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How to Calm Down Upset Students

Take a Few Deep Breaths

It’s the beginning of the school year and I’m sure everything is all sunshine and rainbows {or maybe not} in your classroom.

But, it’s inevitable, at some point in the year, there are going to be times in your classroom when your students {and you!} will feel sad, frustrated, and possibly overstimulated.

When our emotions are in high gear it’s hard to focus and complete tasks that we are assigned to do.

Here are four ideas for you to teach your students to help calm themselves down quickly when they are feeling upset so they can get right be the best learner they can be.

Related Reading: Fun SEL Activities for Elementary Students

Breathe, Chill

Have you heard of the book, Breathe, Chill? It’s absolutely amazing! The book is filled with 70 activities for children to do when they are feeling overwhelmed, overstimulated or stressed!

It’s written in kid-friendly text so it makes it easy for students to understand. The book’s focus is on teaching children breathing, relaxation and meditation exercises that will not only help calm them down, but also relieve stress, relax and meditate!

My favorite activities are Feather Breather {which uses colorful feathers to show students how we breathe!} and Centering {a technique that connects the mind and body – giving kids an immediate sense of calm & relaxation!}


This book is well worth the purchase! It’s filled with wonderful strategies that will work throughout the school year!

Hoberman Sphere

I love our Hoberman Sphere {aka “the breathing ball!}

This ball is so fun and can be used in so many ways in your classroom. However, I think the most beneficial use in the classroom for it is to teach an important breathing strategy that can be used to calm down a student that is upset, frustrated or overstimulated.

Show your students how to use the breathing ball appropriately in a quick lesson at the beginning of the year, using the steps below.

1. Have your students sit up straight with both feet on the floor.
2. Tell students to put their hand on their stomach & take a deep breath in through their nose {inhale} while you expand the ball.
3. Students should hold their breath for 1 – 2 seconds…and then let the air from their mouth out slowly {exhale} while you compress the ball.

It’s important to discuss how their stomach gets bigger as they inhale and it gets smaller when they exhale. Practice this exercise several times whole group while you model using the Hoberman Ball. Encourage the students to use the ball anytime they are feeling frustrated, upset or just need a minute to regain their focus.

Then, set the breathing ball in an area that is assessable to all but will not be distracting to the whole group.  Now, you have yourself a quick and easy calming activity for your students to do independently should they feel like they need to take a quick break to be able to regain their focus.

Calming Sensory Bottles

How to Make Calming Bottles

Sensory bottles seem to be the craze in preschool classrooms these days.  I even hear about quite a few kindergarten classrooms using them.  They are pretty cool to look at, right?

However, I have not made them in my classroom only because collecting all of the materials for 20+ students gets costly and let’s be honest…every student would want one.

Well after hanging out on Pinterest a bit (ha!) this summer, I found that there are sensory bottles that can actually be used as a calming tool, which immediately got my attention!

My students can enjoy the fun of a sensory bottle and the benefits of its calming effects! Bonus: it doesn’t break the bank. You can make one or two {or even a whole class set!}  They for sure will be a hit in your classroom and are actually pretty easy to make {directions below}.

Set them in a quiet area where your students can take a timeout to calm down after they are angered or upset.

How to Make Calming Bottles

1. Get a clear, empty plastic bottle.  Clean and remove the label using Goo Gone.
2. Fill the bottle ¾ full with hot water.
3. Add in one 4 oz. bottle of Elmer’s Glitter Glue and a small packet or tube of fine glitter.  I would use a color that is almost identical to the glue or clear or silver.
4. Fill the rest of the bottle with clear gel glue for slower settling glitter.
5. Shake the bottle and see if you are happy with the consistency.  If you are, super glue the lid shut and they are ready for your classroom.  If you want the glitter to move slower add more clear glue.  If you want it to move faster add more water.

Stress Ball

How to Make Stress Balls

I love this idea because these small homemade stress balls can be taken back to your student’s seats.  They are small enough to be used underneath your student’s work area to not distract the other students.

These are great for students that might be feeling a bit anxious about something but not completely upset or overwhelmed yet.

 Follow these easy steps to make a few of these and you are sure to provide a support for your students to learn to calm themselves quickly and effectively.

How to Make Stress Balls

1. Get 3 latex balloons {Don’t skimp on the quality on these, or you will have a big mess to clean up!}
2. Using a funnel, fill one of the balloons up with flour. {You could also use cornstarch or baking soda.}
3. Try to get as much air out of the balloon before tying it into a knot.
4. Cut the excess latex off of the balloon but be careful not to cut too close {or the knot may come undone}.
5. Squeeze the stress ball into the second balloon and cut off the extra latex.
6. Finally, squeeze the stress ball into the third latex balloon.

Calming Kit

I love how Andrea of Always Kindergarten a Calm Down Kit to keep in her classroom. It’s filled with activities and resources for students use when they simply need a break!

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I hope you will find this blog post beneficial in helping to teach your students self-calming techniques.

Because that is what it is all about, we need to show our students it is ok, and quite frankly, part of life to feel angry or upset at times. It is not ok to lose control of ourselves and possible harm ourselves or others when we are feeling this way.

Whether you decide to use one of these strategies or all of them to make a calming center in your classroom these are all great techniques that anyone can use to help quickly calm themselves to regain the focus they need to be successful in any situation.

Do you use other calming techniques in your classroom?


This post contains affiliate links for Amazon.  By purchasing an item on the Amazon site using these links, I will receive a small commission on your purchase.  For more information about my Disclosure Policy, please visit this link.   

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