How To Create a Calming Space For Your Child
Having a designated area, corner, or small space in your home for your child to retreat to might be an ideal way for them to self-regulate. These spaces are ideal when your child is feeling overwhelmed, anxious, worried, or frustrated. A space designated to calming their mind and body offers them an opportunity to practice coping skills in order to participate in their everyday activities. The space does not need to be elaborate and can be easy to set up. Below are the different aspects of a calming corner, activities to include and recommended sensory strategies you can use to create your child’s unique calming corner. If you would like recommendations on specific products you can join my Facebook group for the PDF and many more resources.
What/when/where/why/how of a calming corner
What: a space your child can sit and participate in regulating activities unique to their sensory needs in order to complete daily activities
When: Your child can use this space as a way to prepare for the day, before a non-preferred activity, when feeling anxious, worried or frustrated.
Where: this space is preferably a small enclosed space with dim lighting. Examples of ideal setups are small closets, indoor tents, or a small fort in the corner of a room.
Why: Children and even adults have a hard time processing through big emotions and often resort to negative behaviors to cope. This space provides children with positive self-regulating strategies and an opportunity to process through emotions, calm their nervous system, and obtain a better mindset.
How: When first using this space practice walking through how to use it with your child and explain its purpose. It should only be used 10-15 minutes at a time (visual timers are a great way to implement this) and should not be used for escaping demands. This space has a purpose and should only be used to serve that purpose.
What to include in the space
Identify emotions: have a poster hung in the space with various pictures of different emotions. There are lots of good ones on teacherspayteachers.com and etsy.com. Explain the different kinds of emotions your child may feel and the body clues that go along with each emotion. Once you have that foundation, your child can look at the poster to identify their feelings.
Choice board: another visual to include are the available sensory strategies in the space they can participate in to calm their mind and body. This eliminates having them ideate a strategy on their own.
Seating: a comfy seat such as a bean bag chair, small swing, hammock, or floor pillows are ideal for this space.
Lighting: as mentioned before the space should have dim lighting. Having a dim lamp, twinkle lights, LED rope lights, etc would make the space feel more calming.
These strategies will be unique to your child and their specific preferences. Below are common strategies used under the sensory system it pertains to. Utilize strategies your child will engage in and enjoy. If you need more guidance on how to decide what your child's preferences are I offer free 30-minute virtual consulations you can schedule online.
Mazes or dot to dots
Noise canceling headphones
Listen to nature
Instrumental calming music
Touch and feel books
Warm blanket (place in dryer to warm up)
Drink smoothie through a straw
Crunchy or chewy snacks
Color with scented markers
Crawl under cushions/blankets/pillows
Resistance band exercises
Linear swinging (ie, hammock swing)
Therapy ball (bouncing, rolling on top of it on their belly or back)
I hope you find these tips to be helpful. If you have specific questions, would like to discuss this topic in further detail or are interested in occupational therapy services, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 740-218-4949.