20 Ways to “Reset” When the Kids Are Having a Hard Day

20 Ways to “Reset” When the Kids Are Having a Hard Day

A few days ago (maybe more than a few, I lose track of time easily) I got a great question from Andrea.  She asked, “Sometimes we get in a funk.  We can run a stretch of days with everyone on edge and “bickery”.  It often starts with illness or a stretch of cold rainy days (no outside play), but somehow these sweet children become rather unpleasant to spend the days with….Do you have a secret “reset” button, or advice on how to get “back on track”??

I love this question.  You are SO right Andrea.  There are often days or even just an hour when everyone seems to be a little grouchy.

These are some thing I do when that happens:

1. Deep breath. I call out, “Deep breath!” Then everyone stands up and we all take long, slow breaths while we raise our hands over our heads.  Then we let the air out slowly while we lower our arms.  The whole movement is very slow and purposeful.  We might do that a few times, then go back to our regular day.

2. Jumping jacks.  We all stop what we are doing and do 20 jumping jacks.  This is especially good when they seem to have extra energy and need to use it.  It’s hilarious to see the littler ones trying to coordinate their arms and legs.

3. The color game. If its not raining I take a stack of construction paper (each piece a different color), some tape and some tacks (I used to leave these in a drawer by the front door) and take it all outside.  I tack or tape a whole piece of the paper to trees, the car, a bush, the front door….making sure they are spread out but I can see all of the colors from my chair (that I have set in the middle of it all).  Then I sit in the chair and gather all of the kids around me and I say, “Ready……RED!”  Then they have to find the red paper and run to it.  Once they are all there I call out another color and we keep doing it until they are exhausted.  Sometimes I modify the game by calling a kid’s name with a color.  You can let the older ones go faster with this version.

4. Play stations in the kitchen.  Fill the sink half full with water & utensils, fill a 9×13 pan with rice, another with straws, a plastic bowl with beans.  Set it all on the kitchen counter (table, whatever) and set the timer for 5 minutes.  They play at each station for only 5 minutes then they switch.  You stay in the kitchen with them the whole time giving attention to their made up games.  In 20 minutes it’s over.

5. Emergency toys. I keep toys tucked high up in a closet for just such an occasion.  Pull them out of the closet and set the timer for 30 minutes.  Once the timer goes off….the toys get put away for at least a month.  That’s the only way they will work the next time.

6. Play a game.  We’ll all sit and play something unbelievably dull, like Go Fish or a simple board game.  Sometimes all they need is for you to stop and give them your full attention for 15 minutes.

7. Music.  Music is a-MAZing for this kind of problem.  If I don’t have the time to play games or make pans of rice in the kitchen, I will turn on some fun kid music and we’ll all dance around to one song.  Mommy dances too (and Daddy if he’s home).  One song can reset everyone’s attitude.

8. Tear paper.  Sometimes we all just need to do something wild and completely unexpected.  So I will give each child 3 pieces of construction paper and we’ll stand in a circle and when I say, “GO!” we all start tearing up our paper and throwing it on the floor.  We jump around and scream and laugh and giggle and fall down and throw the paper around for about 5 minutes.  Then I say, “STOP!” and we have to clean it up as quickly and silly as we can.

9. Lie on the grass.  Often, when it’s not too wet, cold, hot….we go outside and lie on the grass.  Everyone takes turns telling what they see in the clouds or, if there’s no cloud, I will ask them a question and we take turns answering.  Sometimes we will do it on the trampoline instead of the grass.

10. Drink something green.  I put green food coloring in either lemonade or water.  I gather everyone in the kitchen and give everyone a glass of “Green Goop” and we all drink it at the same time.  We drink it as fast as we can and be silly.  If it’s been a really rough day, burping is a must.

11. Crawling.  I have everyone put shoes on their hands and crawl around until I say stop.  Then they have to freeze like a statue until I say go.  Sometimes I’ll call out pieces of furniture for them to crawl to.  We’ll do this for about 15 minutes then stop and put the shoes away.

12. Baths.  These are not get-clean baths.  These are play-baths.  15 minutes in the tub with a few toys and no washing hair.  Just time to stop everything and play in the water.

13.  Read a book.  If everyone is tired I will grab a book and read it aloud in an unusual way…with an accent, like a monster, while acting it out, hanging upside down off of the couch….something that makes it different.

14. Hold hands.  Sometimes everyone just needs Mom for a few minutes.  So we’ll hold hands and walk around, outside if possible but inside works too.  I’ll say something like, “Tell me what you liked about today,” and we’ll walk and talk and touch for a few minutes.

15. Quizzes.  I’ll line them up in front of me and zing them with questions.  They have to answer really quickly and if they take too long I say, “Zing!” and they have to fall down and get back up again.  (If you’re not feeling creative, just think of a favorite book or movie and ask them questions about that, “What’s the name of the character that_____,” “Who had the last line in the movie?” “What color was ____ wearing when she was running?”, etc.)  This is especially good for nursing moms that need to sit for a few minutes and the older kids are needing attention.

16. Color their name. I write their name in really big, puffy letters and they get 3 Crayons to color it in.  No sharing, no trading…just 3 colors…GO!

17. Have a snack.  You sit with them and talk for just a few minutes.  Don’t set them down and walk off.  Just sit there for a few minutes and toast your glasses together and say, “To a better day!” and eat a little something.

18. The Whisper Game.  I say, “Let’s plat the Whisper Game!” and set the timer for 5-10 minutes.  That whole time you sit and talk but everyone has to whisper.  Do what you can to make it silly and animated, like lean to their ears or tiptoe around the room while you’re whispering.

19. Animals.  I sit on the couch and and gather them around, with an arm length between them.  Then I call out animals and they have to act like that animal until I change the animal.  I might switch it up by calling out a specific child’s name with an animal.

20. Slow down.  This one is good to do after any of the other activities.  We all move and talk in slow motion.  I will walk around and they follow me and do what I do….all in slow motion.  Then I give them turns being the leader.  This is fun, but it takes the energy back down and you’re ready to go back to normal.

As you can see, the main focus of these activities is to stop what you are doing, stop rushing, stop being frustrated and spend a few minutes together doing something completely different.  It is essential that Mom or Dad participate.  That’s what really pushes the reset button.

Thanks Andrea for the great question!  I hope this helps.

Follow me on Facebook for more great conversation and ideas


  1. Thanks for these reset techniques. I have done lots of these with my kids before, recently I have been frustrated with them fighting, here is a way to deter them from their fighting without time outs and talking back. They will still have to say sorry to each other but here is a start. It is nice to have a reminder that I need to spend time with them and to be silly. I think I’ll print them out cut them up and put them in a jar then when the kids need to reset, I can yell reset, or silly jar, or something, then they can pull a slip out and we can just do one right there doesn’t matter what it is. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. i just love this post! it’s so important for all of us to remember it’s never too late to start over!

    I’ve linked to your post here: http://dollarstoremom.com/2012/05/pinterest-picks-38/

  3. I am greatly interested in this article but I am having trouble reading it with the way your page is set up. The words are stretched out into the blacked out sides making the black font impossible to read. From what I can read and have deciphered, these are fantastic ideas. Thank you!

  4. My husband is the SAHD of our 4 yr old triplets so I’ll be passing this along to him. Great ideas!

  5. Great ideas!! I love how fun they are. I usually say a boring “Let’s start the day over. OK?”. :) Thanks for posting this. I found it via Pinterest.

  6. Thank you for these great ideas. This week has been a rough one with my son (3.5) and I’m at a loss. I am going to try some of these ideas next time we have a bad day :) Thanks again!


  7. Thank you thank you thank you! My son has just finished Kindergarten and since school has been out we have been having “cranky days” I really feel like some of these will help us. It’ll be a great thing to do as soon as we get home from work/daycare/playdate.

  8. I love these ideas. I’m having trouble with the link to the printable. Is it still active?


    • Hi Jenny! If you click the image in the sidebar it takes you to the printable. I just checked it and it worked. I am sorry you had any trouble. Let me know if it still doesn’t work. Thanks! Lisa~

  9. Great post to stumble across, music is very popular in our house when the kids are feeling a little down. We put on the radio or a favourite CD all have a dance and sing, which ends up with lots of laughter and they’re ready to go again!

  10. Thank you for all the wonderful ideas. There is definitely a common theme to them all….one that I think so many parents forget about (including myself sometimes)…all the children really need is some uninterrupted attention. Like you said, even just 10 – 15 minutes is all it takes some days. Thanks for the reminder!! PS Found this post through Pinterest

  11. Love this list! I have started a Therapy Thursday {Link up} on my blog http://www.DivergingLives.com and would love it if you could share with our readers.
    Thanks so much!

  12. What a fantastic post. Thank you so much for the reminder. As a mom of 4 (all ages 5 and under) we need to reset several times each day. These ideas will come in so handy!

  13. What a great list! Just as helpful for grandparents and their grandchildren as for parents. Thank you so much.

  14. I love these ideas. I am going to print them so I can refer to them quickly when needed. It really does take a village to raise children. Thank you.

  15. Great ideas! I love extra ideas, especially in the winter time. I think I’ll tuck some of these away for later. Here is a similar post I wrote, maybe it will provide a new idea for someone else’s next crazy rainy day! Thanks for sharing. http://www.howtorunahomedaycare.com/articles/feeling-low-on-patience-today-four-quick-easy-tips-to-help/

  16. Love these ideas. Sometimes all it takes is just to stop, take a breath, and refocus. Great things to keep in mind.

  17. I love these ideas so much! I think we all need a “reset” every once in a while. This is one of those posts I read a long time ago and have come back over and over again when I need a refresher. I’ve featured this today on my Top 5 Parenting Posts of All Time post. It’s part of a new linky party just for parenting posts. I hope you come by and link up! http://www.dirtandboogers.com/2012/09/top-5-parenting-posts-and-new-party.html

  18. Wonderful ideas. I enjoyed reading them and especially like the one about reading a book in a different voice. That is fun.

  19. Great tips! I have two little ones and we have many days where a re-set is needed! I am printing this off and hanging it up so I can have it handy when I need it!

  20. Thanks for this post! I love that you give so many ways to reconnect with the kids after the inevitable frustration of a rough day. I came into this post thinking ‘How can I make the day get better?’ and left with ideas for jumping past that frustration and into some really fun, memorable moments with the little loves of my life.

  21. Some amazingly simple ideas. Apparently, I have zero imagination. Thank you for sharing yours! (Found this on Pinterest.)

  22. These are all such fabulous ideas! Bookmarking this STAT so many days I need this! Found your through Pinterest ;)

  23. Beautiful, loving activities. Thank you!!!! Mothers are amazing people :)

  24. Thanks for these great ideas! I have just made a Word table to print out with one idea in each box, so I can make a little set of cards to pull out in case of emergency! :-)

  25. Thank-you, thank-you! I will definitely be using some of these!

  26. Love this post! I will be sharing this on my FB page, for sure!

  27. As a homeschooling Mom, I found this post VERY helpful! I love the idea of tearing up construction paper – simple but genius! Thanks so much for this list!

  28. These are fun activities. BUT
    you seem to be constantly saying I, I , I … why not focus on “We” and give your kids a chance to “calls the shots” and be in charge during those mood reset sessions?

    • Angelique, thanks for your comment. Great thought! I do have a post about my kids being creative when they need to refocus. I love when they do that! In this post I’m trying to help moms get a handle on a hard day and be the one giving directions. There’s a time for both.

      Thanks again! Lisa~

  29. Wonderful ideas, thank you!

  30. I like all the ideas and sometime in the middle of 2 out of 3 kids having a bad day I forget about most of them. Thank you for the reminder.

  31. I used most of these suggestion yesterday as my middle child had a really bad day. He finally calmed down after I suggested drawing as pictures as he wanted to tell me what was going on with him.

  32. Thank you for the tips!! I’ll be using at least two today!

  33. An old game we used to play was Church Mice. It works best with kids between 3 and 8 and it really, really gets everyone calm. To play, all the children (the mice) form a line behind the adult, and they have to crawl on their hands and knees like mice. The adult then walks around with the mice following, and has to turn around occasionally. When she(he) does, the mice all have to freeze. Any mouse that is moving has to sit out until the line comes back around to that spot again. Also, any mouse in line can squeak, and if the adult hears a squeak, she has to turn around. And, of course, the mice has to freeze. Depending on the size of the room or yard you are in, it can be over 10 minutes of fun and silly play. We used to play it in Church, hence the name Church Mice. It was our favorite game, and it can be played with a minimum of two mice.

  34. This article is wonderful! So many good ideas!! I’m so happy to have stumbled upon it!! Thank you for sharing!

  35. Really good ideas! (I just found you through StumbleUpon)

    When I was a preschool teacher, I bought some rolls of blank news print. On days that the kids were just acting really antsy, I’d move all the furniture back, rip off 3 or four big sheets of the newsprint, and then let the kids tear away. Afterwards, I’d get a white garbage bag and we’d pick up all the pieces and stuff the bag full. Draw a face on him and we had a new room decoration for the rest of the week!

  36. This was a wonderful post. I really enjoyed all of the suggestions. I see some things we already do, but several I’ve never thought of. Found it via stumbleupon. I think it’s my favorite post that it’s “stumbled” for me. It’s certainly the most applicable!

  37. Pretty great post. I simply stumbled upon your weblog and wished to mention that I’ve really loved browsing your blog posts.
    After all I will be subscribing on your feed and I am hoping you write once more very soon!

  38. Lisa, what can I say, this post was the perfect end to my day. After a winter spent inside with the kids, thank you MR. Polar Vortex, I feel like we are all a bit crankier. I love your voice, I love your ideas. Thank you for writing; you are a gift to the blogging community.

  39. This is such a great post! I love it :)

  40. I love your 20 ways to overcome the grunpies. I will use many of these this summer! My personal favorite is to turn the radio really loud for 60 seconds and everyone has to dance and shake their grumpies out. We have even made a song to sing when we are not somewhere with radios. I get a few odd looks when the three of us start dancing and shaking while singing in the grocery stores. But some days you just have to!

  41. This is a really good list to have on hand. Sometimes everyone’s a little to on edge to think of how to break it up. Stopping breathing and having a fun game or activity on hand is great. Thanks

  42. Kids definitely need to relax often and get back their energy, before starting to play again. We have noticed that proper children clothing is essential in their comfort when playing and relaxing.

  43. Do you have tips for older kids (mine are 12 & 15). My 12 yr old has bad days when the weather changes and is challenged by ADD (which we do not allow him to use as a crutch). Any tips are appreciated!

  44. Wonderful ideas! As a mother with an eight year old daughter with SPD who holds it together all day at school, these are life savers for the evening. I’ll even pass them along to her teacher to use with her and the class. As an elementary school teacher, I’ve noticed more and more kids needing these kinds of breaks, which I’ve started incorporating into our day. You have such great variety of large movement, energizing activities, and quiet calming activities.

  45. Ohhh shall remember these! We need ‘resetting’ several times a day!!! :)

  46. Very useful information.
    Thank you.

  47. Aww, so many of these ideas are great for helping mini people reset ;) I’ll have to try a few!

  48. I love it!! I am a mom to 5 monkeys (hence my blog name) 4 little boys and one adolescent girl – I do a lot of deep breathing…Girls are dramatic and boys are just plain wild!


  1. […] – one more thing I read today: 20 Ways to “Reset” When the Kids are Having a Hard Day .  It should be subtitled, “or When Mom is Almost Pulling Her Hair Out!”  Fun […]

  2. […] 20 ways to “reset” when the kids are having a rough day […]

  3. […] 20 Ways to Reset When the Kids Are Having a Hard Day @ The Pennington Point – Great ideas from this mom of 9. We need these around my house more often than I care to admit! […]

  4. […] 20 Ways to Reset When the Kids Are Having a Hard Day @ The Pennington Point – Great ideas from this mom of 9. We need these around my house more often than I care to admit! […]

  5. […] we don’t claw at each other to pieces, I’m going to take some of this mom’s advice on reseting a bad […]

  6. […] many ways to do this…  This site has many fun ideas to “Reset” the sanity… Check out more ways here…  I LOVED #15 because it got them active and had fun […]

  7. […] 20 Ways To “Reset” When The Kids Are Having A Hard Day- The Pennington Point […]

  8. […] Article: 20 Ways to ‘Reset’ […]

  9. […] was really happy to come across this list from The Pennington Point on Pinterest today. It helped me to remember that I don’t have to wait until the end of a long […]

  10. […] 20 Ways to “Reset” When the Kids Are Having a Hard Day | The Pennington Point What's the best way to store fresh produce? Do you ever buy fresh fruits and vegetables, toss them into the produce drawer and forget about them? Then a few days later you open the drawer only to discover that it's all spoiled? […]

  11. […] for the mind: 20 Ways to “Reset” When the Kids Are Having a Hard Day  :: the pennington […]

  12. […] There are some helpful ideas in here! Though they’ve neglected to include my favorite technique…the LRDP!! (Living Room Dance Party) via The Pennington Point […]

  13. […] a moment of serendipitous recall I remembered an excellent post from The Pennington Point that I read a few weeks ago. It shared twenty ways to reset kids’ bad moods and one of the […]

  14. […] situaciones como esta, te presentamos 20 sencillas acciones que el sitio The Pennington Point recomienda para “resetear a tu hijo”, para hacerle ver que aunque no podemos evitar los […]

  15. […] several pins on Pinterest about resetting with your kids and other day I read this one entitled 20 Ways to ‘Reset’ When the Kids Are Having A Hard Day. Great ideas! Some we’re not quite old enough for but some we definitely are. The one we have […]

  16. […] good post about this very topic at my friend Lisa Pennington’s blog a while back – 20 Ways to “Reset” When the Kids are Having a Hard Day – and I shared with her a little secret about my own methods of resetting our days. […]

  17. […] 20 Ways to “Reset” When the Kids are Having a Hard Day @ The Pennington Point […]

  18. […] This post from Pennington Point shares 20 fun ways to get out a funk by doing a simple activity.  I will definitely refer to this post when looking for a quick distraction!  Having fun together, even after a tantrum or series of frustrations, is a perfect way to connect and refill the love tanks. […]

  19. […] 20 Ways to “Reset” When the Kids Are Having a Hard Day – The Pennington Point. […]

  20. […] absolutely love this post about helping kids to reset when they are having a hard day! Share […]

Speak Your Mind


Comment moderation is enabled. Your comment may take some time to appear.