(originally published on ORAEYC website/state newsletter)

Self-Regulation Begins with Dogs, Tense Knots and Calm Socks

Originally posted to ORAEYC, February 19, 2019

|Janai Mestrovich, M.S.

We were all barking like dogs that were upset on all fours in the preK classroom. Then I used the Breathing Sphere to guide 20 preK children to take slow, deep belly button breaths to release the mad dog tension. As we all slowly exhaled and released the tight knots of tension, we were able to become calm dogs. The sounds of tense mad dogs had filled the room with rough, growling, sharp intonations. Muscles were tightened throughout the little bodies in order to project that level of stress.

Children became aware of the difference between tense muscles and calm muscles. Our calm dog sounds were soft and fuzzy, warm and cute. Our bodies moved with fluidity and smiles permeated our space.

It was REAL. It was LOUD. It was TENSE before it calmed down to soft feelings and sounds. Children noticed the difference between tense and calm inside them and around them. 3D learning speaks to children as they experience the lesson with their whole beings. When we let go of the tight knots of tension, all of our internal states changed and we were the nicest calm dogs you can imagine! Sounds softened, bodies relaxed, and the whole room changed.

Empowering SuperKids with awareness and self regulation skills changes their lives. Learning the difference between being tense and calm in their bodies is a key in managing stress levels to relax not only the body, but the mind’s rapid and/or negative thinking and the emotion meter. “Deep breathing counters the effects of stress by slowing the heart rate and loweringblood pressure,” psychologist Judith Tutin, PhD, certified coach in Rose, Ga.

I arrived dressed as a Bumble Bee for this lesson. I buzz around in a tense way bumping into things. As the story goes in my BEEING CALM coloring story and workbook, my sister, Smoothie, teaches me how to be calm and happier so other bees won’t be afraid to be my friend. Funding allowed me to gift each child with a BEEING CALM book.

Children are given knots from jute rope to hold in one hand and a portion of a soft sock to hold in the other hand. In one hand they see and feel the tense knot. We tense body parts to match that feeling. Then we take slow, deep belly button breaths to release and untie those internal tight knots to feel calm and soft like the sock. The lesson is 3D which I always use in order for children to see and feel what is going on inside them. Each child was given a tight knot to hold in one hand and a calm sock in the other. This lesson is real through the 3D visual aids and experiences.

X stickers were placed over the FIRST place tension is felt in the body when upset. When children are not sure where that place is, I suggest they guess. That way they begin paying attention by listening internally to figure it out. Smiley face stickers are used on the body noting where they feel calm after taking deep breaths. Body outline artwork helps to reinforce the body awareness. Tense and Calm Drumming and chewing tense and calm snacks noting jaw tension levels are added reinforcements in addition to a poster for the classroom with body outlines, a knot and sock.

Just as I was ending the lesson…..
“Grandma Boom, can we be tense monkeys and get calm?” Oh, for a teacher there is nothing like enthusiastic students who want to practice a skill! We became tense monkeys, took our deep belly button breaths and were calm silly monkeys. It was more fun than a barrel of monkeys!

This lesson is a free-for-view-video at along with free downloads for reinforcement.

BEEING CALM, coloring story workbook, Janai Mestrovich aka Grandma Boom, Amazon

SUPERKID POWER GUIDEBOOK, Janai Mestrovich aka Grandma Boom, Amazon


Janai Mestrovich