The 5 W’s of Calm Down Corners
Any child can benefit from a safe place to calm down or reset, but especially children who have a difficult time regulating emotions, calming down when frustrated, or seem to lose control their body when upset. In those cases a calm down area may be helpful.
Calm down corners are safe, quiet spaces containing calming tools. They are meant to be a place where children can relax, recharge or even release their anger/frustration in a safe space. For children with special sensory needs, calm down corners can be helpful in providing or decreasing input depending on a child’s needs. This can be a pop-up tent creating a dark space or filled with with vibrating toys and weighted items for calming tactile input. You and your child can explore calming tools that work for him.
Some suggestions include:
A special stuffed animal
Bean bags, weighted items, vibrating toys
Calming scents such as lavender essential oils
Pillows, blankets, extra mattresses
Lycra swing or hammock
Chewy jewelry and toys for calming oral motor
and proprioceptive sensory input
Visual items such as sensory bottles with glitter, lava lamps or lights on the wall
Bubbles or a bubble machine
Your child can use a calming corner when his body is feeling frustrated, out of control or like he just needs a break.
When you first introduce a cozy corner, you can explore it together. Talk about the items inside and allow your child to add or remove things she likes/dislikes. If your child is able to, talk about a “calm down plan” – a list of things she can do in the calm down corner when she feels upset. When your child is starting to feel disregulated, you can suggest using the cozy corner. Never use it as a punishment or time out area – this will take away from the specialness of it and may cause your child to avoid it all together. It can also be built into the daily routine – use it when your child gets home from school to decompress or right before bed for bedtime stories to get into a quiet headspace to fall asleep.Try to use the calm down corner BEFORE a meltdown. When you first notice your child becoming upset/disregulated, encourage them to use the cozy corner. Set a timer or talk about signs that their body is feeling calm and that they are ready to leave the area. When they feel calm again, suggest a new activity. This area should be reserved for times they need it, not as a free-for-all play space.
You can set a cozy corner up in any space in your home that works! A child’s bedroom, a larger closet, the living room, or under a table are all good options. Ideally, it will be in a quiet place away from visual or physical clutter.
Using a calm down corner can teach your child an appropriate way to self-regulate and self- sooth. As adults, we often have a calm place to go when we feel upset – a drive in the car, a break in the bathroom, taking a walk outside, etc. Calm down corners can teach children the important skills of taking a break to regroup and taking time to think through feelings. This is not necessarily a guaranteed fix. It won't always be successful each and every time your child becomes upset. However, it is another coping skill to add to your child’s strategies to self- regulate and address big feelings.