Inside: Why a calm down corner is effective and how to create the perfect calm down corner for you kids. (Great for kids who has ADHD, autism, SPD, ODD, or are simply spirited or emotional)
Have you ever wanted to shut out the entire world and just take a few minutes of complete you time?
Maybe you feel this way every day.
Well, guess what?
Your kids feel this way too.
But here’s the problem…
…they just don’t know it.
Well, it turns out you can dramatically help your child stay balanced, calm and avoid over-stimulation by creating a calm down space.
A calm down corner is a safe space for angry, upset, frazzled, and/or overstimulated children to go to calm down.
And in today’s post, I’m going to show you exactly how to create your own calm down corner.
Toddlers often have little or next to no emotional regulation.
WE need to monitor their stimulation levels.
Kids are a bit like a kettle. They get warm, then hotter, then start bubbling, and then all chaos breaks loose and the whistling top blows off.
A calm down corner is a place for kids to do just what it says — calm down.
Kids can go to this safe space, pick a non-stimulatory activity and bring their excitement levels back down to normal. (Green zone)
My strong-willed and emotional child feels everything VERY intensely. It’s disheartening that there is absolutely nothing I can do to help him regain control once he’s spiraled into his emotional abyss.
We created a calm down corner for him, it blocks out stimulation, noise, and most of all me trying to control his behavior.
It’s been HUGE for us.
I call it a cozy corner, but it’s also referred to as a Quiet Corner, Calm Down Space, Sensory Tent or Cool Down Spot.
A calm down corner is a place where angry or upset children can go to calm down. Grab these helpful printable calm down corner printables.
Table of Contents
- What is a calm down corner?
- Picking the Space
- When to use a Calm down Corner
- What’s in your Calm Down Corner?
- The Best Calm Down Corner Posters for Your Calming Space
- What next? When they are calm.
- Common questions:
What is a calm down corner?
A calm down corner can also be used instead of time-outs.
Without venturing into the effectiveness of time-outs debate — if time-outs don’t work for your child, try this instead.
Often when kids are misbehaving it’s because they are overstimulated. Going to this space is not a punishment, it’s an effective tool to help your child curb this behavior.
Your child can learn that there are different ways of acting.
It’s not a punishment — it’s actually a happy place.
A calm down corner is also an extremely effective place for angry or upset children to go.
Let me explain:
When kids are upset or angry you’d have better luck talking to the wind.
You won’t get any results.
When kids are angry, talking sometimes makes matters worse.
It adds agitation and even more stimulation to an already out of control child.
Sometimes, as much as I want to talk lessons into my son, I need to zip it and calmly walk him in silence to his calm down corner, and then —
LEAVE HIM BE.
Kids can then take the time they need, calm down, and rejoin the family when they are ready.
Note: It’s better to encourage our child to go to their calm down corner before they erupt into a tantrum or offsetting behavior.
If it’s too late, you might need to employ whatever strategy you have in place to get your child out of the red zone, and then guide him or her to their corner.
Example of How to Use Your Calm Down Corner
When my child erupts, I get down on his level, look him in the eye and say quietly but firmly: “You are not allowed to hit mommy.” (Or whatever behaviour occurred).
I then walk/or carry him to his calming space.
Sometimes this involves him fully erupting, even throwing things (he has high functioning autism so emotional outbursts can be a problem for us).
When he’s calm or quiet, I ask him to apologize. Then, I encourage him to play in his calming space, and ask if he’d like me to join him.
I’ve spent days where we are in a continuous cycle of correcting behavior this way. But in time, I see big results from this technique.
At this point, if your child is receptive you can talk about what happened.
Your child can point to what they did wrong and point to the emotion that they were feeling. The next poster gives some useful suggestions for how to calm down, and also suggestions for how they can better handle the situation next time.
• Asking for help
• Taking ten deep breaths
• Knowing when to take a break
And the best part:
You haven’t yelled — you don’t feel guilty — and your child has started to learn life-long valuable skills of logical thinking instead of emotional reaction.
Picking the Space
You could carve out a corner in a play room, in their bedroom, in the stairwell cubby, or in a corner.
The most important thing is that the child will be away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the family.
My calm down corner is in the landing in the basement.
I have a bench with my calm down posters, baskets with coloring utensils, some fidget toys (these tangle ones are my favorite) and books. Of course I’ve put one of my son’s favorite teddy’s there, and our mindful kids cards game.
I’ll get to more of what to include in your space below.
But know that it’s important to make this space safe.
Consider the wall colors. Beige’s and neutral colors are calming. Red’s and oranges can invoke more anxiety or anger.
When to use a Calm down Corner
• During a tantrum
• When a child is aggressive
• When a child is fighting with siblings
• When a child is in the silly zone
• When your child is overstimulated, angry or frustrated.
• When a child isn’t listening
• When a child needs a screen time break
If your child isn’t having a meltdown or anger outburst, but you can see them getting overwhelmed or excitable — a great idea is to invite them into the space.
Ask them if they want to blow bubbles, color a picture, or read a book.
What’s the bottom line?
A calm down corner isn’t solely about reacting to bad behavior.
What’s in your Calm Down Corner?
Everyone’s corner will look a little different depending on their child’s interest.
Soft and Cuddly
Make it soft and cuddly. Build the foundation of your corner with soft and weighted items. Layer the floor with blankets and pillows.
I like these cute pillows:
Consider a bean bag chair or a play tent.
And one of my favorite kids decorating items is a kids tent! Kids love tents and it looks cool too.
Don’t forget to include your child’s favorite stuffy.
Visual sights might include a soft glow lamp, hung lights, heck, why not this awesome jelly fish lamp.
These are just some ideas — you can fill your corner with absolutely anything you like. Use your imagination.
Many children are soothed by sensory activities. We have what we call our angry shaker. I went to the dollar store bought a tube style container, put beads in it and my son shakes it when he’s angry.
You could add sand, slime, or beads to your corner.
Perhaps your child would like to rip construction paper to take out their anger. Or color really hard.
I made one of the calm-down glitter jars that are all over Pinterest. Fun!
Putting a snow globe in your space is also a great idea. In our kid’s mindfulness printable Mighty Mindful Kids, we have a specific snow globe exercise for you to try (along with 40 other calming activities).
Breathing cards are another great way to calm an upset child. Mighty Mindful Kids also has a number of beginner breathing exercises. We also have an epic post here on 10 of the best breathing exercises for kids.
The goal is to shift the mindset from being upset to well — anything else really.
Think breathing, counting, playing eye spy.
And mindfulness teaches kids that they don’t have to be controlled by their emotions any longer.
Consider a board game and also paper and markers for drawing or scribbling. Your child may like small stuffed animals, a coloring book, or toy cars.
Noise-reducing headphones to block out sounds that are overwhelming. Headphones are deep pressure and calming in themselves. And soft, mellow music is a great idea.
Calm Down Cards
I put these cards in a basket (there are 40 to choose from), and when I notice my son is becoming agitated, or entering the dreaded red zone, I suggest we pick three cards from the basket. The rule is that we must do whatever the card says.
They are quick calm down solutions, but work brilliantly.
Jog on the spot for one minute, walk like a dog across the floor, breathe like a bear. The exercises are fun and quickly distract your child from whatever big emotion is brewing.
After we are done our three exercises, I then guide my son to his calm down corner for a sensory break.
Here’s another example of how I use the cards:
My son has sensory issues, and when we are putting on our snow gear (cringe) we often run into trouble.
He starts ramping up. And if you have a child that has sensory issues, you will know EXACTLY what I mean.
First, his socks don’t feel right, then his pants aren’t the right length, his shirt sleeves went too far up his coat.
It snowballs, and snowballs until everything is wrong, and a meltdown follows.
Well at the first sign of this fussing — it’s calm down card time. Before the meltdown hits.
I distract him from everything that feels wrong with his pants and socks. Sometimes this distraction is enough to allow us to carry on without a meltdown.
I won’t lie, sometimes it’s only a temporary distraction and the meltdown is not avoidable.
But, the bottom line?
Much of the time it works.
Print this set (I use card stock paper), laminate them if you can, and shuffle through the 40 cards. It’s fun and kid-tested to help them cool off.
The best part?
After consistently using these cards, kids will begin to employ these techniques on their own. Habit building, skill building, repetition.
The Best Calm Down Corner Posters for Your Calming Space
I’ve got three options (at three different price points) for visuals and posters for you to add to your space.
I would recommend any of these three sets. The first set is a digital small letter size set of 4, inexpensive. The second set is also digital and includes 14 different posters with different size options, the design and function of this set is truly amazing. The third set comes printed and delivered for a higher price point, but is outstanding if you want to splurge, or don’t want to be bothered with printing yourself.
1. Calm Down Posters – Set of 4
The first set includes 5 calm down printables that you can print out on letter-size paper and place in your corner. You hang this set on the wall as I did, or you can simply use them as worksheets on the table. This set is great if you don’t have a lot of room and/or don’t want to spend a lot of money.
2. Calm Down Corner Toolkit From Etsy – By Ivory Emblem
This calm down corner toolkit is amazing.
This is the description from the maker: Print multiple copies for a memory game or Go Fish or use the Feelings Check-In cards and sort them into Danger Zone, Caution Zone, Safe Zone, and Chill Zone. Help your kids to recognize when they are elevated and learn how to get back to the “Safe Zone” by using Calm Down Choices.
3. Mindfulmazing’s Chill Out Hideout
The next set is a much more comprehensive kit.
It provides many emotional regulation activities for kids and includes some fun posters (with different size options)
This kit is currently under construction and will be back soon!
There is also a comprehensive guide and even cutouts for your my feelings check-in.
For price and usefulness, this is my best A+ recommendation.
What next? When they are calm.
Now it’s time for the lesson.
First: If your child has had a meltdown, don’t make them feel shame.
They are likely upset already.
Young kids, kids on the spectrum, kids with ADHD, and kids with sensory processing disorder often struggle with emotional regulation. And it’s our job to help them learn the skills to better handle the situation, not make them feel shameful.
However, we do need to be firm that certain behaviors aren’t acceptable.I start with our calm down posters and my son points to how he was feeling, then we move on to whatever action arose from that feeling, and finally, we discuss how he could have handled the situation differently.
We often role-play the scene back, and this means each taking turns to be the angry child, teach them how to notice signs of anger, and how to react differently.
This is when you let your kids know that their behavior wasn’t acceptable, why it wasn’t acceptable, and teach the skills they need to do better the next time such a situation arises.
These are skills that take a while to learn, so understand young brains are still growing and developing, young kids are unable to control their emotions. With time and practice, you begin to notice a big difference.
My child is in a rage! She won’t use the calm down corner.
Like I said above, if your child has erupted into full blown meltdown, you might need to use whatever strategy works to diffuse your child back down to a level lower. They can calm slightly, and then calm the rest of the way down in their safe space.
Wait, Isn’t This a Reward for Bad Behavior?
Sometimes when I’m overwhelmed I need to hide in my closet for a few minutes so I don’t explode. This is a coping skill for a normal and acceptable human emotion.
We are actually teaching our kids coping skills. They are not always mature enough to be calm and reasonable, and toddlers often can’t do it.
Their brains are growing and learning and they need to be taught effective coping strategies. Not always punished for things out of their control.
As much as you might think they are, kids aren’t trying to drive you crazy, test your limits or demand control, they don’t have bad intentions, and they just want to be loved.
Some kids are lacking in the skills for coping. They need our help, guidance and most of all love.
Love will never drive bad behavior. I have an emotionally charged/anxious child, so I am familiar with how difficult it can be to help him regulate his body, mind, and emotions.
If you have a child like mine, you will understand that we can’t punish them for their struggles. He needs help. I’m helping him.
And that’s where my calm down corner enters the picture.
My son can sneak off to his own space, rejuvenate, refocus, wind down. But most of all we are learning how to process difficult emotions.
I truly hope you have great success with your own calm down corner.
I hope you love these idea’s for your calming space. I’d love to see any pictures of your child’s space below or hear any ideas or comments.
Don’t forget to save this article for later reference.
Tina Williamson is the writer and founder of Mindfulmazing, a peaceful parenting blog that guides busy moms and dads to tune into what matters most, and, ultimately, create a happy life! Tina shares strategies and advice for raising responsible, mindful, and resilient kids.
In 2019, Tina created the popular eBook, “Mighty Mindful Kids,” a mindfulness activity book that helps kids with focus, emotional regulation, awareness, and connection. This helped so many families (including her own) that she created several printable resources for parents, teachers, and therapists.
Stay tuned for Tina’s Amazing Me Growth Mindset Journal for Kids being published in the spring of 2021.