Calm down corners can be a great tool for your classroom and your home. If you’ve got little kids with big emotions that tend to spiral out quickly, the calm down corner can be a great way for them to learn more about their feelings, assist in processing them, and also prevent huge meltdowns. So let’s get into it!
How do you make a good calm down corner at home or school?
There’s more to building a calm down corner than just putting some great supplies together. You also need the right disciplinary/parenting mindset and approach, and to thoughtfully teach a child how to use the calm down corner.
I’ll get to some of the meatier stuff later in the post, but for now, here are some great items to include in your calm down corner.
Here’s a great post about discipline: Threat vs. Warning – How to Help Your Boundary Pushing Wild Child
1. Emotion education books and printables
The calm down corner is meant to be a way for kids to learn about their feelings, to normalize emotions, and to give kids a way to process and articulate how they’re feeling.
So it makes sense to include some educational materials in your calm down corner supplies!
I like books and printables for this purpose. Here’s a book I use in our child’s calm down corner.
We love this book called Today I Feel and think it’s the perfect addition to our calm down corner. When my middle one (who is three) is really melting down, we open this book afterward and identify the feeling. It’s an alphabet book, too!
I also like to use a labeled emoji chart. You can tuck an emoji printable into a plastic sleeve and include an Expo marker. I’ve included a free emoji chart in this set of free printables.
Here are more of my favorite picture books to brighten any day.
2. Quality, yet basic coloring supplies and/or a journal
We like to include a coloring book, a journal, and crayons in our calm down corner. Coloring and drawing are both very calming experiences for some kids.
There’s no need to overthink the journal! Any spiral bound notebook or composition book you can find in the school supply aisle will work just fine. It’s just meant to be a way for your older child to free write about their feelings.
We have a bunch of Crayola crayons in our art supplies, but you’ll notice we keep our BEST crayons in the calm down bucket. They are the Faber Castell brand of gel crayons. They are highly pigmented and are nice and chunky for small hands.
We also include a sticker book, since that’s a quiet, methodical activity that helps kids with their fine motor skills.
You might need a clipboard for some of the writing activities, or if you have coloring pages.
Check out this post about organizing a kids’ home library. No more bookshelf chaos!
3. Calming music
You can include music in your calm down corner, if you have an easy way for kids to listen. In the classroom, I always encouraged kids to put on calming music via the Calm.com website on their Chromebooks. They would just plug in their earphones and take a beat.
This worked well in third grade, but of course, calm down corners can be abused in upper elementary classrooms. It’s important to be really clear about your expectations for the calm down corner to avoid kids using it as a distraction from work.
My kids at home are LITTLE (6, 3, and 1), so they don’t have access to technology yet. However, our Yoto player works great for this, so I’ve been encouraging our three year old to bring his Yoto with him to the calm down corner. You can read my full review of the Yoto here.
4. A cushion or pillow, blanket, stuffy and seat
It’s not necessary to have an actual chair. Lots of elementary school classrooms use a nap mat so that kids just have a soft spot to land on the floor. Other affordable options include kid-sized camp chairs, small rugs, and yoga or camping mats. You can put a couple of pillows in the corner so they can lean against the wall.
I like to include other soft, tactile things, like a blanket or stuffed animal.
Our chair, in case you’re wondering, is a classic from Pottery Barn kids. It’s expensive, but has held up great through three kids. The cover is machine washable.
5. Sensory items like fidget spinners, bottles or wands
In the classroom, these items drive me completely INSANE, but at home, they’re a Godsend! If you have sensory items in your classroom, have very clear guidelines about how and when they can be used. I would probably have a rule that they are not allowed to leave the calm down corner.
Parents, if your child’s teacher is telling you that their fidget spinner or other tactile object is causing problems in the classroom, PLEASE believe them. I promise, it may seem harmless at home but they can be a huge distraction!
At home, we had great fun making our own sensory bottles. If you’d like a fantastic tutorial, this one worked well for us! Making your own sensory bottle is an excellent craft for kids. They have so much fun choosing the add-ins.
A word of caution: some bloggers have recommended the Elmer’s glitter glue, but we tried that. In our other un-pictured bottle, the glitter glue would NOT break down and melt with the warm water. It clumped up and attracted all the other ingredients. It was a yucky mess. I like the clear Elmer’s glue best!
6. Classroom-specific bonus: an egg timer
If you’re using a calm down corner in your classroom, you’ll probably need to set boundaries around how long a child can stay. Include an egg timer, and teach your students how to set it. When the timer goes off, it’s time for the kiddo to leave in case another student would benefit from some time in the corner.
Do calm down corners work?
That depends entirely on your perspective.
When should kids go to the calm down corner?
The key is to offer the calm down corner when you first begin to notice warning signs that a big melt down is coming.
You do not SEND a kid to the calm down corner, because then it becomes confused with punishment. That’s a bad idea.
I had a student once who would clench his fists when trouble was brewing, and that was a great time to push pause on whatever else he was supposed to be doing.
One of my own kids gets extremely whiny before a bit crying fit, so it helps to suggest the calm down corner when I first notice that he’s not coping well.
How do I teach my child (or students) about the calm down corner?
The main thing is to make sure the child doesn’t view the calm down corner as punishment, so it’s important to teach it correctly at the outset, and then constantly check your own attitude toward the calm down corner along the way.
If you “send” your child to the calm down corner every time you’re getting frustrated with them, it will backfire!
Begin by introducing the calm down corner when your child or student is happy, calm and able to focus.
Show him or her (or small groups of students) all the supplies in the calm down corner. Let them explore the supplies on their own terms and at their own pace.
If you’ve got a classroom of students with access to a calm down corner, I would do this in groups of no more than 3. Set a timer for 5 minutes and let each group explore independently of you. Obviously, it may take you several days to get through this part.
If it’s a classroom calm down corner, you’ll need to be more rigid with your structure so it doesn’t get abused. Think through what procedures need to be followed before your calm down corner opens for business. Some ideas for classroom rules:
- You must leave when the egg timer goes off.
- Supplies remain in the calm down corner.
- Only one person in the calm down corner at a time.
- Use a hand signal to get permission to use the calm down corner.
- Think about if there’s anything you’d like a child to throw away, store in a folder, or turn into a tray when they finish. Is there a reflection form you’d like to use? I’ve included one in my free calm down corner printables.
When should I start calming corners at home or in the classroom?
You can start calming corners whenever you’re confident the appropriate procedures have been taught. For most classroom teachers, you’re probably looking at late into week 2 or week 3 before you can reasonably open your calming corner for regular classroom use.
I also think it’s helpful to not start calm down corners until you’ve had time to review any 504 paperwork or IEPs, because it can be helpful to know if the kids in your classroom have any documented accommodations for behaviors.
The exact timeline doesn’t matter – it only matters that students or your child knows how it all works before they begin experimenting with using it regularly.
Free Calm Down Corner Printables
If you still haven’t requested the calm down corner printables, you can do so below! Included are 8 PDFs you can use in your Calm Down Corner. Here’s an overview of what you’ll get.
Signage and Emoji Printable
The emoji printable works best if you put it in a plastic sleeve and provide an Expo marker. That way, kids can just wipe it away and reuse, without you having to make multiple copies. Neither of these are editable, but hopefully you won’t find it necessary!
My Calm Down Choices
Here, I’ve included two different PDFs you can use. One is not editable but filled out completely with options you might like to include in your calm down corner. The second is an editable PDF. After you download, simply open the PDF, click where you’d like to add text, and begin filling it out as you see fit!
My Calm Down Reflection – Best for Middle and Upper Elementary
These two forms are perfect for older kids who are beginning to write paragraphs. The first is not editable, if you’d like to use my own version. The second version is left blank so you can add your own questions and form fields.
My Calm Down Reflection – Best for Lower Elementary
Here’s another form you might like to include in your calm down corner. It’s a reflection that works best for younger kids who like to have their questions presented one at a time rather than in essay format.
Breathing Exercises PDF
Finally, here’s a PDF you can include in your calm down corner. You’ll need to teach kids how to do these breathing exercises in whole group, but the PDF can be a helpful reminder!