Social-emotional learning skills are critical for your child to have a successful life. Continue reading to learn how to create a calm-down toolkit to foster social-emotional development!
Has your child ever had a huge meltdown in a store? I am talking screaming, stomping, yelling, and putting on a Broadway-type production. You look up, and everyone is staring in your direction. You start to feel your face turn red. UGH! You are at a loss for words or a response. This nightmare scenario has happened to me, and now I have the ✨magic tools✨ to help this scene not become a reality for you. Read more to find out about the calm down toolkit and its incredible benefits.
What is a Calm Down Toolkit?
A calm-down toolkit is a collection of sensory items to help assist and encourage self-regulation and emotional learning. This can be used when you’re experiencing a big emotion and are dysregulated. This article will provide you with the knowledge and tools you need to create and implement a calm-down toolkit to foster your child’s self-regulation skills.
The Importance of Self-Regulation
Self-regulation is an individual’s ability to identify emotional stressors in their environment and adjust their behaviors, thoughts, and emotions to cope with the situation in a healthy way. A child who is able to self-regulate is able to remain calm, stay focused, follow instructions and minimize disruptive behaviors even if they are upset, under pressure, or experiencing a big emotion. You can teach your child this lifelong skill through the implementation of the calm-down toolkit. The calm-down toolkit is a great social-emotional learning activity that provides emotional learning support.
So, why is it important to teach this skill to your kiddo? Research continuously supports the benefits of self-regulation. Check the list below and see what self-regulators are capable of doing!
- Put forth their best effort
- Act in accordance with their beliefs and values
- Calm themselves when experiencing a big emotion
- Maintain an open mind
- Cheer themselves when feeling down
- Persist and learn through difficult times
- Be flexible and adapt to situations
- Stay clear about their boundaries
- Maintain open communication
- Take control of situations when needed
- View challenges as opportunities for growth
Supporting your child as they process their emotions and feelings will strengthen their self-regulation skills. Furthermore, it will foster a deep connection and bond between the both of you. 🥰 Caregivers play an essential role in supporting their child’s development of self regulation. Co-regulation is a strategy which involves an adult caregiver guiding a child when they are feeling an unpleasant emotion. They may need some extra love, like a tight squeezy hug, in order to calm down. This is absolutely normal and supports their emotional learning journey.
Tips to Develop + Foster Self-Regulation
Disclaimer: You are most likely already developing and fostering your child’s self-regulation skills. You’re an amazing caregiver. 💗
There are various ways to integrate and foster self-regulation into your child’s everyday life. You can do this by adding some of our ideas into your family’s day-to-day life. The goal is to make it pressure-free and authentic; there is already an endless list as a caregiver! When you use the social emotional learning suggestions below you will develop a strong relationship with your child.
It is essential to create and build a positive relationship with your kid. One way you can do this is by implementing a daily check-in. It can be as simple as a non-verbal, thumb up, thumb middle, thumb down(👍👎). This is a great way to do a quick check-in with your child if you are unable to have a conversation. You’re still able to validate your child’s emotions and connect through non-verbal signs until you are able to have a conversation together. Providing your child with validation is vital for emotional learning development.
The chart to the left can be found here.
Validating children and letting them know they are safe to cry, allows them to learn healthy coping mechanisms and connect with their adult caregivers. Try some of the dialougue suggested next time your child cries. The 5 quotes are tailored to develop children social emotional learning developlement.
Another check-in suggestion is a feelings chart. A feelings chart is an easy tool that can be implemented to assist your child in understanding and identifying emotions. If your child is having a difficult time expressing their feelings, they can point to an emotion on the chart. Some other alternatives include: writing their emotion in a feelings journal, charting it daily on a graph, drawing/painting their feelings, expressing themselves through dance and music, etc.
Finding out what works best for your child and using that technique is most important.
Pro tip: Try out a few different techniques and have your child choose what they like best.
Fun SEL Activity: Take a photo of your child acting out each emotion to create a personalized feelings chart. As you take the photo for the emotion, discuss how the emotions feel in their body or a time when they felt the emotion. This emotional activity will help create a deeper understanding of the emotion.
This is an incredible tool for a calm-down area and toolkit. Emotions you can include on the chart: anger, happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, and surprise. When your child is a part of the process it makes the tools deeply personalized and encourages them to use the strategy more.
Wait……Did you know we post social emotional learning activities on our instagram weekly?
Typically, it is difficult for young children to identify their emotions because their prefrontal cortex is developing these skills. Providing your child with a feelings chart can assist them in developing an understanding of emotions and encourage social emotional development.. Furthermore, utilizing a daily check-in provides children with comfort, validation, and support. This ultimately develops their SEL skills (social-emotional learning skills).
Other suggestions on developing self-regulation:
- Establish concrete rules, routines, and boundaries
- Create a structured and predictable environment
- Provide and promote the use of the calm-down area/tool kit
- Validate your child’s emotions “I see you are sad. It is ok to be sad. What can we do to make you feel better?”
- Normalize and accept big feelings – teach strategies to work through them
- Model coping strategies (calm-down area, calm-down tool kit, yoga, breathwork, etc.)
- Provide your child with positive reinforcement.
Did you know? Self-regulation plays a critical role in personal well-being, relationships, and overall success in life. When children are able to control their behaviors and regulate their emotions appropriately, they are able to achieve their goals, manage conflicts, and live a more fulfilling life!
Check out this post on Instagram for more ideas on strategies to self-regulate for adults and children. The visual below is a great support for emotional learning development.
In the next section, you will learn about calm-down areas and toolkits. Both of these emotional learning activities/tools advance self-regulation skills and social-emotional learning and development in children.
Calm-Down Area vs. Calm-Down Toolkit
Calm-Down Toolkit: An on-the-go tool used to support your child’s self-regulation and foster social-emotional skills. The calm-down kit aims to provide sensory exercises that regulate your child by feeling, hearing, smelling, or practicing breathing. Think of this as a mobile calm-down area. This can be in a pouch, bag, shoe box, or whatever fits your child’s needs best. The use of the calm-down kit must be modeled and practiced for the strategy to be beneficial.
Calm Down Area: A designated area in your home used to support your child’s self-regulation and foster social-emotional skills. The goal of this space is to promote a sense of calm. Having a safe place to explore emotions is essential and benefits social-emotional growth. Calm-down areas teach children the skills to self-regulate, control impulsive behaviors, self-awareness, and self-management skills.
First, we will review the calm-down area because the toolkit is an on-the-go adaptation of this area. Using a calm-down space instead of a time-out is a proactive way to teach self-regulation. You should reward your child for using the space rather than threaten them with it. For example, do not say things like, “Go to the calm down corner!” or insinuate it is used for punishment. It is important to embrace and accept your child’s emotions. When they feel comfortable and safe, they are better able to self-regulate and are more willing to come to you. By utilizing the calm down are you are providing your child with emotional learning activities that will support their social emotional development.
Choosing to respond to big emotions by taking a break in their calm down space, rather than choosing to respond negatively is an impressive skill. When we force the use of the calm down space, it simply will not work. Time-outs are a form of punishment, whereas a calming area is a safe place to self-regulate and handle big emotions appropriately. You can name this area with your child to give them ownership.
Other Name Ideas for Calm Down Area:
- Calm Down Space
- Peace Place☮️
- Calm Down Corner
- Cozy Corner
- Cool Down Tent
- Break Spot
- Cool Down Area
- Relaxation Station
Pro tip: Make the area welcoming and their personalized safe space to explore and express their feelings in a safe, appropriate manner.
What does a calm-down area look like? It is a cozy, quiet space that provides an area for your child to feel safe to recognize and regulate their emotions. The space can be simple and does not have to require purchasing anything. Fill the space with items like a cozy rug, pillows, bean bag chairs, or anything soft and comforting for your child to sit or lie down. Your child can select stuffed animals, quiet toys, and Zoy App storybooks that make them happy. This space can also have a feelings chart, journal, coloring pages, artwork, photos, music, bubbles, fidget toys, blocks, lavender lotion, or any other items that help your child self-regulate and feel comfortable. ✨Important Reminder: Everyone’s calm-down space will be unique to their own social-emotional needs. Let your child make choices and truly personalize this space. ✨
Scenario utilizing Calm Down Area: It is bedtime, and your child is running around, singing, and having a joyous, energetic time (perfect for bedtime! 🙄). You take a deep breath and say, “Wow! I love to see you having a fun time. It is time to calm our bodies down for bedtime. Let’s make a choice in the calm down area to relax our bodies. We will have fun again tomorrow.”
⏳Using a visual timepiece is a great way to show your child how much time is left in the calming space. When we say, “One more minute left,” children typically do not have the concept of time down, especially when working through emotions. ⏳
The image above shows a child calming himself by doing arts and crafts. Using arts and crafts is a great way for children to express themselves. Research proves that creating and engaging in the arts releases the chemical dopamine. Dopamine is the “feel-good” neurotransmitter in our brains. Studies have shown individuals with anxious and depressive symptoms find relief and healing through art. Having arts as an option in the calm-down area and toolkit is a beneficial activity. This can include building blocks, crayons, paper, paint, etc. 🎨 Let them get artsy! Science approves! 🎨
As previously mentioned, the calm-down toolkit is an on-the-go tool used to support your child’s self-regulation and foster social-emotional skills. The calm-down kit provides sensory exercises that regulate your child through breathwork, touch, smell, and other sensory-engaging exercises.
Research has shown when we engage the senses and use grounding techniques, we remind our bodies, physically and physiologically, where we are. Psychologist Renee Exelbhert found tapping into all five senses as a grounding technique can bring your body out of fight or flight mode. This is when your sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive which can cause feelings of anxiety, energy, stress, or excitement.
Imagine you are in complete panic mode. (Sorry to do this to you.) You cannot always think in a clear manner in times of panic. Allowing your mind to focus on the smells, sights, and sounds around you will bring you back to a calmer state, physically and mentally. The calm-down toolkit focuses on sensory items because of the positive research-driven results when used. The calm down toolkit provides an emotional learning activity promoting a sense of calm and allows an individual to self-regulate.
Did you know? Identifying things in your physical space slows the heart 🫀rate and takes your focus off the intense feeling you’re experiencing.
When should you use the calm-down area/toolkit?
- When your child is not listening.
- When your child is overstimulated.
- When your child is aggressive.
- When your child has any big emotions.
- When your child needs a break from screen time (tablet, television, video games, cellphone).
- When you notice your child is becoming overwhelmed.
- When your child is extremely excited and silly.
- Overall, ALL feelings are welcome!
“I can see you are having a difficult time. Let’s get your calm down toolkit and make a choice to help you feel better.”
Pro tip: Providing your child with choices and options will make them feel in control and empowered.
The calm-down toolkit should be used to stop a behavior from becoming out of control. Noticing your child’s triggers and their responses is helpful information to collect to understand your child’s specific social-emotional needs. A calm-down toolkit is a way for your child to take a break and focus on their social-emotional needs. By implementing the calm-down toolkit, you are providing your child with valuable lifelong social-emotional health benefits and skills.
Click here to watch our REEL on how to make your calm contagious.
What should go in the calm-down box?
Toddler Calm Box Suggestions: bubbles, blocks, emotion cards, stuffed animal, soothing quiet toys, small blanket, ghost breathing buddy, yoga poses book, calm music, timer, photo of something that brings happiness, Zoy App Storybook, Yoga flow video
Elementary Age Calm Box Suggestions: play dough, stress ball, mints, chewing gum, lavender lotion/spray, cars, puppets, dolls, ghost breathing buddy, stuffed animals, art supplies, coloring book, yoga poses book, bubble wrap, scratch and sniff stickers, tissue paper (to rip), glitter jar, motivational words,snow globe, noise-canceling headphones, Rubik’s cube, sand timer, soothing music, photos of something that brings happiness, Zoy App Storybook, Yoga flow video
Adult Calm-Down Box Suggestions: Try out a zen/sand garden, journal, essential oils (lavender, peppermint), noise-canceling ear plugs, coloring book, pens, markers, playlist of music to calm you, affirmations, mints, gum,motivational words, stress ball, photos that cultivate joy, a note from a loved one, breathwork, yoga flows, or quotes you enjoy
Find more suggestions by following the link below to our instagram. Reel Calm Down Ideas for Caregivers
Pro tip: It is vital to fill your calm-down kit with tools and activities you will actually use.
Calm Down Toolkit Checklist:
- 👃🏽Smell: Inhale the scent of lavender, peppermint, or another scent that brings peace.
- 🤚Touch: Play with a fidget, pop bubble wrap, practice yoga poses, hug a stuffed animal, or build with blocks.
- 👂Sound: music, drumming, humming, calm-down playlist, noise machine
- 👀Sight: Look at photos that promote calm, play Eye Spy, read a book, or look at artwork.
- 👅Taste: Enjoy the flavor of gum, mint, or candy.
- Feelings Chart (A visual chart that labels different emotions.)
- 📓Journal (A way to express thoughts and emotions on paper through drawings and or words.)
- Zoy App Storybook (Download our app for social-emotional learning stories.)
- ⏳Timer (A timer is a visual support to help your child transition with the calm down toolkit.)
- Whatever items promote calm for the individual
*Reminder: Everyone’s calm down tool kit will be specific to the individual’s unique social and emotional needs.
So, what is the point of using this calm-down kit?
Some benefits include:
- Learning self-regulation
- Controlling impulse behaviors
- Giving children self-awareness
- Providing structure and support
- Behavior management
- Children learning to handle big emotions appropriately
- Fostering social-emotional health
- Empowering your child to independently handle their emotions and problem-solve
By modeling these methods and routinely incorporating these tools into your daily interactions with your child, you are teaching them lifelong tools for mental wellness. Read more on the benefits of modeling here.
How to Self Regulate as an Adult
Create a calm-down tool kit. Yes, you read that right! This toolkit can also be used for adults. Pro Tip: Make your calm-down kits together. Your calm-down kit should have items in it that bring you a sense of peace and calm.
Have a designated calm space for you in your house. This can be simply a chair, a cozy corner, a yoga mat, or just a place where you go to feel inner peace and serenity.
Journaling helps us to keep track of our daily emotions and our strengths and weaknesses. The art of writing something down allows your thoughts to become a reality. Having a ‘brain dump’ where you list all the things on your mind can help ease your anxiety. You are able to place your worries somewhere other than your mind, and that can be very therapeutic. There are various styles of journaling you can explore. Some types of journaling are bullet journaling, calendar journaling, meditation journaling, daily journaling, food journaling, travel journaling, and creative journaling.
Mindfulness and deep breathing are great regulation tools that can be used basically anywhere to assist you with self-regulation. Research supports the various positive effects of deep breathing some include reduced feelings of overwhelm and anxiety, relaxed muscles, and lowered stress levels. Deep breathing sends a signal to our brains to relax and calm down. Allowing ourselves to pause and slow down and simply breathe is a great strategy to have because it can be used anywhere and anytime. It promotes balance in the mind and body and allows you to gain control of your thoughts, emotions, and body again.
Overall, there are various methods to self-regulate. You have to find what works for you. When you use these strategies, you are modeling the importance of self-care to your child.
Recap on Calm-Down Toolkit: This toolkit is an on-the-go strategy used to support your child’s self-regulation and foster social-emotional learning skills. When your child is experiencing a large feeling, you can offer this resource. Woohoo! Now you and your child are ready to create a Calm-Down Toolkit. This is an incredible way to bond with your child and foster social-emotional development.
A note from Zoy: We hope this article helped you feel a bit more knowledgeable about self-regulation and its importance. Please be sure to share your creations with us on our social media! The Zoy app is an important social emotional learning resource to help you feel supported in your parenting journey. Download the Zoy app today to get started with all of the psychologist-approved social emotional learning stories for kids!
Similar Helpful Articles:
- Boaden, ., & McGill, . (2020). Why Self-regulation Is Important for Young Children. In The Hanen Centre. Retrieved from http://www.hanen.org/Helpful-Info/Articles/Why-Self-regulation-Is-Important-for-Young-Childre.aspx
- Hoffman, Luhmann, Fisher, Vohs, & Baumeister, . (2013, June 11). Yes, But Are They Happy? Effects of Trait Self-Control on Affective Well-Being and Life Satisfaction. In Journal of Personality . Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jopy.12050
- Lorina, (2022, September 19). Calm Down Box for Children. In Aussie Childcare Network. Retrieved from https://aussiechildcarenetwork.com.au/articles/teaching-children/calm-down-box-for-children
- Paauw, . (2021, May). Benefits of Creative Self Expression Through the Visual Arts, “Art Therapy”. In Centre Stone. Retrieved from https://centerstone.org/benefits-of-creative-self-expression-through-the-visual-arts-art-therapy/
- Yoo, (n.d.). How to Support Self-Regulation Difficulties in Children. In Foothills Academy. Retrieved from https://www.foothillsacademy.org/community/articles/self-regulation-difficulties