One of my sweet little ones was having an absolutely horrible day. As hard as she tried to keep it together she just couldn't do it. All of our self-calming strategies weren't working for her and she just couldn't stay in one place. She lashed out, throwing things around the room, attacking books and materials and then would stop and stand back, as though she was horrified by what she'd just done. You could almost see her body shaking with nervous energy and tension.
After watching her lunge toward another child's work in an attempt to rip up paper I realized I had two choices- I could fight the pent-up energy inside her or I could look for ways to let it out- on my terms.
I found a big bag of old crayons stuffed in the back of one of my cabinets.
"Break these" I instructed. "We need small crayons." (Our occupational therapist really had told me that I needed to break all of our crayons into smaller pieces so I wasn't completely pulling this out of thin air).
She looked at me like I was crazy.
"I need you to help me break these" I repeated calmly and handed her the bulging gallon size ziplock bag.
I returned to my reading group and watched her our of the corner of my eye as she sat and broke each one, piece by piece.
When she was done I told her I needed them to be even smaller.
Throughout the day she'd occasionally leave what she was doing and bounce back over to the crayons to break some more. Her brow furrowed and she tightened her muscles as she broke those big kindergarten-size crayons into tiny pieces. So much energy built up inside her tiny body.
Unfortunately because of testing we couldn't go out and let her run around on the playground but we tried to sing and be silly as much as we could in a controlled, safe way to help her get that energy out.
We survived the day and now have a large bucket of small, broken crayons to show for it- just what our fine motor skills require. (She was able to repeat, over and over again that we only break broken crayons if the teacher tells us to). Now I just need to find other acceptable tension-releasing projects that let me control any destruction that could happen in the room. Hmmmm.... maybe we'll do an art project that needs lots of construction paper ripped up into confetti.