What is a Calming Corner?
A calming corner is a designated small space that students can go to relax, use coping or calming strategies, and take a needed break. If you are a teacher, it can be a helpful tool that can be used for many purposes. This is because it does not have to be for just students with anger difficulties or behaviors. All of your students can benefit from a space in the classroom where they can regulate their emotions.
In a calming corner students can relax, take a break from work, take a reward break for finishing work, and/or regroup when having a bad day. It can also be more a more positive spin on having a time-out space for students having difficulty controlling behaviors that are disruptive, such as bothering peers or disrupting instruction.
If you are a school psychologist or counselor, a calming corner is definitely a useful space to have in your office. In my experience as a school psychologist, I have used it to work on coping skills and mindfulness during counseling, give students a break from their classroom, and have a soft location for aggressive students to calm down in. Yes, they may throw or punch pillows. That’s the nice part of having my own office, no other students to disrupt or injure when they are having a moment (aka meltdown.)
Your Calming Corner can be pretty basic and low cost and still be effective
I have been in classrooms where teachers have fancy chairs, small tents, and even a couch for their Calming Corner space. While I aspire to be fancy, I’m admittedly too cheap with myself to buy expensive things, especially for work. To make my office Calming Corner, I used an extra yoga mat from my home, old couch pillows, stuffed animals, and yes, floatation boat cushions. I admittedly have a slight cost-saving advantage, however, as I have my own children to “borrow” plush animals from.
If you are not able to scrounge up some old pillows or yoga mat from your home, try TJ Maxx or Marshals. The plushier the Yoga mat, the better. I’ve also seen teachers with small carpets, which can also be found inexpensively. Your corner does not have to be large at all. It should probably just be big enough to fit one student at a time. This will reduce situations of multiple students wanting to use it together and talking or disrupting the class.
The only purchased item in the picture above was the plush questions cube. It’s a nice addition that is functional as a rapport building activity while being an additional pillow. Pretty sure this was another August Target purchase, as back-to-school stuff is very seasonal. There’s also always Amazon too for some small, inexpensive touches.
Other Items to consider adding to your Calm Corner
Calming strategies poster or pictures
The calming strategies wall poster and pictures that I have are from Target several years ago. They helped me create a general theme of a pond for my Calm Corner and rewards system because they were frog and ocean themed.
Puzzles, Books, and Mindfulness Coloring Worksheets
While students can definitely lay down and do nothing in the Calm Corner, it is not likely that they will. Most kids need activity even when they are attempting to calm down. By providing some activities that can be distracting without being too stimulating, students can take their mental break and return to their work much easier. These puzzles were from the Dollar Tree Store. I’ve found that Dollar Tree has much more educational and sensory toy items than 99 cent store from what I have seen.
Social-Emotional Learning Themed Books ae also a good addition, but not completely necessary. For younger students, a social story book may be helpful because they can be specific to the issue if done right.
Here are some examples of Social Stories that can help with teaching calming and other other coping skills.
Mindfulness Coloring Worksheets
Mindfulness coloring helps children (and adults) become more present in the moment. They can distract while providing an opportunity to pause and reflect on our emotions. When completed, they usually look pretty nice as well. When counseling students who require a long or serious discussion, I will often use a mindfulness coloring activity to relax them and make them feel more comfortable. To do this, I will usually start coloring my own picture with them, which kids them feel like I am not just interrogating them, but am someone they can feel comfortable talking to.
Here are some of my hand-drawn mindfulness pictures that are mostly gender neutral. I made them because I noticed that most of my options for mindfulness coloring were very feminine in design, such as flowers or cats.
Sensory Items, Stress Balls, Liquid Motions, Writing Pad, and Fidgets
Other items that can be helpful to have in your calming corner might include sensory toys, kinetic sand, or liquid motion toys. These items are slightly more stimulating than books and puzzles, but can be used as more of a reward for students who are on behavior systems and finish their work. It’s all about multi-use spaces that help your life as a teacher be easier while helping your students’ mental health needs.
Its good to have variety of sensory items because kids all like different things…but they all like Kinetic Sand. This activity can be messy, however, and it also might not work on a floor space well, so it’s up to you.
Music can be another inexpensive nice addition to our calming corner. With headphones, providing calming music can be a good way for students to practice mindfulness or create a mental break from any stress. With headphones, they should not be distracting to their peers.
Last, but not least, use a timer
Use a timer of some kind when allowing students to use the calming corner. If you are a teacher, use a general time for all students, but individualize as needed if a student is having a hard day. If you are a counselor, your student may need quiet a bit of time depending on the issue, but still use a timer. Setting a time limit will help with establishing rules and expectations for using the calm corner. Yes, we want them to calm down and regroup, but we don’t want them to be there all day. It’s about implementing a strategy when stress, frustrated, angry, or over stimulated. It’s not about getting a location to avoid their schoolwork.
For more Counseling and Social-Emotional Learning Tips and Activities, please check out my Elementary School SEL Books and Counseling Activity Books for School Psychs and Counselors!