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10 Calming Activities for Kids to Try After Lunch or Recess

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Photo of Holly (Teach Starter)
Updated | 5 min read

How do you settle a class after lunch? Sure, lunch and recess are important parts of the school day, but if your class comes back into the classroom jumping around like they’ve got ants in their pants after either, well, let’s just say welcome to the club (we hide our snacks in the bottom left drawer of our desks)! The much-needed breaks in the school day for both you and your students typically mean you’ll have to regain classroom control and calm that hyper class. The best way to do that? Bring out the calming activities for kids!

Calming Activities for Kids

Although this is a big transition period in the school day, you don’t need to spend a lot of your precious instructional time on settling your class after lunch or recess. Our team of teachers has put together some simple calming strategies that can work wonders with your elementary schoolers after lunch.

Play Calm Music for Kids

First up? The research is solid on playing calm music for kids when they return to the classroom, reducing students’ blood pressure and muscle tension, slowing their heart rates, and even increasing their attention spans.

We love this Spotify playlist with calming music that’s child- and classroom-appropriate. With songs from the live-action Beauty and the Beast movie, Alicia Keys, Jack Johnson, and more, the music isn’t kid-specific, but that makes it more pleasant for you, and with more than 100 songs, you can pop around to find your students’ favorites.

Try Yoga for Kids

Yoga helps children slow down and focus, and it can be the perfect calming activity to try with your class of energetic kids to bring them back down to a level of energy that’s just right for learning.

Not sure of the yoga moves? That’s ok! Check out these adorable Yoga Poses for Kids posters for 16 different moves that you can do with your class during a transition.

Yoga moves for kids


Work on Handwriting

Who would have thought handwriting could be a way to calm children after lunchtime? Believe it or not, there’s research to back this one up!

Handwriting is a slow, repetitive task that requires concentration and helps students slowly adjust back to the quiet energy of the classroom. This might not work as a calming activity for every kid in your class, it’s about finding ways that work for your group of students.

Choose from a variety of handwriting sheets to get your students started, whether they’re just learning letter formation or practicing their cursive to earn their pen license!

Image of Just Joking! Cursive Joke Book Practice Worksheets

teaching resource

Just Joking! Cursive Joke Book Practice Worksheets

Trace 10 cringe-worthy jokes in cursive font and rewrite each joke independently in cursive on the lines.

Teach Starter Publishing10 pagesGrades: 2 - 4
Image of Writing the Alphabet - Handwriting Worksheet

teaching resource

Writing the Alphabet - Handwriting Worksheet

Practice penmanship by tracing and writing uppercase and lowercase letters.

Teach Starter Publishing2 pagesGrades: PK - 1
Image of Growth Mindset Worksheets (Grades K-1)

teaching resource

Growth Mindset Worksheets (Grades K-1)

Print these growth mindset worksheets for kindergarten and first grade to learn about I Can and I Can't while practicing handwriting.

Teach Starter Publishing4 pagesGrades: K - 1

Coloring

There’s a reason they make coloring books for adults these days: It’s a great activity to calm the body down. When children have been in a loud cafeteria with their friends, talking and laughing and engaging all of their social skills, it is nice for them to come in and focus on something just for themselves.

Coloring is a low-stress activity that allows students to focus, calm down, and release their creative potential. Best of all, it’s not competitive!whole class coloring activity

Choose from a variety of coloring sheets that you can download and print now!

Image of Pangolin Mindful Coloring Sheet

teaching resource

Pangolin Mindful Coloring Sheet

A pangolin mindful coloring sheet.

Teach Starter Publishing1 pageGrades: 1 - 6
Image of End of the Year Mindfulness Coloring

teaching resource

End of the Year Mindfulness Coloring

Celebrate the end of the school year with a mindfulness coloring page.

Teach Starter Publishing1 pageGrades: 2 - 6
Image of Mindful Coloring Sheet - Tree

teaching resource

Mindful Coloring Sheet - Tree

A tree mindful coloring sheet.

Teach Starter Publishing1 pageGrades: 2 - 6

Focus on Breathing

Breathing exercises are another powerful calming activity for kids that can empower them to self-regulate their emotions. Encouraging children to sit quietly and focus on their breathing is a quick-and-easy strategy to calm your students after lunch, and you can print out task cards that will lead students in some simple mindful breathing exercises.

You can also try this fantastic mindful breathing activity video, available on the Teach Starter YouTube channel:


Dim the Lights

Turning down those bright fluorescent lights is another great trick to help calm your students! This is a nice way to set a calm ambiance and help the students get ready for the afternoon learning session.


Provide Sensory Objects

Sensory tactile objects or fidget toys provide something for children to hold and touch while they refocus and gain control over their emotions. Keep a “calm down tool kit” in your classroom filled with a range of sensory tactile objects and allow your students to grab whatever they need as they file back in after lunch or recess.

Recycle some plastic bottles, and pop in some water with other items that will sink and float such as marbles or environmentally friendly glitter to make your own sensory bottles.

Sensory water bottles for the classroom.


Hold a Classroom Debrief

Sometimes, children need to talk! They need to tell you that they had a leftover birthday cake in their lunchbox today, or that a classmate yelled in their ear. Perhaps they found a lost shoe at lunchtime that they want to tell you about…

Setting 10 minutes after lunchtime to sit around in a circle can make a real difference in helping kids transition back into classroom-mode.

Young boy with hand up in classroom

Shutterstock.com / Anna Nahabed

One of the members of our teacher team kept a toy turtle in her classroom to help with this (Turtle the Talker). After lunch, the kids would sit in a circle and pass Turtle the Talker around the room. Those children who wanted to talk or tell a story would hold on to Turtle the Talker until they were ready to pass it on to another child.

Print a calming strategies poster for your classroom


Read a Book Out Loud

Do you read books aloud in the classroom as part of your lessons? Schedule those read-alouds for right after lunch as a calming activity for your kids.

Let your students relax and listen to a story, and encourage them to visualize what is happening in the story. Allow them time to unwind and focus on something different. It’s amazing how just one story can assist students to calm down!

See more strategies for engaging students in read alouds


Aquarium Watching

If you have a smartboard, consider adding something calming for students to view such as a stunning aquarium visual with beautiful, relaxing music. This is a beautiful option:

Encourage your students to sit at their desks and listen to the music.

Looking for more mindful activities to help your class calm down after lunch or recess?

Explore our favorite teacher-created mindfulness activities.

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