This section is for both, teachers and parents. All too often, we find ourselves faced with children who we are trying to teach or help but they either lose their focus or get upset. As a teacher and a parent, I have come to realize that if we give in to this and loose our cool, we can actually make this worse and cause the issue to escalate. What was then a small problem, can turn into a BIG one.
What can we do to rectify this matter? Scream? Yell? Pull our hair out and eventually go bald? Probably not! This causes us all to feel out of sorts…. the children and us.
Should we send them to time out? It’s not just parents that do this, but teachers too. Yes! I was in a class where the children received time out by sitting on a stool by the sink. Oh My Goodness! Why? What does this do for them besides creating a sense of boredom or getting them out of the work that they were tasked with in the first place. This may actually cause them to continue this behavior. We definitely need a better solution.
Along with some of my other colleagues, I created a calming area in my classroom. It works wonders in my room. When I feel a child needs some “me” time, I don’t send them to it, but I quietly ASK them if they would like to spend some time there. I also invite children to ask me when they feel they need some time to gather their thoughts. I set a time limit on it and check in with them when their time is up to see where they are at with their thoughts and how we can gradually integrate them back into the lesson.
Before I introduce our calming area, I let them know that it’s not about punishing them but about helping them calm down when they feel jittery or anxious. It can also be used for those who need to step away from a task or situation to center them. We then talk about and I demonstrate how to use each of the items in this area so that we are all respectful of each other and our space.
This can be implemented at home as well. Even though my child id still young, I already have items for him to tone down his energy before nap time or a meal. This will eventually be transferred into his calming area.
I know a lot of teachers and parents go a bit over the top with creating this space with bright colors and lots of items but honestly, you don’t need it and can easily create one on a budget. In fact, I am asking you not to go over the top with it because I find that the bright colors and vivid imagery actually detracts from what you are trying to accomplish and causes them to want to play with the items instead of teaching them to center themselves.
So let’s dig in. What can you use in your calming area?
Here we go with my 7 MUST HAVES:
Stuffed Animal: This is great because when children hug them, they feel better. It’s almost as though they are giving and receiving a comforting hug from a person they know. I find that a lot of children also like taking to their stuffed animals as a way of either venting or working through an issue because it looks comforting and does not interrupt or judge the child- they feel safe confiding in it. The fluffier the better BUT, you need to be aware of allergies in regards to fur. If money is an issue, see what you have at home or head to a dollar store if you can.
Stress Ball: I would put a couple of them in my area and keep some spare on hand (in case they go missing as they are small). This helps release tension and worry when the child squishes them. Some children like to bounce them, so it’s a good idea to remind them about who high and when it is acceptable.
An Hour Glass: This may seem a bit odd but I love it because it keeps track of how long a child can stay in the calming area and when they focus on the movement of the sand, it gives them a place to focus their energy. Personally, I love using colored sand for this one.
Coloured Water Jar: My son LOVES this. It’s so much of fun to shake and watch the flow of the water. Just take some warm water and fill it about half way (less for young children and use a smaller bottle for them), put in a drop or two of their favorite food colouring, close the bottle well and shake it to mix it. If you want to add some more fun to this bottle, add a little bit of liquid soap to it and then shake the bottle after you put the lid back on it. The bubbles are even more interesting to watch when a child shakes the bottle. You can also take this a step further and create a bottle with sparkles but this requires a few more steps and is not essential if you add the dish soap to your coloured water.
Pillows: You don’t need fancy pillows. In fact, I suggest you get one with just one colour so that you child is not distracted by the assortment of colours. This gives them a place to rest their heads but you need to remind them that it’s not nap time. They can rest their head as they watch the hour glass timer . Be sure to check in with them as well. I also find that children enjoy sitting on it when they integrate step #7.
Weighted Blanket: This is especially helpful for children with high energy as it feels like a they are being hugged and the weight keeps them from bouncing a like little bouncy balls. If you don’t have one of these at home, they can be a bit pricy, so don’t worry, I’ve got you…. Grab a heavier blanket or two blankets and use that as a weighted one.
Books: There are so many children who love reading as it is a way to focus on something other than whatever is bothering them. I highly suggest a book that focuses on feelings or social and emotional learning, like “Making A New Friend.” This way, your child can clam down and learn a new topic or way of coping with an issue that is bothering them at the same time. I would include only a couple of books so as not to overwhelm your children with too many choices. You can switch them out over time. You can also get books from the library if you want to circulate the books in this area.
Now this may seem like quite a bit to remember. You also may be wondering about the ambiance of this space and if there’s a guide for your children. Not to worry! I’ve thought about that and have created a free guide for you with a shopping list for you along with the pictures in this post, and additional items you may need.
Please note that this guide is for Preschool, kindergarten, primary and intermediate students. It is not meant for secondary school students, nor is it meant for children who are working through aggression. I will create a separate post and guide for you.
In my next post, we will go into more detail about how to additional ways we can help our children to calm down. Items we can use and what we can do after they are in a calmer state of mind.
While this is a part of a larger paid product in my store (see below), it is FREE guide for you for because if you made it this far into the post, it means you are serious about creating a calming centre. I am so proud of you and would love to see pictures and hear about your own creations.
If you’ve already purchased the product, please note that they last page in this freebie is not included in the paid product, but it is an excellent reflective tool to help you get started.