Child-guided play helps alleviate stress

Our world is fast-moving and complex. We face stressors every day, and for many children, feeling stress is a positive and essential experience for development. The key with keeping these experiences beneficial is that they are: (1) short-lived; and (2) buffered by caring relationships.

Children can build resilience is by learning techniques to recognize their emotions and manage their reactions. One way we can help facilitate emotional intelligence and self-regulation is through child-guided playtime! When we give our children the freedom to lead their playtime, without adult control or intervention, they are able to relax, think creatively, and have fun.

Play looks different for many children. Here are some suggestions to get your started:


  • Cuddle break! Skin-to-skin contact is an excellent way to help your baby de-stress.
  • Blowing raspberries on your baby’s tummy will help them relax and offers an opportunity for you to take deep breaths.
  • If your baby enjoys bath time, allow them to have some playtime in water!


  • Playdough is awesome because it encourages children to smash, pound, and manipulate!
  • Finger painting can be a quiet, playful activity that also helps with dexterity.
  • Help your child get their energy out by having a dance party. Let them choose the music and dance with them!


  • Exercise is one of the best stress relieving activities for children. Let your child choose what physical activity interests them, from playing tag to riding bikes!
  • Act out your favorite story together through pretend play.
  • Go on a walk together through your neighborhood and let your child choose where you go.

A Note to Caregivers

Remember to put on your life vest first. In other words, prioritize caring for yourself so you can better support your child. Showing your own emotions to your children, especially the “negative” ones, and then modeling how you calm yourself will help your child better understand how to do the same.

-Taylor, Children's Librarian at Quincie Douglas Library

Read, Write, Talk, Sing, Play!

Play comes so naturally to children and is an essential element to lifelong success. When children play, they are practicing and perfecting early literacy and life skills!

Read more about early literacy and how you can make a difference in your child's life.