December can be an overwhelming month for kids. Seasonal changes prompt a shift in clothing and outdoor activities. Numerous cultural and religious holidays fall during this time. Extended family members may visit, disrupting home routines. Special programs and extended breaks may alter school rhythms. It’s no wonder that children struggle to manage their emotions well when change upon change generates excitement, anticipation, anxiety, and frustration.
In times of supercharged feelings, children need spaces and activities that help them center and calm themselves. Counselor and learning specialist Marie Weller suggests creating a Calming Corner where kids can find and use materials that support inner peace. This area doesn’t have to be much larger than a comfy cushion or two and a small bookcase or a few bins with supplies. What matters most is that it is a designated place where children are invited to spend time focusing on emotional regulation.
Calming Corners are most effective when they contain a variety of self-calming objects and activities. You might include stress balls for squeezing, pinwheels for breathing that includes deep exhales, guided meditation recordings, and/or sensory tools like modeling clay, scented markers, popper fidget toys, and glitter jars. Activities that provide cognitive distractions, such as pattern tiles, hidden pictures, and dot-to-dots, are also useful.
Weller suggests that adults model various centering and self-calming techniques for children. Show them how they can ‘rock a pet’ by placing a stuffed animal on their stomach while lying on the floor and breathing slowly and deeply, Print some self-affirming messages backwards on paper slips and then select one to hold up to a mirror and repeat the positive words revealed. Demonstrate calming breaths using a Hoberman Sphere (see Related Resources).
To help normalize self-regulation practices, build time in the Calming Corner into your regular group routine. Invite children to visit the space upon arrival in the room or encourage them to take turns trying different calming activities as a ‘break’ from whatever else the group is doing. If you use activity stations, add the Calming Corner to your station rotation. This approach means kids experience calming practices as just another part of their day, rather than as a ‘time out’ for bad behavior.
Another benefit of a Calming Corner is that it gives children a chance to explore and identify calming practices they like before they feel overwhelmed. One child may gravitate toward storybooks that promote relaxation or social emotional learning, such as Breathe Like a Bear, Simon and the Big, Bad, Angry Beasts, or Crying is Like the Rain. Others may prefer drawing with scented markers, working on a ‘spot-the-difference’ picture activity, or donning headphones to listen to soothing rainfall sounds. Remind kids that self-regulation techniques are not ‘one-size fits-all’, so trying out different options is a good idea.
- Incorporating the Calming Corner Into Station Rotation | Edutopia.
- Marie Weller
- Push Pop Bubble Fidget Sensory Toy (Rainbow Square)
- Hoberman Sphere Breathing
- Breathe Like a Bear - Kira Willey
- Exploring Emotion with Crying is Like the Rain | RKRF
- Reading Simon and the Big, Bad, Angry Beasts | RKRF
- Creating a Sacred Healing Space | RKRF