Calm Down Corners; Benefits, and How to Create One

What are calm down corners and how can they help to regulate emotions? This is one of those positive parenting hacks that has changed the game for many, so let’s take a look at what they are and how they help.

This is a guest post by Stevie Harper from PositiveParentingHQ.com. Stevie is a proud parent of 2 young children and is passionate about sharing her ideas on positive parenting and the products that have added value and convenience to her life.

Introduction to Calming Corners

What is a Calm Down Corner? Simply put, it’s a designated space in your home or your classroom, specially designed to help children self-regulate their emotions. Think of it as a cozy corner or calm down space they can retreat to when they’re experiencing big emotions; overwhelmed, angry, or just need a moment to themselves. So let’s take a look at the benefits of calm down corners, how to create one in your home or classroom, and exactly how to use it.

kid with cushions, calm down corner
A calm down corner is a designated space in your home or your classroom, specially designed to help children self-regulate their emotions.

Why are Calm Down Corners Important? What are the benefits?

Emotional Self-regulation: Emotional self-regulation is a vital life skill, referring to the ability to manage difficult or disruptive emotions and impulses. It’s a skill that gets honed with time, experience, and maturity. Young children often struggle with this, leading to tantrums, meltdowns, or impulsive behaviors. A calm down corner can act as a tool to help children self-soothe, thereby fostering emotional self-regulation.

For more information on Self Regulation you can read the article on TeachingBrave here.

Safe Space: The world can be overwhelming for a child. Just as adults have sanctuaries where they can retreat, children benefit from having a designated place where they feel safe and in control. It reassures them that they have an environment where they can process emotions without judgment or repercussions.

Sensory Regulation: Some children can become overwhelmed by too much sensory input. This can be particularly true for children on the autism spectrum or those with sensory processing disorders (Barton, Reichow, & Wolery, 2012). Calm down corners, with their tailored sensory tools and toys, can offer a respite from sensory overload.

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Building Independence: By using the calm down corner, children can gradually learn to recognize when they’re feeling overwhelmed and take proactive steps without always relying on adult intervention. This self-awareness and proactive behavior fosters independence, resilience and self-confidence.

Decreases Power Struggles: As children grow, they strive for autonomy, which can sometimes result in power struggles between them and caregivers. A calm down corner provides an alternative to confrontations. Instead of battles and punitive measures, children have the option to retreat and self-soothe.

Intentional Teaching Moment: Post-emotion, when the child is calm and more receptive, the calm down corner can become a space for reflection and discussion. Caregivers can engage in constructive conversations about feelings, triggers, and coping mechanisms, also known as Emotion Coaching. Programs such as the Triple P Parenting program can help form positive parenting strategies too, for those who may be having difficulty with helping their children manage emotions at home.

Holistic Development: According to Lemerise & Arsenio (2000), emotional intelligence is crucial for a child’s social competence. By helping them understand, express, and manage their emotions, we’re setting them up for success not only in their personal relationships but also in academic and eventual professional settings.

tee pee tent, kid with teddy, calm down corners
You can ask your child for their ideas on what should be included in the calm down corner. This will help them feel connected to it and more likely to use it.

Picking the Right Ambience for a Calm Down Corner

Creating the right ambience for a calm down corner is crucial. The ambience sets the tone for how effectively the space will be used and determines how comforting it will feel to the child. Let’s delve into the specifics of crafting the ideal ambiance.

Colour Choices:

Psychological Impact: Various studies have shown that colours have a profound effect on our emotions and psychological state (Elliot & Maier, 2014). For instance, soft blues and greens are typically associated with calmness and serenity, while bright colours like red can evoke energetic or intense feelings.

Suggestions: Opt for muted, pastel, or neutral shades. Soft blues, greens, greys, or even gentle yellows can create a calming environment, as opposed to harsher, bright colours.

Lighting:

Natural Light: If possible, choose a spot with access to natural light. Sunlight, especially in the morning, can have a positive impact on mood and well-being.

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Artificial Light: If natural light isn’t an option, opt for soft, warm lighting. Avoid harsh overhead lights. Dimmable lights or fairy lights can be ideal.

Soft Furnishings:

Comfort: Soft materials provide tactile comfort. Cushions, bean bag chair, plush rugs and soft toys can make the space inviting.

Safety: Soft furnishings can also ensure safety, especially if children might need to lie down or if they tend to throw things when upset.

Natural Elements:

Connection with Nature: Introducing elements like plants can offer a connection to nature, known for its calming properties (Kaplan, 1995).

Recommendations: Consider easy-to-care-for indoor plants like snake plants or succulents. If you’re concerned about maintenance, even artificial plants can do the trick.

Sounds:

White Noise or Soft Melodies: Background white noise or soft, calming music can help drown out other distracting or upsetting noises. Gentle sounds can act as an auditory cushion, giving the child a serene soundscape to focus on.

Nature Sounds: Playing sounds of rain, flowing water, or forest ambiance can be incredibly soothing.

Personal Touch:

Familiar Items: Including a few of the child’s favourite items can make the space feel personal and comforting.

Involvement: Engage the child in setting up the corner. This not only ensures they’ll love it but also makes them feel involved and in control.

Minimize Clutter:

Order and Simplicity: A cluttered space can be overwhelming. While it’s good to have tools and toys to help the child calm down, ensure they’re organized. Simplicity can be very calming.

Calming Corner in Classroom

It’s a great idea for any teacher to have a ‘calm down kit’ up their sleeve, no matter the age of child they teach. This might be a bag with some special items inside, such as a stress ball, a soft toy, some headphones, a fidget spinner, or other various items.

Setting up a calm down corner in the classroom can be very beneficial for multiple children, depending on the personalities and learning needs you have within your class.

I have seen several ideas for calm down corners in various classrooms, such as:

  • A dark coloured tent, filled with cushions, soft toys and a few books
  • A cornered off soft space with lots of rugs, cushions and blankets
  • A teepee tent with a soft rug and picture books
  • Bean bags with colouring in pages and various crayons and coloured pencils
  • A decorated corner with plants, items of nature and soft coloured ribbons hanging from the ceiling

Again, children can be involved by asking them for their ideas on how to create the ideal calm-down corner. There will be certain children who are more likely to use the calm down corner or more likely to benefit from it, so it’s important that these particular children are involved as much as possible, in the design.

There are some more ideas for Calm down corners in classrooms in this article on BoredTeachers.com.

Using the Calm Down Corner Effectively

Proper use of the calm down corner is as crucial as setting it up. It’s not just about having the space, but knowing when and how to guide a child towards it, and the activities that take place within, ensuring it remains a positive and effective tool for emotional regulation.

Proactive Over Reactive:

Identification: Teach children to recognize their escalating feelings before they reach a breaking point. Guiding them to use the corner proactively rather than reactively can make a huge difference.

Prompting: Use phrases like, “It seems like you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed. Would you like to spend some time in your calm down corner?”

Guidelines, Not Rules:

Flexibility: While it’s essential to have some structure, being too rigid can make the corner feel punitive. Allow flexibility for the child to choose their calming tools or activities.

Duration: Don’t set strict time limits. While some children might need just a few minutes, others might require longer.

Calming Tools & Calming Activities:

Breathing Exercises: Guided deep breathing or Yoga can help in centering emotions. Breathing exercises can reduce stress and anxiety.

Sensory Tools: Things like stress balls, liquid motion timers, or soft blankets can provide tactile comfort.

Journaling: For older children, jotting down feelings can be therapeutic and offer a means of expression.

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Headphones and music: Listening to calming music or sounds without any visual stimulation can be calming and allow children to better focus their thoughts and ideas.

kid with headphones
Listening to calming music or sounds in a calm down corner, without any visual stimulation can allow children to better focus their thoughts and ideas.

Maintain Privacy:

Space: The calm down corner should be a safe space where the child can have some privacy to process their emotions.

Respect: Avoid hovering. Allow the child to come to you if they wish to discuss their feelings.

Post-Calm Reflection:

Discuss: Once they’re calm, engage in a non-judgmental discussion about what triggered the intense emotion and strategies to cope in the future.

Reinforce Positivity: Praise them for choosing to use the calm-down corner. Positive reinforcement can make them more likely to use the corner in the future (Kazdin, 2007).

Avoid Using It As Punishment:

Perception: The corner should never be a place of punishment. If children perceive it as such, they may be resistant to using it.

Language: Be cautious with wording. Instead of “Go to your calm down corner!” a more constructive phrase would be, “Would you like some time in your own calm down corner to feel better?”

Consistency is Key:

Routine: Make it a consistent option. The more familiar the routine of using the calming space becomes, the more effective it will be.

Involving Caregivers & Siblings:

Understanding: Ensure everyone in the household understands the purpose of the calm down corner.

Respect: Siblings should be taught to respect the privacy and purpose of the quiet corner, ensuring it remains a tranquil zone.

calm down corners
There are heaps of ideas on how to set up calm down corners. It can include some of your child’s favourite things, calming items, books or soft toys. A quick Google search will give you heaps more ideas too!

Summary

Calm down corners can be set up with a few simple ideas and have numerous benefits when it comes to emotional regulation and managing difficult or big feelings. You can involve your child/ren in the actual set up and this will help them feel ownership and connection to the calm down space, increasing the likelihood that it will actually get used effectively and for it to be fully beneficial.

There are a multitude of ways calm down spaces can be set up as well as moments where it can be effective, but they should never be used as punishment or a negative consequence.

Do you have any calm down corner ideas you have used in the past that worked for you and your child? Let us know in the comments, and maybe we can add your ideas to this article!

This is a guest post by Stevie Harper from PositiveParentingHQ.com. Stevie is a proud parent of 2 young children and is passionate about sharing her ideas on positive parenting and the products that have added value and convenience to her life.

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