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How To Create A Toddler Calm Down Corner

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Christine Brown

Christine Brown

You likely just Googled “how to create a toddler calm down corner” or something like that and you landed here. Welcome!

As you know, toddlers and preschoolers have BIG emotions. And because their sweet little brains aren’t fully developed until they are 25 years old, they can have a difficult time with emotional regulation. So when the world isn’t going their way, it is common for our children to have tantrums.

If you are looking for tips on tantrums, I recommend that you read this post on taming tantrums first and then come back here to learn more about creating a calm down corner.

So before your child’s next major tantrum or to help your child regulate their big emotions before it leads to a tantrum, let’s get you set up with creating a place for your little one to calm down and how to use it.

What Is A Calm Down Corner?

Simply put, it is a designated safe space, at home or in the classroom, for your child to calm down when their emotions are running too high. Kids can go to this spot, pick a calming activity and regain their emotional and physical control.

What Are The Benefits of a Calm Down Corner?

There are many benefits, including:

  • Helps to prevent tantrums and meltdowns
  • Teaches emotional regulation
  • Allows children to begin identifying their different feelings and practice calming down
  • Teaches kids that big emotions are ok
  • Gives them a safe place to retreat to
  • Promotes self-esteem
  • Helps kids develop stronger communication skills

When Should We Use A Calm Down Corner?

This peaceful space doesn’t only need to be used during a tantrum. Here are some other ideas on when to use this special spot:

  1. Our little one is breaking a Golden Rule. These rules are, I will not: not hurt myself; hurt others; or destroy property. This means your little one’s body is out of control and needs a break.
  2. Your child is overstimulated, frustrated or angry or your spidey senses say that they are about to get there. You can use it pre-emptively before they lose control.
  3. Any time your child thinks that they need a break. In time this will become a special spot that they can go to on their own.

How Is A Calm Down Spot Different Than a Time Out Spot?

Time-outs are highly debated and this post isn’t about that! Time-out simply means “a break, rest or a chance to stop.” So do I believe in time-outs? YES, but not traditional time-outs.

Traditional time-outs tend to be:

  • More punitive and because we don’t like our child’s behavior
  • In a more isolated space, like the bedroom
  • Has a designated timeframe

My friend has a stool, in a separate room from the main living area, called the “naughty stool”. I despise that thing and cringe when one of her kids gets sent there!

Why do I not like traditional time-outs?

Traditional time-outs don’t teach children anything so they don’t have lasting results.

Also, time outs tend to escalate tantrums. In young or highly spirited children especially, it can create a battle of wills. It definitely did in my house! I remember trying to keep my 2 year old sitting on the stair for 2 minutes because that’s what you do right? He wouldn’t sit still. I was sweating trying to keep him there. Not my finest parenting moment!

Also, let’s take a trip down memory lane…

Remember back to being a kid and being sent to your room to think about what you did wrong. Did you:

A: Think about what you did wrong?

B: Feel isolated, bad about yourself and mad at your parents?

I was a B all the way and most kids feel the same way. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my kiddos feeling that way when they make a mistake or their behavior isn’t what I like.

The Calm Down Corner Difference

A calm down corner is also an opportunity for a time-out, but it has some key differences from traditional time outs.

The key differences are that the calm down spot:

  • Is in the main living area so your child doesn’t feel isolated, which can amplify those big feelings that are flooding them. Our children don’t know how to regulate on their own and need us to help them with their emotional regulation.
  • Contains calming and safe non-stimulating activities that bring our children back to neutral.
  • It is a safe and positive place, free of blame, pain or shame.
  • Can be used outside of tantrums or when we don’t like our child’s behavior, to help decrease overstimulation and help your child to regulate
  • Isn’t for a predetermined time. Your child can go there on their own or they can be guided by you while they calm down and are free to leave once they are calm or the out of control behavior has stopped.
  • It’s a happy place, not a punishment.

(this comes in time) if they feel like they need help to manage their emotions. Or if you need to guide your child to the spot because your child is out of control (breaking a Golden Rule), they only need to stay there until the out of control behavior has stopped and they can rejoin the family when they are ready.

How To Use A Calm Down Corner?

If your child is breaking a Golden Rule or if they are about to erupt, here’s an example of what I do:

  1. First, I take a deep breath so I don’t lose my cool
  2. Then, I get down on my son’s level
  3. Next I calmly, but firmly say “You can’t hit your brother. Let’s go to our cozy corner to take a break until your hands aren’t hitting.” Then I walk or carry him there. Limit your words. If your child is out of control, they can’t hear what you are saying. Talking can further escalate the situation.
  4. Offer a calming strategy.
  5. If your child prefers closeness, you can stay there with them. Other children need you close, but a little space while they calm down. You know your child best!
  6. Identify the feeling that they were having, which will help shape your conversation once they are calm.
  7. Once your child is calm, then they can come out of their calm down spot.

Once they are calm and receptive to talking about what happened, you can move through the rest of the Taming Tantrums strategies, including:

  • Focusing on the positive. “Oh sweetheart, I see you told your body to stop hitting!  You did it.  I’m proud of you.  Are you ready for a hug?”
  • Don’t punish, instead teach.
  • Validate the feeling. “I know that you are mad because you wanted that toy.  That toy is so fun.”
  • Tell him what he can do. “You can’t hit your brother, but you can say you are mad or ask Mommy for help.”
  • Brainstorm alternative behaviors together. “What are some things you can do next time you get mad?”
  • Determine the logical consequences. “Buddy – you hurt your brother. I know you don’t like hurting your brother. What can you do to make this right? Do you need help coming up with some ideas?” Help them figure out what they can do to make it right, like saying I’m sorry, coloring a pictures, demonstrating an act of kindness.

Creating A Time Out Spot

We want to designate a calm down spot in an area of the house where your family spends most of their time. Ideally, this spot doesn’t isolate your child, which can further amplify tantrums.

Try to avoid using your child’s bedroom as a time-out location.  We want the bedroom to be a happy, positive space! I’m a child sleep consultant AND a parent coach so I am always thinking about both!

Also, children at this age range like choices so get them involved with picking the location and helping you to get it setup.

Calm Down Corner Ideas

Once you’ve picked the spot, now it is time to outfit it to make it comfortable and add tools that can help your little one calm down.

Here are some of the fundamental elements that you want to have in their time-out spot. All of my favorite product ideas for the calm down corner can be found here.

Comfortable

Outfit the corner or space with cozy floor pillows, soft rugs and snuggly blankets. If you have a tent or canopy, that can help if your child likes a little privacy or needs a sensory break.

This space doesn’t only need to be used when your child needs to calm down. This can also be used as a hang out space for you and/or your little one to snuggle and read books during quieter times.

Calming Activities

Think stress balls, but for children!

You know when you are feeling stressed, sometimes having a fidget toy or a stress ball can give you something to focus on to ground yourself and break the pattern? These types of activities are beneficial for our children too!

You can place their sensory tools into a basket that lives near their calming corner.

Ideas:

Your Child’s Favorite Stuffed Animal

Enough said!

A Family Picture

Research shows that when children see a photo of their trusted adult(s), it helps calm them. 

Calming Books & Books That Teach About Emotions & Mindfulness

Consider adding a book rail to the wall or placing a basket of books in the calm down space. You can include a variety of book types, but try to include at least a few books that teach about emotions and mindfulness. These are often filled with calm down activities. Some of my favorites can be found here.

Calm Down Corner Printables & Signs

There are tons of options of printables and signs that you can print and laminate or put on the wall in the peace space to help your child regulate while there. This option provides (9) – 8×10 images that can be framed or laminated and hung in the calm down spot. It gives a great variety of tracing, breathing exercises, feelings charts, grounding techniques and calming activities.

Other alternatives are a calming card deck or a feelings flipbook.

If you need help taming tantrums in your house or other not-so-fun child behaviors, we’d love to learn more and share tools and strategies to help your household feel more peaceful and to have more fun as a family! Schedule a Child Behavior Consultation or a Discovery Call today.

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