Time outs are out. Safe Spaces, Cool Down Areas and Calming Corners are all the rave. This hype caught my eye and, before I knew it, I was googling all of the hot phrases. From all that I read (and I read a lot), I was on board with the spirit (and science) behind these spaces. I liked the idea of helping my child name and regulate her big emotions in a safe space that she could call her own. And because my toddler was having daily massive meltdowns that left one or both of us both in tears, I was willing to give it a go. I mean, how hard could it be to create a Calming Corner, right?
I decided to turn to my go-to's for all things creative - Pinterest and Etsy. And, to my satisfaction, they did not disappoint. There I found some free images and digital downloads. I printed them off and hung them on the wall. And just like that, woola, we had a Calming Corner.
I stood back admiring my make-shift space, feeling pretty confident in my DIY skills. But, now, for the big test - It was time to show it to my three-year-old daughter. I felt excited as I thought to myself: she is so going to L-O-V-E it.
My daughter came in ... here's the big moment ... and stood in front of the space ... wait for it - Ok, so maybe love it was a bit strong. She was curious but overall unphased (wamp, wamp). I could see her little eyes scanning the posters at a speed that was much quicker than it took me to actually hang them. After a little bit of time, it was clear that not only did she not love the space, but she was not engaged by it. My mama instinct knew that if she wasn't excited about the space outside of a tantrum, there was little hope that it would call to her when she was thinking illogically and acting like a wild animal!
I quickly realized that my haphazard approach of using mismatched posters was not going to help me teach my daughter new strategies. So, I was back to the drawing board. I hadn't given up on a calming space all together but I was unsure of where else to turn. This is when I stumbled on a company called Generation Mindful. The website looked promising. Colorful. Playful. And then I saw the words, "Regulation is a skill, so let's teach it." OMG, this. This is what I was trying to do - to teach these skills.
I was ready to learn how this company could help me do that. I scrolled down the website a bit more and then I saw it. The Time-In-ToolKit. Ok, I had to admit that these posters looked a heck of alot better than my #PinterestFail. It was worth a try. Add to cart. Purchase. Done.
After purchasing the Time-In ToolKit, and using the tools with my daughter, I began to learn why my DIY was a flop.
It turns out that kids are 50% less able to learn when they are not engaged.
Let that sink in a little bit. FIFTY PERCENT. I know, right. And, guess what, the same is actually true for us as adults. This fact blew my mind and explained so much to me about why my earlier attempt at a Calming Corner had failed. Generation Mindful's Time-In-ToolKit changed our experience with naming and taming emotions. Be it the reading manual for my husband and me, the colorful posters, or the playful games and activities. It was all so much more than I could have orchestrated on my own, and in less time and with less money.
As a thank you to Generation Mindful, I decided to use this blog post to share three of the biggest differences between my DIY space and GENM's ToolKit, so others who might be cruising Pinterest for free printables could benefit.
Here are the three biggest differences I saw between making my own and creating a Calming Corner using the Time-In ToolKit:
- I needed something research-based.
Generation Mindful not only gave me all the tools, but also the step-by-step approach I needed to implement them easily, and immediately, without having to spend hours online figuring it out. The Time-In ToolKit is research-based, using concepts and strategies straight from Yale University. It is being used by hundreds of thousands of homes and classrooms across the world, and people are loving it. And for good reason! It works.
- It’s more than a corner.
The kit comes with actual parenting tools and classes for me to better understand how I can systematically make changes to the way we parent and deal with emotions. It has PeaceMakers game cards and SnuggleBuddies plush toys to foster nonverbal and verbal communication and connection. This is tried and true and will take the idea of a calming space and transform it into a teachable, usable, successful program that I can implement easily. This checks all the boxes.
- This adorable set of tools had my child at “hello”, and that MATTERS.
After using the tools for just a week, things were going so well that we decided to add on one of these cute plush animals. So I showed the picture to her and little missy immediately says, “Mommy, I love that Red Bear! Can I give her a hug?”
To sum it up, the ToolKit’s beautifully illustrated components, precisely coordinated branding of characters that engage kiddos, extra materials that foster connection, access to an expansive digital library, and the bonus of having a new tribe to lean on as I figure this out, was priceless.
It is not DIY, but I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that this is far less money than it would have cost me to do it myself. I can save my pennies, my precious time, and my sanity, and invest in a pre-made program that is already working for thousands of other moms just like me.
I’m so glad I didn’t give up after my first experience. I really thought Calming Corners would work, and since the initial attempt didn’t, I felt that I was doing something wrong. The fact is, I just didn’t have the right tools.
The ToolKit's tools are literally ready to implement right out of the box. Not to mention, they are beautiful. Not only did they capture my eye, but, most importantly, my daughter's too. This was her space and she could make it her own. And she did just that.
My daughter chose where she wanted her Calming Corner, which wasn't the space I had hoped or envisioned but (shoulder shrug) I am learning to let go and let her take the lead. She pulled in a blanket to make a red floor, chose a comfy red chair, and picked her own calming activities to go in a bin (and she didn’t even want my super cool, Pinterest-popular calming jar). Oh, and of course, her Red Bear SnuggleBuddies was invited into the space, because, let's face it, Red Bear and her are currently BFF's. The other day I overheard her telling Bear about her feelings and chatting favorite calming strategies. I don't know about you, but to me, that feels like success.
Overall, these tools are a huge family win. We are loving the activities that foster connection, the play-based tools, and the meaningful, emotional conversations that are now happening. Sometimes I want to pinch myself. I mean, how could it be working so well? But then I remember that 50% of learning is based on engagement, and the makers of Generation Mindful know that. They know that a child is more apt to do something they are intrinsically motivated by. Our space is working exactly as science said it would, and better than I could have ever hoped.
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.