The day our Time-In-Toolkit arrived, it felt like holiday had come early. I’m not sure who was more excited, my two-year-old son or me. The blue and white box sat on our porch smiling back at us.
But while we were rich in enthusiasm, we were poor in extra floor and wall space. Our home is 900 squared feet. That’s tiny. Where would we find room for the six posters and the many fun calming tools that came inside the box? How would I create our Calming Corner without a corner?
Just as stress was finding its way in, my son’s excitement brought me back to the present moment. I found myself laughing. Just open the box. Let go of creating a perfect space. Rather, focus on creating a playful experience with my son using the space that we have. No pressure mama. Just jump in.
So I decided to consult the expert.
“Where would you like to create your Calming Corner?” I asked.
Together we scouted for the tiny nooks of our home until my son abruptly halted.
“Here!” he said, so excited that it came across more a yell than a statement.
We landed on an area of his room, a small gap between his closet and bedroom door. At long last, our Calming Corner had a home within our home. Now, it was time to create.
Still the question of floor and wall space remained. Like the planner I am, I made a list to generate ideas.
Chair? Beanbag seat? Mat?
Hang the posters to the wall without frames?
Use the smaller posters?
We ended up selecting three of the six posters to fit within our allotted space. Again, I consulted the expert. “Which do you like?”
Being that my son is two, we chose the printable poster that highlighted the four emotions; happy, sad, calm and mad. We also chose the two larger posters that came in the Time-In ToolKit box showing all 32 emotions (32 Feelings Face poster 12” x 16”) and some suggested calming strategies (20” x 30”).
Thus, with my son in the captain’s chair, we began our Calming Corner journey. We went to Ikea for frames and together placed the posters inside. We organized the posters on his wall the way HE wanted them. Purple Owl was invited into the space, along with some puzzles, crayons and trucks, which were placed in a nearby bucket. Because we didn’t have room for placement of a chair, we opted for a colorful alphabet mat. We put the PeaceMakers cards and stickers from the kit in a simple basket along with his favorite books and a small puzzle.
Somewhere in the midst of our co-creation, I realized that the size of the space was far less important than the feel of the space. Big room, small room – the point was moot. The spirit behind the Calming Corner, the love and connection we spilled into it, was where the value lived.
And the manual! That night I printed off the many coloring sheets and printable’s that came with the kit and read the 30+ page manual front to back. I’d been attempting to use time-ins in the past without a clear understanding of just what exactly I was doing. The detailed explanation of not only why to use time-ins and the many activities in the ToolKit, but how to ensure the experience was child-led bolstered my confidence
We not only had our special space now, but a plan. By morning I was feeling confident that I would be able to use the space to help my son practice naming and sharing his emotions in not only the hard moments, but in playful ways that brought us closer.
That morning, as the manual suggested, my son and I colored the “Mistakes Help Me Learn and Grow” coloring sheet (one of the printable’s). We hung it beside the other posters, and with my son in my arms, we stood back to breathe in our new space. I couldn’t help but notice the smiles we were both wearing. In simply creating our Calming Corner together, we’d already begun to deepen our connection. I chalked it up to a major mom win. I was happy. My son was happy. And we had enjoyed the process together. We were safe, powerful, connected and totally loving our small (and cozy) Calming Corner!
By Ashley Patek, author, OT, wife, açaí bowl lover, and mom to two beautiful boys.
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