As a fellow parent, I know first-hand how parenting can sometimes feel like navigating through a storm. It’s in these moments that a “Calm Down Corner” can serve as a beacon of tranquility.
Understanding Calm Down Corners
What is a Calm Down Corner?
A “Calm Down Corner” is a dedicated space in your home that is designed to be a safe and calming place where a child can go to self-regulate and manage their emotions. This space is usually filled with comforting and soothing items, like soft blankets, pillows, stress-relief toys, books, or anything else that may help the child feel more at ease.
The aim of a Calm Down Corner is to provide a positive environment where children can learn to cope with overwhelming feelings such as anger, frustration, anxiety, or sadness. Rather than being a form of punishment or a time-out space, it’s a place of emotional support, promoting mindfulness and emotional self-regulation in children.
When used correctly, a Calm Down Corner can be a powerful tool to help children learn how to independently manage their emotions, develop problem-solving skills, and build emotional intelligence, all of which are crucial skills for their overall development.
The Psychological Basis of a Calm Down Corner
The concept of a Calm Down Corner is grounded in several psychological theories and principles.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): A key principle of CBT is that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interconnected, and changing one can influence the others. A Calm Down Corner provides a space for children to work on changing their emotional responses (feelings) by altering their environment (behavior) and practicing mindfulness or self-soothing techniques (thoughts).
Self-Regulation Theory: Self-regulation involves managing one’s behavior, emotions, and thoughts to pursue long-term goals. A Calm Down Corner encourages children to manage their emotions independently, helping them develop this essential life skill.
Operant Conditioning: This theory by B.F. Skinner suggests that behavior can be changed by consequences. A Calm Down Corner isn’t meant as a punishment (negative consequence), but rather a space where children associate calming down with positive experiences.
Attachment Theory: This theory emphasizes the importance of a secure base for exploration and self-development in children. A Calm Down Corner can provide such a secure base, giving children the confidence to navigate their emotional landscape.
Sensory Integration: Sensory tools often found in a Calm Down Corner are based on the principle of sensory integration. This theory states that organizing and responding to sensory input is crucial for development. By engaging their senses in a calming way, children can learn to regulate their emotional responses.
It’s also worth noting that while Calm Down Corners have a solid psychological basis, they’re not a substitute for professional mental health interventions when needed. They’re tools to be used as part of a broader strategy of emotion-coaching, positive parenting, and teaching self-regulation skills.
Benefits of a Calm Down Corner
1. Fosters Emotional Regulation: A Calm Down Corner provides children with a safe space to express, understand, and manage their emotions, helping them to develop critical self-regulation skills. They learn to associate the corner with calming down, which can reduce the intensity and duration of their emotional outbursts over time.
2. Encourages Independence: The goal of the Calm Down Corner is to help children navigate their emotions independently. By using this space, children learn to take initiative in self-soothing and calming down, fostering their autonomy and resilience.
3. Enhances Emotional Intelligence: By acknowledging their feelings and using tools to self-soothe, children can increase their emotional intelligence. They learn to identify different emotions, understand what triggers them, and effectively manage them—a vital skill for social interactions and relationships.
4. Reduces Stress and Anxiety: The calming atmosphere of a Calm Down Corner can help reduce immediate feelings of stress and anxiety in children. This is particularly beneficial for children with sensory processing difficulties or those who become easily overwhelmed.
5. Promotes Mindfulness: A Calm Down Corner can encourage mindfulness, a state of active, open attention to the present. This can enhance focus, attention, and awareness of their emotional state.
6. Provides a Safe Space: Everyone needs a space to retreat and regroup, and children are no different. A Calm Down Corner provides a secure, non-judgmental space where children feel safe to express their feelings.
7. Cultivates Problem-Solving Skills: Over time, children can learn to identify the specific activities or tools in their Calm Down Corner that most effectively help them relax. This fosters problem-solving skills and self-awareness.
How to Set Up a Calm Down Corner
Setting up a Calm Down Corner doesn’t require a huge budget or space—it just needs a bit of thoughtfulness and creativity.
1. Choosing the Right Space: Firstly, choose an area that is away from the usual noise and commotion of the household. It should be a spot where your child can sit comfortably, preferably with enough space to spread out a bit. Natural light can be calming, but make sure there are options to adjust the light as needed.
2. Make it Cozy: Comfort is key in a Calm Down Corner. Add soft items like cushions, bean bags, or a comfortable chair. A rug can add warmth, especially if your floors are cold. You could add curtains for privacy or to control light. Use soothing colors for the decor – blues, greens, and pastel shades are generally relaxing
3. Tools and Toys: Consider your child’s preferences and needs when choosing items for the space. Some children might benefit from sensory toys like fidget toys, stress balls, or weighted blankets. Others might prefer calming activities like coloring books, puzzles, or quiet games.
4. Guidelines and Understanding: Explain to your child what the space is for. It’s important they know it’s not a punishment area, but rather a place they can choose to go to when they need to calm down. Set some simple rules like using a quiet voice in the corner and tidying up when they leave.
5. Personalize the Space: Finally, make the space welcoming by adding personal touches. This might be their favorite soft toy, family photos, or artworks they’ve made. The space should feel safe and inviting, encouraging your child to use it when they need to.
Suggested Items for a Calm Down Corner
1. Comfortable Seating: This can be a bean bag chair, soft rug, or cushions. The aim is to make the area as inviting and comfortable as possible.
2. Sensory Items: Depending on your child’s preferences, you might want to include items that provide sensory stimulation, such as fidget toys, playdough, or a textured blanket. These can help soothe and focus children.
3. Weighted Blanket: Some children find the pressure of a weighted blanket comforting. It’s like receiving a firm hug and can be particularly helpful for children with sensory processing difficulties.
4. Books: Interactive books can be engaging and distracting for a child who is feeling overwhelmed. Books about emotions can also be a good addition, helping children understand and articulate their feelings.
5. Art Supplies: Coloring books, crayons, paper, and other art supplies can provide a calming outlet for self-expression.
6. Stress Balls or Squeeze Toys: Stress balls can be helpful for children who calm down through physical outlets. It will also help elevate boredom
7. A Hideaway: A teepee tent provides a defined space that can be personalized, creating a comforting environment where children can retreat when they need time to manage emotions or just relax.
8. Breathing and Yoga Cards: Visual aids that guide children through calming breathing exercises or simple yoga games can be very helpful.
10. Music or Sound Machine: Soft music from a sound machine or nature sounds can help to calm the environment further.
11. Comfort Items: Any item that your child finds especially comforting, like a favorite stuffed animal or a family photo, can be included
Tips for Using a Calm Down Corner
1. Guide, Don’t Force: Encourage your child to use the corner when they’re upset, but don’t force them. It should be a choice, not a punishment. Over time, they will begin to recognize when they need to use the space themselves.
2. Model Its Use: Show your child how the corner can be used by demonstrating it yourself. When you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, say so and take a moment in the corner. This not only shows your child how to use the space, but also models healthy emotion-management strategies.
3. Involve Your Child: Let your child have a say in setting up the Calm Down Corner. They’re more likely to use it if they feel it’s their own. They can choose what comfort items they want or pick the color of the cushions, for instance.
4. Practice Calming Techniques: Use the Calm Down Corner to teach and practice calming techniques like deep breathing or mindfulness. Over time, these techniques will become second nature to your child.
5. Keep It Positive: Always use positive language when referring to the Calm Down Corner. It’s a helpful, safe space—not a time-out or punishment.
6. Start Early: The earlier a child starts using a Calm Down Corner, the better. Even toddlers can benefit from a simplified version, with supervision.
7. Be Patient: It may take time for your child to get used to using the corner. Keep encouraging them and be patient. Every child is different and will adapt at their own pace.
8. Revise As Needed: As your child grows and their needs change, the Calm Down Corner should evolve too. Add new items and remove others as necessary.
Final Words From Me
A Calm Down Corner is more than a space—it’s a proactive approach to fostering emotional growth and independence in children. By following these guidelines and tips, you can create an effective Calm Down Corner that suits your child’s unique needs.
Remember, the goal of a Calm Down Corner is to help your child manage their emotions in a safe and constructive way. It’s a tool, not a cure-all, and it should be part of a larger strategy that includes open communication about emotions, consistent routines, and supportive relationships.
Q1: Can I use a Calm Down Corner for toddlers? Yes, with suitable modifications, a Calm Down Corner can be effective for toddlers as well.
Q2: How long should my child stay in the Calm Down Corner? There’s no fixed time. It depends on the child and the situation, but typically, five to fifteen minutes should suffice.
Q3: My child is resisting the Calm Down Corner. What should I do? Remain patient and positive. Encourage its use, and remember that the child’s comfort and acceptance of the space are key.
Q4: Can I use the Calm Down Corner as a punishment? No, the Calm Down Corner should never be used as a punishment or timeout space.
Q5: What if I don’t have much space at home? No worries! A Calm Down Corner doesn’t require much space—a quiet, comfortable corner will do just fine.