Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a deep relaxation technique that has been shown to effectively control stress and alleviate insomnia. PMR is recommended by therapists to both children and adults for stress relief and improved sleep.
Progressive muscle relaxation is beneficial not only for sleep but also for anxiety. One study discovered that after just three days of using PMR, burn survivors had lower anxiety and better sleep quality.
PMR is based on the simple practice of tensing one muscle group at a time, then releasing the tension during a relaxation phase. Easy!
How can children benefit from progressive muscle relaxation?
Muscle relaxation can help you and your child relax physically and mentally. PMR can also aid in the reduction or management of stress in both you and your child. Stress management is also beneficial to your emotional and mental health and well-being.
How does PMR facilitate mindfulness?
PMR is a great exercise to help let go of tension and at the same time become more mindful of your body.
Let’s try it out :-)
Mindful Progressive Muscle Relaxation For Children
Purpose: Body awareness, Focus, Calm, Relaxation
Best For: Ages 3+, groups or one-on-one
What you need: Comfortable clothes, ample floor space (or another place to lie down)
Younger children should be accompanied through the activity. Teenagers may prefer to try progressive muscle relaxation on their own, but for beginners, having someone walk you through the process is essential.
This is a great exercise to help your child let go of tension and become more mindful of his body. Tell your child that you will see if you can you feel the difference between when his muscles are tensed and when they’re relaxed.
Here’s a fun script you can use to guide children through progressive muscle relaxation. The instructions are enjoyable and simple to follow, and they are not so long that your child will want to stop halfway through.
See if you can you feel the difference between when your muscles are tensed and when they’re relaxed. You can sit, stand or lie down.
Take three deep breaths.
Now we’ll start tensing and relaxing each part of the body, starting with the toes.
Imagine you are an ape in a tree. Apes hold on to branches with their feet. Clench your toes. Curl them like grabbing a branch with them really hard. One. Two. Relax the toes. Let them go limp.
Notice how nice it feels.
Let’s try your legs. Clench your legs. One. Two. And release.
Notice how nice it feels.
See if you can you feel the difference between when the muscles are tensed and when they’re relaxed.
Next, imagine someone throws a basketball at your stomach. So, make your stomach hard. Tighten your stomach muscles. One. Two. And release.
Now, pretend you are squeezing lemons in your hands. Squeeze really hard. One. Two. And release.
Notice how it feels to relax your hands and arms like this. Good.
Now stretch your arms high up above. Feel the pull in your shoulders. One. Two. If lying down, be careful to lower arms gently. Let your arms drop down. Let your arms dangle at your sides. Like cooked spaghetti noodles. Notice how relaxed they feel.
Head and shoulders
Imagine you are a turtle pulling his head inside his house. Pull your shoulders up to your ears and push your head down. One. Two. And relax.
Notice how good it feels to relax like this.
Now, clench your face. Make a silly face with as many wrinkles as you can. Try to look like a raisin! Scrunch your nose. Clench your jaw. One. Two. And relax.
Take three deep breaths and notice how your body feels now.
Notice if your body feels good and warm.
What else can you feel in your body?
How did it feel to tense up?
How did it feel to let go?
Now that you have visited each muscle of your body, tensed, and let go, are you more relaxed or more tense?
End of script.
Techniques like muscle relaxation are most effective when practiced on a regular basis, even when you are not stressed. This means that feeling relaxed and calm will come naturally and more frequently.
When could you practice progressive muscle relaxation with your kids?
Coping strategies like this are helpful for adults too. In fact practicing them is a great way to take care of yourself while also modelling coping strategies for your kids.
If you liked this mindful relaxation activity, I recommend checking out our new breathing games and stories, which make learning calming breathing fun and easy …
“I think they are awesome. Using the games has helped my son to learn how to breathe and calm down when he is anxious.” -Jenny
With gratitude, Chris Bergstrom
Chief Mindfulness Ninja @ Blissful Kids
Chris Bergstrom is a bestselling mindfulness author, a leader in the field of mindfulness, the founder of BlissfulKids.com, a blog dedicated to children’s mindfulness, and a dad who is thrilled to practice mindfulness with his son. He is a certified mindfulness facilitator and trained to teach mindfulness to students in K-12. He’s also known as “the dad who tried 200+ mindfulness activities” and has taught meditation for more than 15 years.