Here are instructions you can use for kids aged 3-ish to 8 or so:

  • Begin by finding a spot where you and the kids can jump around safely. Explain to them that you’re going to play a quick game with them….I call it the “squeeze and squiggle game.” Kids can lie down, sit down, or stand during any/all of these movements. You and the kiddo will squeeze each muscle group as tightly as possible without straining or causing pain. After holding the tension for about 5 seconds, you will have your child squiggle or shake it out to relax the muscle that they had just tensed. This is very important!!!
  • Start by “getting the wiggles out” for 15-30 seconds: jog in place, jump up and down, wave your arms around, etc. Whatever the kiddo wants to do is fine, as long as they are moving vigorously.
  • Purse your lips as though you were blowing bubbles and take a big, deep breath, blowing the air forcefully out of the mouth on the exhale. Repeat 2 more times.
  • Make a “frown-y face” by scrunching up your face and holding there for 5 seconds.
  • Now open your mouth as wide as you can and stick out your tongue, feeling your mouth and cheeks tense. Hold for about 5 seconds, and release.
  • Now shrug your shoulders up to your ears and hold for 5 seconds before dropping your shoulders and relaxing.
  • Tightly, but without straining, clench your fists and hold for about 5 seconds, then release.
  • Tense your upper back by pulling your shoulders back trying to make your shoulder blades touch. Hold for about 5 seconds, and release.
  • Now tighten the muscles in your stomach by pretending that you are about to get punched in the gut. Hold for about 5 seconds, and release.
  • Tighten your thighs by pressing your knees together, as if you were holding a penny between them. Hold for about 5 seconds and release.
  • Now flex your feet, pulling your toes towards you and feeling the tension in your calves. Hold for about 5 seconds, and relax, feel the weight of your legs sinking down. Repeat but point your toes this time instead of flexing.
  • Curl your toes under. Hold for about 5 seconds, release.
  • Finally, wrap your arms around yourself and give yourself a big squeeze. Hold for 5, release, and then do a big shake! Finish up by taking 2 or 3 deep breaths and blowing out forcefully. You and your kiddo should both feel more relaxed and maybe even a little tired. Repeat as often as you like, whenever you want 🙂

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