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5 Regulation Activities for the Family

Regulation is a trauma informed intervention that helps kiddos mange their behavior and emotions. Practices can involve taking a moment for deep breathing and mindfulness or can be full-body activities, like the ones we mention below.

While many interventions for people struggling with trauma are focused on the cognitive or “thinking” parts of the brain, trauma informed interventions often prioritize emotional and behavioral regulation. Sensory and regulating strategies, such as drumming, singing, dancing, and yoga, have been shown to be effective in addressing the impact of trauma. Here are 5 regulating activities to try with your family!

1. Dance & Freeze

Materials: Just your body and a device to play music

How to play: Turn on some music and watch the family dance for a little while, then turn the music off. When the music turns off, everyone must freeze in their current position. If they move at all, then they are “out.” The people who are still in the game continue to  “Freeze Dance” as you control the music.

2. Cotton Ball & Straws

Materials: Cotton balls and drinking straws

Purpose: Teach families to use slow, controlled breathing by doing a cotton ball and straw race.

How to Play: Use a long table or the floor for this game. Set a Starting Line and a Finish Line (ideally 10 to 15 feet apart) and give each player a drinking straw and a cotton ball. Let them know they must move their cotton ball by blowing through the straw from the Starting Line to the Finish Line.

3. Let’s Move Our Bodies

Materials: Just you!

How to Play:

Show families how to move by acting out different things, such as:

  • Sidestroke: One arm goes up, and at the same time, the other arm goes down.
  • Inchworm: Walk fingers down legs, then onto floor and out in front until in front-support position (hands/feet on floor) then walk feet up to hands, then walk hands back down.
  • Eggbeater: Join hands together then move them around in large circles. Go left and right, back and forth.
  • Helicopter: Hold hands at side, move right leg to right hand and then across body to left hand. Do the same with the left leg and hand.
  • Bear Crawl: Get on all fours, and at the same time, move your right hand and right foot forward. Turn it into a race for the whole family by marking a start and finish line ten feet apart.

4. Homemade Drums

Materials: One empty coffee can with lid and two wooden spoons per participant. If you’re feeling fancy, gather construction paper, glitter, markers, scissors, etc. to make your drum pretty.

How to Play: Let your little musicians play whatever their hearts desire or try a game of Percussion Popcorn by having the kids crunch down like kernels ready to pop, and on each beat, tell them to jump up. Play faster and faster as the popcorn pieces bounce all around.

5. Balloon Volleyball

Materials: Balloons

How to play: Grab a volleyball and arrange family members in a circle. Then, “pass” or “bump” the balloon around without letting it hit the floor. The goal is to keep it in the air for as long as possible.