Progressive Muscle Relaxation for Children
Author: Koeppen, A.S. (1974). Relaxation training for children. Elementary School Guidance and Counseling, 9, 14-21.
Today we're going to practice some special kinds of
exercises called relaxation exercises. These exercises help you
to learn how to relax when you're feeling up-tight and help you
get rid of those butterflies-in-your-stomach kinds of feelings.
They're also kind of neat because you can learn how to do some of
them without anyone really noticing.
In order for you to get the best feelings from these
exercises, there are some rules you must follow. First, you must
do exactly what I say, even if it seems kind of silly. Second,
you must try hard to do what I say. Third, you must pay
attention to your body. Throughout these exercises, pay
attention to how your muscles feel when they are tight and when
they are loose and relaxed. And fourth, you must practice. The
more you practice, the more relaxed you can get. Do you have any
Are you ready to begin? Okay, first, get as comfortable as
you can in your chair. Sit back, get both feet on the floor, and
just let your arms hang loose. That's fine. Now close your eyes
and don't open them until I say to. Remember to follow my
instructions very carefully, try hard, and pay attention to your
body. Here we go.
Hands and Arms
Pretend you have a whole lemon in your left hand. Now
squeeze it hard. Try to squeeze all the juice out. Feel the
tightness in your hand and arm as you squeeze. Now drop the
lemon. Notice how your muscles feel when they are relaxed. Take
another lemon and squeeze. Try to squeeze this one harder than
you did the first one. That's right. Real hard. Now drop the
lemon and relax. See how much better your hand and arm feel when
they are relaxed. Once again, take a lemon in your left hand and
squeeze all the juice out. Don't leave a single drop. Squeeze
hard. Good. Now relax and let the lemon fall from your hand.
(Repeat the process for the right hand and arm.)
Arms and Shoulders
Pretend you are a furry, lazy cat. You want to stretch.
Stretch your arms out in front of you. Raise them up high over
your head. Way back. Feel the pull in your shoulders. Stretch
higher. Now just let your arms drop back to your side. Okay,
kitten, let's stretch again. Stretch your arms out in front of
you. Raise them over your head. Pull them back, way back. Pull
hard. Now let them drop quickly. Good. Notice how your
shoulders feel more relaxed. This time let's have a great big
stretch. Try to touch the ceiling. Stretch your arms way out in
front of you. Raise them way up high over your head. Push them
way, way back. Notice the tension and pull in your arms and
shoulders. Hold tight, now. Great. Let them drop very quickly
and feel how good it is to be relaxed. It feels good and warm
You have a giant jawbreaker bubble gum in your mouth. It's
very hard to chew. Bite down on it. Hard! Let your neck
muscles help you. Now relax. Just let your jaw hang loose.
Notice that how good it feels just to let your jaw drop. Okay,
let's tackle that jawbreaker again now. Bite down. Hard! Try
to squeeze it out between your teeth. That's good. You're
really tearing that gum up. Now relax again. Just let your jaw
drop off your face. It feels good just to let go and not have to
fight that bubble gum. Okay, one more time. We're really going
to tear it up this time. Bite down. Hard as you can. Harder.
Oh, you're really working hard. Good. Now relax. Try to relax
your whole body. You've beaten that bubble gum. Let yourself go
as loose as you can.
Face and Nose
Here comes a pesky old fly. He has landed on your nose.
Try to get him off without using your hands. That's right,
wrinkle up your nose. Make as many wrinkles in your nose as you
can. Scrunch your nose up real hard. Good. You've chased him
away. Now you can relax your nose. Oops, here he comes back
again. Right back in the middle of your nose. Wrinkle up your
nose again. Shoo him off. Wrinkle it up hard. Hold it just as
tight as you can. Okay, he flew away. You can relax your face.
Notice that when you scrunch up your nose your cheeks and your
mouth and your forehead and your eyes all help you, and they get
tight too. So when you relax your nose, your whole body relaxes
too, and that feels good. Oh-oh. This time that old fly has
come back, but this time he's on your forehead. Make lots of
wrinkles. Try to catch him between all those wrinkles. Hold it
tight, now. Okay, you can let go. He's gone for good. Now you
can just relax. Let your face go smooth, no wrinkles anywhere.
Your face feels nice and smooth and relaxed.
Hey! Here comes a cute baby elephant. But he's not watching
where he's going. He doesn't see you lying in the grass, and
he's about to step on your stomach. Don't move. You don't have
time to get out of the way. Just get ready for him. Make your
stomach very hard. Tighten up your stomach muscles real tight.
Hold it. It looks like he is going the other way. You can relax
now. Let your stomach go soft. Let it be as relaxed as you can.
That feels so much better. Oops, he's coming this way again.
Get Ready. Tighten up your stomach. Real hard. If he steps on
you when your stomach is hard, it won't hurt. Make your stomach
into a rock. Okay, he's moving away again. You can relax now.
Kind of settle down, get comfortable, and relax. Notice the
difference between a tight stomach and a relaxed one. That's how
we want to feel---nice and loose and relaxed. You won't believe
this, but this time he's coming your way and no turning around.
He's headed straight for you. Tighten up. Tighten hard. Here
he comes. This is really it. You've got to hold on tight. He's
stepping on you. He's stepped over you. Now he's gone for good.
You can relax completely. You're safe. Everything is okay, and
you can feel nice and relaxed.
This time imagine that you want to squeeze through a narrow
fence and the boards have splinters on them. You'll have to make
yourself very skinny if you're going to make it through. Suck
your stomach in. Try to squeeze it up against your backbone.
Try to be skinny as you can. You've got to be skinny now. Just
relax and feel your stomach being warm and loose. Okay, let's
try to get through that fence now. Squeeze up your stomach.
Make it touch your backbone. Get it real small and tight. Get
it as skinny as you can. Hold tight, now. You've got to squeeze
through. You got through that narrow little fence and no
splinters! You can relax now. Settle back and let your stomach
come back out where it belongs. You can feel really good now.
You've done fine.
Legs and Feet
Now pretend that you are standing barefoot in a big, fat mud
puddle. Squish your toes down deep into the mud. Try to get
your feet down to the bottom of the mud puddle. You'll probably
need your legs to help you push. Push down, spread your toes
apart, feel the mud squish up between your toes. Now step out of
the mud puddle. Relax your feet. Let your toes go loose and feel
how nice that it feels to be relaxed. Back into the mud puddle.
Squish your toes down. Let your leg muscles help push your feet
down. Push your feet. Hard. Try to squeeze that puddle dry.
Okay. Come back out now. Relax your feet, relax your legs,
relax your toes. It feels so good to be relaxed. No tenseness
anywhere. You feel kind of warm and tingly.
Stay as relaxed as you can. Let your whole body go limp and
feel all your muscles relaxed. In a few minutes I will ask you
to open your eyes, and that will be the end of this practice
session. As you go through the day, remember how good it feels
to be relaxed. Sometimes you have to make yourself tighter
before you can be relaxed, just as we did in these exercises.
Practice these exercises everyday to get more and more relaxed.
A good time to practice is at night, after you have gone to bed
and the lights are out and you won't be disturbed. It will help
you get to sleep. Then, when you are really a good relaxer, you
can help yourself relax at school. Just remember the elephant,
or the jaw breaker, or the mud puddle, and you can do our
exercises and nobody will know. Today is a good day, and you are
ready to feel very relaxed. You've worked hard and it feels
good to work hard. Very slowly, now, open your eyes and wiggle
your muscles around a little. Very good. You've done a good
job. You're going to be a super relaxer.
to the Family Clinic