CHILDREN CAN QUICKLY SHIFT TO A CALMER MOOD when they are given a simple, specific activity that redirects their attention and lowers their energy. The next time you notice children getting carried away, instead of growing frustrated, try some simple, creative drama activities to calm and refocus them. Young children delight in playing "pretend" and, in the process, can shift to a calmer state and regain a sense of peace.

Take a Pretend Walk

How can you go for a walk without taking a step? When you travel in your mind! Through silent perception games, children can learn to quickly and easily soothe their minds and bodies. Ask children to find a comfortable way to sit in your group-time area. Then say, "Without saying a word or taking a step, I want you to look around the room and notice something interesting. While sitting still, pretend to walk over to the object and look at it very closely. Then use your eyes to take a pretend walk around the room, stopping and noticing things along the way." At the end of the silent walk, ask children to share one thing they discovered on their walk.

Be a Rag Doll

Use a loose and relaxed object, such as a rag doll, floppy bear, or puppet, to inspire children's relaxed movements. If possible, allow children to manipulate the objects to see how the arms, legs, and head flop. Put on some slow, quiet music and invite children to move as if they were a stuffed doll, an animal, or a puppet.

Feel a Story-Be a Story

Have you ever felt the calm created by the sound of a quiet voice? There is something about the measured tones of a soft, clear speaking voice that relaxes and soothes. Combine these sounds with beautiful words and images and the effect is transporting. Try changing your group story time into a very different quiet and dramatic experience. Invite children to sit or lie down, close their eyes, and use their imagination to visualize the story as you read. They can also imagine they are one of the characters! Great books to use are I See a Song, by Eric Carle (Scholastic Inc.); Earthdance, by Joanne Ryder (Henry Holt); A Spark in the Dark, by R. Tichnor and J. Smith (Dawn Publications); and Little Fox Goes to the End of the World, by Ann Tompert (Scholastic Inc.).

Transitioning With Creative Dramatics

  • Children often have difficulty moving from one activity to another, even if the trip is just a few feet or yards. Creative dramatics can help give children something organized and interesting to do as they go "from here to there."
  • Invite children to pretend to walk through, across, and over things (through a pool of whipped cream, over a suspension bridge across a valley, across a mountain of pillows).
  • Remind children not to wake up the sleeping giant or the resting boa constrictor!
  • Ask children to imagine they're wearing special make-believe shoes that will help them get from here to there. How would you move if you had on bedroom slippers, ballet shoes, work boots, or skis?