When the toddler tantrum starts, parents need help. And while there are various tools out there to help kids cope with feeling anxious or overwhelmed, one of the most effective may be sitting in your freezer.
According to Reddit user u/Bigglesmith, the so-called “popsicle trick” has worked to calm their kids’ big feelings. In essence, it involves letting your child eat a popsicle while taking a shower in order to help shift their mood.
“Some time ago, I read a comment about someone’s mother giving them popsicles in the shower to calm them down and reset their mood,” they wrote. “I can’t recall the post or the person, but boy has that tip been a game changer! Now, if I feel my kid is getting too wired or too sensitive or too anything, I suggest we have a popsicle in the shower and it’s like everything in her calms down instantly.”
The parent continued, “Every time we have a popsicle shower and I feel the calm descend, I vow to post something, just in case the original poster sees it and can see what an impact their little anecdote had on my family. Thank you, random stranger, for the most random and effective parenting tip I have received to date! My kid loves it, I love it, everyone ends up happy. Popsicle showers ftw!”
If the tip sounds a little odd, it has expert backing. Dr. Emily King, a licensed child, adolescent and family psychologist based in Raleigh, North Carolina, told Care.com that it works.
“Physically, the sensory input that a child would get from feeling cold in their mouth and warm on their body at the same time likely [urges them] to tune into feeling their body in the present moment,” Dr. King explained.
And don’t forget — it’s a popsicle! So the fun element may also be important.
“Emotionally, being allowed to eat a popsicle in the shower likely feels like such a wacky suggestion from a grown-up that it gets kids’ attention,” Dr. King said. “They get excited and this feeling of excitement distracts their brain from the feeling of overwhelm or upset they were just experiencing.”
Mom Megan Jones told CafeMom the popsicle trick worked with her 2-year-old daughter.
“I was searching ‘help with toddler tantrum’ and found a story about it,” she said. “I know Maddie loves both popsicles and showers and I figured it really couldn’t hurt her to try. So, we gave her a pop, let her get in the shower and it worked. It seems like a gentle way to get her out of a cycle of crying, especially when she wakes up grumpy from a nap.”
But it doesn’t have to be a popsicle. Commenters on the original Reddit thread said it works just as well when they give their child a chilled orange or a cold glass of lemonade in the shower. And it’s not exclusively for kids, either.
“This is like what I do when I have a panic attack,” one person wrote. “I sit in the shower with the hot water running on me and drink ice water. It distracts me from thinking about how the attack makes me feel.”
By engaging multiple senses — i.e., the sensation of the water on their skin, the fruity taste and smell of the popsicle, and the combination of hot and cold — we can feel more present in our body, which can help when we’re feeling sad about the past or anxious about the future. Dr. King explained that being in the “here and now” helps us remember we’re safe and OK. She also suggests trying calming activities like deep breathing and yoga, or getting active on a hike or playing a favorite sport.
“Any activities where kids can feel present in their body will also support mental wellness,” Dr. King added. “Connecting with ourselves in the moment is a helpful strategy when we feel overwhelmed.”