Relaxation generally refers to anything that reduces activation (e.g., as in anger, agitation, frustration, anxiety, stress). There are relaxation strategies that relax a child’s mind , such as mindfulness, “imagination vacations,” and listening to calming music, and body, such as taking deep breaths, progressive muscle relaxation (described above), drinking a cup of tea, playing with putty, and going for a walk. When our minds are more relaxed, our bodies follow, and when our bodies are more relaxed, our minds follow. Children often benefit from having a relaxation “toolkit” that they can turn to when they need to calm their bodies and minds.
Age range: 1st grade through 5th grade.
Recommended for: This interactive workbook based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques helps children to learn cognitive restructuring and relaxation strategies to manage envy when something is “not fair.” It includes techniques to navigate situations when “someone else has something you think is better than what you have, or does something better than you, or gets more attention than you do.” This book is best for a child who has some insight into their thoughts (i.e., can name their thoughts about specific situations).
Age range: 1st grade through 5th grade.
Recommended for: This excellent interactive workbook empowers children to learn strategies to calm their temper. It reviews cognitive strategies (e.g., “cool thoughts”) and behavioral strategies (e.g., deep breaths, squeezing a pillow), and it touches on problem solving, compromise, flexible thinking, and avoiding “payback” escalation. It’s best for a child who is able to articulate their thoughts to some extent, but if a child isn’t yet able to do this, many of the other chapters on “anger-dousing” strategies will still be applicable and helpful. This workbook is great for a child who is ready to learn some strategies as well as a kid who is ambivalent about managing their anger or who doesn’t yet feel that it’s possible.
Age range: Ideal for 1st through 5th grade, but much of the workbook is applicable to kids a bit younger with some extra parental support.
Recommended for: This interactive workbook is a good fit for any child experiencing sleep challenges. It’s appropriate for kids who resist going to sleep, who are struggling to sleep on their own, who have difficulty falling asleep, and those who wake up frequently during the night. It teaches pre-bed relaxation skills, helps a child develop a good bedtime routine, and addresses fear of the dark, nightmares, and scary thoughts that often arise at bedtime. This workbook uses a metaphor of a child being a sleep magician, and it teaches kids fun slight-of-hand magic tricks in each chapter.
Age range: Mid- to late-elementary schoolers, but much of the book is applicable to kids a bit younger with some extra parental support.
Evidence-Based Practices: Cognitive Restructuring, Exposure, Relaxation
Age range: Preschool through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: This riff off of The Princess and the Pea teaches children relaxation skills to use before bed when they are having trouble feeling sleepy (including stretching, taking deep breaths, and doing a mindfulness exercise of placing worries on stars and watching them twinkle and disappear). It’s a fun, well-written read, and it easily leads into a child practicing the relaxation skills along with the Princess. Adults might benefit from joining in as well!
Age range: Preschool through 4th grade.
Recommended for: This book walks children through a relaxing yoga routine to help them settle their bodies prior to going to sleep. For a child who often has the wiggles or feels uncomfortable when they get in bed at night, this book could be really helpful. The visualizations that accompany the yoga poses (e.g., picturing birds settling in a tree at night) could also help a child to settle their minds before sleep. This book is also available in Spanish and German.

Allie All Along

Written and illustrated by Sarah Lynne Reul
Age range: Preschool through Kindergarten.
Recommended for: This book is a good introduction to anger management strategies for young children. An older brother helps his younger sister to calm down from a tantrum by coaching her through different coping skills. The book doesn’t ask that a child be able to identify their thoughts or feelings or what triggered the anger outburst; rather it non-judgmentally walks a child through a series of concrete skills to use to get back to feeling like themselves (e.g., squeezing a stuffed animal, pretending to blow out candles, counting backwards from 10).
Age range: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Recommended for: Young children who lose their temper when something goes wrong will connect with this book and benefit from the anger-management strategies it teaches. The story normalizes and destigmatizes the feeling of anger, and it teaches several child-friendly skills to safely manage anger. Dinosaur lovers will particularly like this story.
Age range: Preschool through 1st grade.
Evidence-Based Practices: Diaphragmatic Breathing, Mindfulness, Relaxation
Age range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: In child-friendly language, this book provides an explanation of anxiety and how it is often a false alarm, and it teaches children five mindfulness strategies to reconnect with their sense of safety and calm. This is a good fit for children who are often nervous and who have some insight into their thoughts and feelings. The strategies articulated in this book are applicable to older children and adults as well. Grown-ups with anxiety, you might like this book as much as your child (or perhaps more!).