It’s a day like any other. You’ve been busy running errands or are in the middle of some kind of social gathering when all of a sudden, your kid loses it. We’re talking about an all-out meltdown, a screaming tantrum—the works. Sound familiar? While parents often think this behavior just comes with the territory of having young kids, there are tools you can use to nip it in the bud. Mom and pediatric OT Courtney English recently took to TikTok to share five sensory regulation activities that can help prevent meltdowns and tantrums, perfect for times your kid is just over it and wants to let you know—loudly.


Regulating sensory routines that we love in our house!! #momsoftiktok #toddlermom #preschoolmom #sensoryprocessing #sensoryactivities #sensoryoverload #pediatricot #pediatricoccupationaltherapy #occupationaltherapy

♬ original sound – Courtney | Pediatric OT

1. Climb & Crash

These activities are great for toddlers and young kids who flail about when overstimulated. As the Boston Ability Center explains, “Crashing provides calming and organizing input and helps children understand where their body is in relation to other things.” The same goes for climbing, which provides a space for kids to experiment with not-so-safe behaviors while familiarizing themselves with their immediate surroundings. English recommends using pillows, a futon or old crib mattress, or a sleeping bag stuffed with pillows to create a “crash zone.”

2. Heavy Work Helper

Little tasks do more than distract kids experiencing sensory overload. Instead, English suggests giving kids “heavy work,” so jobs like switching laundry, unloading utensils from the dishwasher, and watering plants with a spray bottle, all of which help to activate the proprioceptive system. This is key for sidestepping an emotional meltdown. As stated in the OT Toolbox, “By working with the proprioceptive system, you can even out disturbances in other sensory systems. You can increase energy levels if you need to, and you can reduce high energy levels to help children reach a calm, comfortable space to interact with the world.”

3. Bubble Mountain

When you give kids an activity that helps with breath work and regulating oral input to the nervous system, it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which tells our bodies we are safe and that there’s no need for “fight, flight, or freeze” feelings that often come with a meltdown. Blowing bubbles into a bowl or sink allows kids to breathe and focus on something else instead of an impending meltdown. English recommends trying this tool at bedtime if you’ve got a kid sensitive to teeth brushing.

4. Purposeful & Functional Play

Not only does this give kids a chance to have free time, but according to English, it stimulates the vestibular system (which guides eye movements, posture, and equilibrium) and increases focus and attention.

4. Balance Board

No one likes predictability more than a toddler or preschooler who feels like they have no idea what’s coming next or are unsure of their environment. Using a balance board allows them to focus on consistent movement, which focuses their attention on the task at hand.

5. Yoga

When all else fails, hit a downward dog pose and encourage a toddler on the verge of meltdown to join. (We can’t promise how this will go.) Yoga is a grounding and calming activity for everyone, not just kids, and seeing you upside down could lead them to forget about their impending tantrum because it does look a little silly. Here are a few easy poses you can do with your child.

If you’re looking for other sensory regulation activities, English has sensory activities for bedtime, and here’s a great round-up of sensory play ideas just for little kids.

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