There are many names for them: Calm Down Corner, Relaxation Station, Mindful Me …
These spaces are areas for our children to have a personal space dedicated to their coping. It is a way to help them learn how to self-soothe, manage big emotions, and develop tools for calming down. This space has been key for helping me transition my child with big emotions, from needing me each step of the way to working through some of these feelings on her own and with some agency in what that looks like.
I see a lot of recommendations for creating a dedicated space or corner in your living areas that is small, private, and comfortable. However, we decided to create a box instead so that the calm down can happen anywhere and go with us if needed. I was not very creative when I named ours the Calm Down Box. It is just a box and helps my kids calm down, so … creativity was not my strong suit that day.
Our Calm Down Box is filled with a lot of fun little goodies that my daughter and I chose together. We spent one afternoon with Uncle Jesse making glitter bottles that my kids can shake or simply turn upside down to watch the glitter fall peacefully. https://www.teachinglittles.com/how-to-make-simple-diy-glitter-sensory-bottles/ She chose a stuffed animal that is small enough to put in the box but still big enough to snuggle. Bubble wrap, stress balls, coloring pages and crayons, books, a toy fan, and one of those cards that grandma got that sings a song when you open it round out the box for her. We chose things that are particularly calming for her, and I have noticed she generally goes to the same couple of things every time anyway.
At school, there were stuffed animals, pillows, blankets, a mirror, and most importantly, privacy in my daughter’s Calm Corner. Whenever a student has a big emotion, the Calm Corner is available for them to escape and regroup. My daughter has told me stories that end in her choosing to go to the Calm Corner because, honestly, the teacher has done a great job normalizing needing a minute to relax. Her teacher explained that it is also a good place to build relationships as she checks in with her students to process their emotions later.
Knowing what to put in this space is all about knowing your child. Some trial and error are okay too! Your child might need movement in which a soccer ball to take outside might be helpful or keeping the area on a play mat. Your child might need some fine motor activities, so you might consider fidget toys or a small container of play-doh (if you are so brave!). Light or noise might be too much for your child so consider headphones, sunglasses, or a blanket to wrap up in tight. Some more advanced children might appreciate a set of cards with pictures of options they can choose.
This is all fun and done once the space is made, but how do we put it into action?
By making taking a break okay, normal, and expected. That means you, too! Model taking deep breaths when needed, stepping outside, or getting up to stretch. Because it really is true for all of us – we need to be intentional about our needs when emotions are high. Yes, that means during homework time when you don’t understand your child’s math. Or when your little one won’t go anywhere unless you carry her. Or, let’s be honest, when your partner doesn’t remember what you reminded them of a million times.
Have your child participate in creating the space/box. The more invested they are in what is involved, the more likely they will be interested in it later. Let them know when they should use it and what it is for when they are calm; provide examples.
This space is most useful when you notice your child starting to escalate or get emotional, not once they are in full meltdown mode. By recognizing warning signs, hopefully this space will help to prevent some of those meltdowns! Also, there are times when your child needs you more than a space. These areas are helpful when your child is over stimulated by their environment and needs to re-regulate.
In the end, you might find that this space is so comforting that your child goes there just to sit back and read books! Or tell his friends! Or find you in it after a long day at work 😊