We all need a little bit of self care from time to time. But what counts as self care? And why is it so important for young people?

Self care for children can range from enjoying their favourite hobby to mindfulness techniques and strategies. These everyday, healthy habits can improve wellbeing and give them the tools they need to flourish and grow. 

Read on to learn more about self care for your child and find ideas, strategies and tasks to help them on their way.

What is self care?

Self care is all about learning to look after ourselves. It encompasses both our mental and physical health and can include everyday tasks like brushing our teeth or eating healthy meals. Self care skills can also include activities that make us feel happy and calm, like meditation or sport. 

Types of self care

Self care practices for children can focus on looking after their body and/or their minds.

Caring for their body

Bodily self care could include;

  • Exercise

  • Healthy eating

  • Reinforcing positive body image

  • Personal hygiene

  • Honouring physical boundaries

  • Bodily relaxation activities such as massage and warm baths

Caring for their mind & mental health

Looking after their mental health is just as important. Mindful care habits could include;

  • Meditation

  • Breathing exercises

  • Positive thinking

  • Making time for fun

  • Therapy

Self care for early years: Life skills

For younger children, self care is all about learning the everyday life skills they need to thrive socially, mentally and physically. These skills could include;

  • Dressing themselves

  • Personal hygiene like brushing their teeth

  • Sleep routines

  • Social skills

At this stage of childhood, they will need lots of support and encouragement from you as a parent or guardian. 

Self care for primary school children 

For slightly older children in primary school, self care might involve being more in control of their own daily routine or making time for activities that help them relax and have fun.

Self care for secondary school children

With exams and social pressures, life can get stressful for secondary school children and teenagers. That’s why self care strategies such as body confidence and mental resilience become really important during this stage of growing up. At this age, they should be comfortable managing their own routine and personal hygiene, but they may still need some help coping with stressful situations.

Children playing with a kite in a field

Why is self care important for children?

Self care is essential for child development. It can help to reduce stress, improve wellbeing and help children develop healthy coping strategies as they grow through life. That’s why it’s important for children to understand how to take care of themselves from a young age. 

What problems can occur when children struggle with self care?

Practising self care regularly can help children to grow in confidence and reach their full potential, while neglecting these healthy habits can lead to problems down the line.

Anxiety and depression

Just like adults, if children don’t make time for fun and relaxation, life can become overwhelming. Looking after their mental health is key as they grow into adulthood.

Reliance on adults

If young children struggle to learn basic self care tasks, they may find that they develop a reliance on adults. Learning how to look after themselves will give them a sense of independence and achievement. 

How to teach your child self care

Parents, educators and family members can give children a helping hand when it comes to learning essential self care skills. We’ve put together some ideas on how to effectively teach your child healthy habits. 

Routines and healthy habits

Routines are incredibly important for children, helping them to manage their time and energy for school and beyond. Creating healthy routines as a family is a great introduction to self care. 

For younger children, it could help to create a visual schedule for their daily routine. Include times for waking, eating, learning, playing and going to bed so they have a clear schedule to follow. Stickers and awards charts can be a great trick for encouraging them to brush their teeth or go to bed on time every night!

Modelling and role-play

One of the simplest and most effective ways to teach self care is to be a good role model. By watching you take care of your mind, body and individual needs, children will start to normalise this behaviour. From showing them how to brush their teeth in the mornings, to taking a quiet break together after a busy day – modelling techniques and behaviours is a great way for children to learn. 

This can be easier said than done if you’re under a lot of stress. Try out our coping skills for stressed parents to find practical, healthy ways to deal with whatever life throws at you.

Practice makes perfect

Forming habits takes practice. According to research, it can take up to 66 days to form a habit!

Practising self care tasks like moving your bodies or reading a book every day together as a family can help to embed healthy activities into your everyday lives. Making mistakes is all part of the process of learning and growing together!

Respecting boundaries

Understanding personal and physical boundaries is important for children as they grow and interact with others at school and socially. Letting them know that it’s OK to say ‘no’ sometimes and teaching them the value of personal space is a key part of their self care journey. 

Respecting boundaries goes both ways, if they don’t feel like hugging one day, try not to take it personally!

The importance of kindness

Showing kindness to themselves and others can help children to feel happy, calm and secure in their minds and bodies. 

Instilling the importance of kindness in your own family life and encouraging simple acts of kindness (like making a card for a friend or asking someone to play) can help your child to feel good about themselves. 

Little girl planting in a garden

Health and self care activities for children

Looking for ways to practice self care with your family? We’re all different and have varying ideas about what is fun, relaxing or engaging. That’s why it’s helpful to try lots of different activities to ignite your child’s spark.

Get started with these self care activities for children…

Making healthy food together

Making delicious and nutritious meals together as a family can be a great way to unwind, have fun and spend some quality time. 

Whether it’s creating a healthy breakfast on the weekend or baking some sweet treats for a special occasion – giving your child the skills to follow recipes and cook basic foods can provide an outlet for creativity or for relieving stress. 

Get moving with exercise, sports, yoga or dance

We all know that moving our bodies can make us feel better and is great for our physical and mental health. The trick is finding something that they really enjoy. Perhaps it’s a long walk with family, dance class with their school friends, or yoga stretches in their room – daily exercise can work wonders and is an essential component of self care.

Yoga in particular is known for relieving stress, improving a sense of balance and wellbeing and helping people of all ages to feel calm and revived. 

Get outside into nature

Nature can be a wonderful healer. From forest bathing to a quick run around your local park – just a few minutes outdoors can help to boost their mood. 

The great outdoors can be great for learning – try spotting different plants or animals on your adventure and look them up when you get home!

Or, you could bring the outside in with potted plants which have been shown to promote wellbeing. Taking care of a living plant can help teach your child vital self care skills about nurturing and growing. 

Sleep and rest

Good quality sleep is hugely important for your child’s health and wellbeing. Getting an adequate night’s sleep can improve their concentration, energy levels and frame of mind. 

Help them on their way to better sleep with a bedtime routine and some winding-down time after dinner. Banish screens and settle down with a gentle game or good book. 

Massage and breathing exercises for children

If your child is feeling overwhelmed with school or social pressures, massage can be a great tool for promoting relaxation. Why not try practising on each other as a family using handy children’s massage YouTube videos? We love this one from Mind.

Quiet time

Every child needs some alone time now and again. Learning how to balance learning and play with rest is an important life skill.

Some children find constant social activity overwhelming. Helping them designate a place in the house or a time of day to rest and relax is a great habit they can take with them into the future.

Quiet activities could include reading a book or practising some meditation exercises.

Make time for play

Whether it’s board games, computer gaming or crafts – whatever your child enjoys, make sure they carve out some time for hobbies and play.

Making time for passions and interests is a vital part of self care, helping children feel happier and engaged.

Problem-solving and puzzles

For some children, problem and puzzle solving is a great way to relax. Simple sudoku puzzles or crosswords are a great way of getting stuck in. Coding also provides another fantastic outlet for problem-solving.

Switch off with TV, Film, Music and Podcasts

While it’s great to engage in active hobbies, sometimes we just need to switch off for an hour or two. This is where TV, film, music or podcasts can play a role in your child’s self care toolbox. 

Take a screen break

Too much screen time can make us feel sluggish and disconnected so taking regular breaks is essential. Teaching them to regulate their own use of technology at a young age will help them as they become teenagers and adults in a digital world. 

Get creative with art, writing or drama

Creativity is a wonderful outlet for frustration or sadness. From painting to short story writing, creative hobbies can help children to process their emotions in positive ways. For example, drama club is a great way for children to grow in confidence or writing a poem can help them deal with something that went wrong at school. 

Laughter is the best medicine

Humour can do a world of good if your child is feeling down. Watching a comedy or funny animal YouTube clips together can help kick-start that laughter and get the endorphins flowing. Making time to be silly is important!

Knowing how to laugh at themselves or situations when things don’t go to plan can also be a helpful way of dealing with tricky situations.

Caring for others 

Doing nice things for others can improve children’s sense of wellbeing and community. Perhaps it’s doing a good deed for a neighbour or getting involved with a local volunteering group – charitable acts for others can be a form of self care. 

Spending time with friends and family

At school, at an activity club or in the Explore classroom, spending time with their friends can help children relieve tension and have a good time. 

Dedicating one day a week for some family time can also help to improve mood and wellbeing for the whole family. 

Keeping a diary

If your child is feeling anxious, writing down their worries before bed could help to put their mind at ease. Whether it’s a daily diary or gratitude journal, putting thoughts down onto paper can have a cathartic effect. 

Try this: Write down three good things that happened this week on a Sunday before school


There’s nothing quite like a warm bubble bath after a difficult day. You could even make an afternoon of it and create a home spa with relaxing music, manicures and homemade hair masks.

Little girl relaxing listening to music in bed

Self care ideas and strategies for better wellbeing

Self care is a proven method to relieve stress and rejuvenate our overall health. Here are a few self care strategies you and your family can try at home;

Auto Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR)

Watching or listening to ASMR is a great self care strategy to incorporate into your daily life if certain sounds relax you, send tingles down your spine, or calm you so much that they just about put you to sleep. When we pay attention to what we smell, touch, hear or see and whenever we bring awareness to what we are experiencing with our senses, we are being mindful.

Relaxation-inducing sounds and motions (known as triggers) to unlock your child’s ASMR, may include;

  • Gentle whispering

  • Falling rain

  • Tapping

  • Scratching

  • Crinkling paper

  • Page-turning

Calm down with a mindfulness jar

The calming jar or box is a proven mindfulness tool for calming down and relaxing and a fun craft project to do with your child. It also offers a practical way to meditate with a child who doesn’t want to sit still. The idea is that your child can learn to use the jar on their own when they’re experiencing difficult emotions.

The calming box helps children to learn focusing skills and regulate emotions through the senses.


  1. Pour glue and hot water into the jar and mix with a whisk. The glue gives the liquid a different thickness and makes impressive swirls of glitter.

  2. Add some glitter. You can start with 1-2 tablespoons of glitter.

  3. Add a drop or two of food colouring to give it more excitement.

  4. When everything is blended, put the lid on and give it a good shake so the glitter is dispersed throughout.

  5. Then let it cool without the lid.

  6. You can secure the lid with super glue.

How it works;

  • Shake the jar and tell your child that sometimes our minds are full of thoughts – sad, happy, angry etc, swirling around like the glitter in the jar.

  • Explain that it’s okay to have strong feelings but that we can calm those thoughts and our bodies as well.

  • One way to do this is to let your thoughts settle like the glitter in the jar. When our minds are calm it’s easier to work out problems and to talk about whatever it is that is causing us to be upset.

  • Shake the jar until the glitter is spinning wildly. Then set it on a table or the floor and calmly watch it with your child until the glitter, and your minds, are all settled down.

Self-talk and positive thinking

Self-talk is an essential tool in social-emotional learning for people of all ages and it has been shown to increase positivity. Teaching children the power of positive self-talk is a great way to build resilience for any of life’s challenges and can help in building confidence. When using positive self-talk, we are training the brain, through repetition, to frame situations in terms of existing strengths and advantages and opportunities for improvement.

When using positive self-talk, we encourage children to flip a negative thought and explain that whilst it is okay to have a negative thought and to have negative things happen, we can move forward in a way that is positive and productive. To do this, it is helpful to teach children positive-self talk statements or positive affirmations. These could include statements like “I can do this!” or “I believe in myself!”.

In order to remember to use positive-self talk regularly, it can be helpful to have a visual reminder of some sort. This can be in the form of a growth mindset poster over a workspace in the house or more subtly, in the form of small cards that can be put in a child’s pocket, lunch box, or in their desk.

Relaxation techniques and meditation

The following mind-body techniques are great for managing stress and regulating emotions;

  • Deep breathing can slow down the effects of stress response in the body. It helps to slow down the heart rate, reduces high blood pressure, and improves respiratory health.

  • Progressive muscle relaxation techniques can help your child to calm down. This is a method of tensing and relaxing the muscles from head to toe.

  • Visual guided imagery or visualisation helps to reduce worries and calm the mind.

  • Listening to soothing music can reduce stress, increase the quality of sleep, reduce pain, and promote brain development.

  • Meditation is great for attention and awareness and teaches us not to react to negative thoughts and feelings. Practising meditation can help clear away the mind’s ‘chatter’. 

Talking about emotions

Talking openly and honestly about how you feel is important for anyone of any age. Identifying and explaining the emotions you are feeling can be therapy in itself. 

Simply talking about our problems and sharing our negative emotions with someone we trust can be healing. It can reduce stress, strengthen our immune system, and reduce physical and emotional distress. Remember, a problem shared is a problem halved! 

Staying in the moment

The best way to stay in the moment is to overcome worrying – calming our minds and focusing on solutions instead of problems will help us to think more clearly and realistically. Take time to watch the birds together or really enjoy a biscuit to avoid wandering negative thoughts and focus on the present.

Best self care apps

There are now many self care apps available to help improve your child’s general health and well-being. Here are our favourite apps for children of all ages;

  1. Headspace for kids

  2. Push2Play

  3. Plant Nanny

  4. JoyPop

  5. Mindful Powers

  6. Calm

How to help your child stay calm when they’re anxious or angry

It’s important to use techniques to help children regulate their emotions and avoid explosive behaviour.

Here are five steps to help your child calm down from a strong emotion;

  1. Notice and identify the emotion.

  2. Name and connect the emotion.

  3. Validate your child’s feelings.

  4. Support your child while they calm down with a series of deep breaths.

  5. Address the issue.

Seeking professional support

If you’re finding it hard to cope with the behaviour of your child, ask a GP to refer you to a specialist. Instead of hoping that it will go away on its own, don’t be ashamed to ask for professional help if you feel out of your depth. Seeking professional help for your child when needed improves the well-being of your child and your family. 

Child stretching at their computer with breakfast

Self care during exams

Revising for and sitting exams such as KS1 & KS2 SATs or the 11 Plus exams, are one of the most stressful times in a child’s life. Here are some important self care tips your child can try to reduce stress and anxiety during exams;

Hydration and nutrition is key

It sounds obvious, but make sure your child is drinking enough water and eating regular healthy meals to maintain optimal brain functions. They will work more effectively if they use meal times as a way to get away from study space.

Maintain a strict bedtime routine

Exam season is extremely tiring on both your mind and body. It is so important for your child to have at least eight hours of sleep every night to rest their body and help to improve concentration levels. 

Set regular study breaks

Another simple way for your child to relax their mind and switch off from revision is to take breaks throughout the day. Encourage them to do some exercise, too, in the form of a daily walk or jog. This will help them to refresh their minds and keep them feeling both energised and motivated to continue their studies. 

Manage anxiety levels

Make sure your child isn’t suffering in silence. Talk to your child about their exam and revision stress.

Get extra help

If your child is feeling overwhelmed with exam stress or just needs some extra help with revision or exam techniques, our exam tuition courses are designed to build the correct foundations and keep confidence high beyond the exam.

Father and son sitting together talking

Coronavirus and children’s mental health

The current pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have made prioritising mental health and wellbeing even more important. Find ways to talk to your children about coronavirus to see how they’re feeling and put strategies in place to calm any anxieties. 

Sometimes it can help to switch off the news in the evening if it all gets a bit much. 

Developing a love of learning

Your child’s self care journey is all about learning and growing. Encouraging curiosity in all aspects of their life can help them nourish their mind and develop healthy habits.

Support their passion for learning with maths and English tuition. 

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