How To Use A Calming Corner With Kids Under Three

emotional intelligence  mindfulness 

By Traci Esposito

You've likely seen the Calming Corner floating around social media, and you may be wondering if this approach will work in your home, let alone with your two-year-old. I know that feeling because this is where I was too, just a few months ago.

After a particularly trying day with my 22 month-old, and with her birthday right around the corner, I took the plunge and, even though the Time-In ToolKit is recommended for children three and up, I ordered it.

After getting started with the approach, my take on it is this: it is never too early to start learning positive parenting. If you are already considering how to teach your child about emotions and/or how to parent them minus punishment, then it’s time. 

I'm glad I didn't wait until the recommended age of three, and wanted to share what I learned along the way in case this is where you find yourself as well.

I ordered the Original Time-In Toolkit Bundle and the day my order shipped, I received the Digital Manual in my inbox. I appreciated the opportunity to read the manual on using time-ins before our box arrived. I also talked to a few of my friends who work with toddlers about what I was about to do.

I really benefited from all of the guidance and would like to share what I learned along the way.

How do I set up a Calming Corner?

1. Choose a space with enough room for you and your little one to visit together.

I went on Generation Mindful's Instagram account for ideas as I love visuals. Here were some fun locations for making a "Calming Corner" that are not actually in corners:

  • Extra closet makeover
  • A hallway nook
  • Behind a couch 
  • Part of the playroom or nursery 

2. Set your space up to be cozy, in whatever way that means for your little one:

  • Tummy time mat with a mirror attached for infants
  • Cozy blanket and pillow for your one-year-old
  • Dog-bed-turned-toddler-couch-setup for your two-year-old
  • For us, it was all about the pillows and snuggly plush.
    3. Choose items that best suit your child's sensory needs:
    • For birth to one or two-years-old, use visually contrasting colors to draw and keep their attention.
    • For older toddlers/kiddos, use peaceful, calming colors. Incorporate lavender scented rice bags or essential oil bracelets.
    • If there is a safe place in the space, a diffuser is a great addition too. 
    • Calming jars that are glued shut are a great accent for visual stimuli for all ages.
    • Include things that little hands can safely explore - squishy or crinkly toys, stress balls, soft busy books, hedgehog balls, busy boards, blocks, and weighted toys. 
    • Play soft music or consider musical instrument toys (even something simple like coins in a child-proofed jar).
    • The Digital Manual included a list of more than thirty ideas and we picked out about ten that worked best for us.

    4. Add posters, low and slow. 

    • Mind blown. I would have hung every poster day one, but my friend Sara said, "Start with just two or three of the posters and games and add more from the toolkit over time." I LOVED this idea and it worked really well for my daughter. I was not overwhelmed and neither was she. Plus, it was fun to add new elements with each passing week. It really seemed to help hold her interest.
    • Begin with the Feeling Faces and Calming Strategies posters and keep them at eye level. My daughter took to these two picture-heavy posters instantly.
    • For kids who are not yet crawling and tend to drool or spit-up, laminate the posters (to combat all liquid enemies) and keep them on the ground until they are able to sit up independently.
    • For older tots on up, keep the posters either in plexiglass frames from IKEA or hang them right above the baseboards for easy access. Just don't hang them too high. I made this mistake at first and then lowered them. 

    How do I introduce the Calming Corner?

    I reached out to Julie from GENM's customer service for help on this one, and she sent back some helpful ideas. Here's a summary of what Julie told me to do in her email:

    The best way to get started is to create a playful rituals in the space. Just 5-10 minutes daily goes a long way in motivating your child to use the space. 

    1. Ideas For Incorporating Play: 

    • Cuddle
    • Read books about feelings
    • Sing songs about feelings 
    • Practice making feeling faces and name each one
    • Encourage them to make their own feeling faces into the mirror
    • Sit quietly and share time with a calming jar
    • Practice breathing techniques
    2. Tips For Creating Daily Playful Rituals:
    • Use the calming space during tummy time 
    • Visit the calming space first thing every morning and pull a PeaceMakers card (read them, name the colors, sort them by animal, make animal sounds, play matching games, etc.)
    • Snuggle with your SnuggleBuddies and remember happy and sad moments from your day together. Sing the SnuggleBuddies Feeling Song with your little one. 

    From everything I read, the key to introducing the calming space to a young child (especially a two-year-old) is to keep things playful and consistent. I loved that the manual encouraged us to pick a ritual that best suited our life.

    If you're like us, you might find yourself visiting your calming space more than just once a day. Pulling a PeaceMakers card every morning has been awesome for us, plus my daughter likes to curl up with her SnuggleBuddies and read a book with me before nap time, so these have become our daily rituals.

    How do I use the Calming Corner during big emotions?

    Okay, after about two weeks of connecting using our two new rituals as Julie suggested, I started to get curious if we were ready to use it for a meltdown. We have a sweet routine and we are all settled in. How do we transition into using this when it’s hard to navigate big feelings?

    1. Model the behavior and repeat it often. 

    Show your child how you use the space and invite them there when you have a big feeling. Name your feeling, find it on the chart, and talk about where you feel it in your body. Choose a strategy from the poster to calm down. Here is how that may sound:

    • “Mommy is having a big feeling. I am going to visit the Calming Corner.” Look at the poster and say “I feel mad” and, while pointing to the mad face say, “This is mad.” 
    • Continue with, “I feel mad inside my chest, and my face, and even inside my hands. I am going to practice calming down. I will take a deep breath and close my eyes. Do you want to do it with me?"
    2. Encourage your child to go to the Calming Corner with you when you notice them having a big feeling.
    • Help them co-regulate with hugs, a drink of water, squeezing a toy, etc. and once they are able to use their words, use the posters to help them name their feeling, showing them the face. 
    • After a few times, let loose the reigns, and either guide them through with prompting or let them lead the way through the steps on the Time-In posters while you sit with them and offer support.

    As you get comfortable with your Calming Corner, you will realize that it is just as routine as a morning cup of coffee or that soak in a bathtub. It is a ritual that is meant to help serve a greater purpose, and there is nothing wrong with getting a head start on that. 

    _____________

    Generation Mindful creates educational tools, toys, and programs that nurture emotional intelligence through play and positive discipline. Join us and receive joy in your inbox each week.

    Time-in Toolkit in action

    GENM's positive parenting course

     


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