Why do you need to know how to make a calm down kit?
Generations of well-intended caregivers have uttered the words “calm down!” to upset, anxious, and angry children… only to discover they poured gasoline on the fire.
Calm down kits help can help us turn over a new leaf by validating feelings and teaching impactful coping skills.
So what should you put in a calm down kit?
As a former professional school counselor and certified positive discipline parent educator, I will walk you through 6 key steps to creating an effective calm down kit with your child or students.
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- What is a calm down kit?
- How to make a calm down kit for your classroom or home in 6 simple steps
- The last thing you need to know about how to make a calm down kit
What is a calm down kit?
A calm down kit for kids is a collection of items that can help a child regulate their emotions. Calm down kits should contain items tailored to children’s ages, developmental stages, and unique interests.
When designed appropriately, kids gain confidence by mastering simple coping strategies.
Calm down kits also support parents and educators in using time-out alternatives that align with positive discipline.
Calm down kits are helpful for children who experience:
Do calm down kits work?
As a former professional school counselor, certified positive discipline parent educator, and mother to two young children, I have witnessed firsthand the positive impact of calm down kits!
This said, calm down kits should be developed and introduced strategically to best serve each child.
For best results:
#1: Introduce a calm down kit only when your child is developmentally ready to learn calm down strategies (typically around age 3 or 4).
#2: Create a calm down kit in collaboration with your child. Calm down kits are only successful when kids buy in and feel a sense of ownership!
#3: Teach your child how to use the calm down kit and allow ample time for practice when they are calm.
#4: Always offer the calm down kit as a choice, not a punishment (learn why here!).
What should be in a calm down kit?
While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, here are some common items you may find in a child’s calm down kit:
- Visuals for identifying emotions
- Visuals for coping skills choices
- Connection-based activities to complete with caregiver
- Sensory tools
- Comfort items
How to make a calm down kit for your classroom or home in 6 simple steps
If you are committed to creating a calm down kit with your child but need ideas on how to begin, you’ve come to the right place! Here are six quick and easy steps to get started:
Step #1: Choose your container
The beauty of a calm down kit, as opposed to a designated calm down space/corner, is that it can be contained and taken on the go.
Choose a container that:
- Fits on your child’s lap
- Your child can open independently
- Has a lid
Honestly, an old shoe box will do the trick! Wrap it in paper and have your child decorate it to help them take pride in their kit.
However, if you want to buy new, here are a few of my favorite containers on Amazon that will get the job done for one child:
If you are looking to create several different calm down kits for your classroom or school counseling office, consider buying in bulk from Discount School Supply:
Step #2: Choose visuals for identifying feelings
This is a vital step caregivers often miss! Before jumping straight into coping skills, kids first need to build up their feelings vocabulary.
If your child needs extra help in this area, here are 60 simple activities to help.
Visuals are vital for helping preschoolers and young children to learn how to identify emotions.
For a calm down kit, printable cards are usually your best option. Here are my two favorite collections at Such a Little While:
For my son’s calm down kit, I laminated a set of cards and placed them on a ring for him to look through.
If your child is susceptible to “choice overwhelm” consider using this printable emotions wheel with an attachable overlay. Viewing just one option at a time can make a significant difference with a dysregulated child!
Step #3: Choose coping skills visuals
Now for the fun part! Teaching your child developmentally-appropriate calming strategies is what a calm down kit is all about.
Visual cues can help kids as young as preschool-age take ownership over selecting their coping skills. My son loves these printable cards (which I again, laminated and placed on a ring).
Since less is more when it comes to choices, I also love this printable calming choices wheel with an attachable overlay. Kids can spin the wheel and view just one calming strategy at a time.
Step #4: Choose hands-on, connection-based activities
Engaging in a hands-on activity and creating something new is an excellent way to calm the mind and shift focus.
Be sure to include an activity or two in your calm down kit that can be completed with a trusted adult, such as a favorite game or book. Positive parenting follows the philosophy of “connection before correction.”
Taking a few moments to connect over an activity can have a tremendously positive impact before revisiting boundaries with a child.
Here are a few of my all-time favorite connection-sparking activities:
Spot it! is an excellent “grounding game” that helps dysregulated kids shift their focus. It’s so much easier to talk through big emotions once kids are calm. My elementary students adored this game!
Building and construction toys are excellent calming tools that are often overlooked. These Joinks by Fat Brain Toys are one of my favorite open-ended play toys for kids to create solo or with a caregiver.
If you’re brand-new to mindfulness, you may consider my much less expensive printable script to dip your toe in first!
One of my all-time favorite children’s books! I am Human reminds us that it’s okay to make mistakes and empowers kids to keep striving for kindness and empathy. Emphasizing a growth mindset helps kids persevere through challenging moments.
Never underestimate the power of humor in working through emotions like sadness, worry, or frustration! Would You Rather Game Book for Kids is a fun way to temporarily put the big issue on the back burner, connect, and get to know your child in a whole new way.
Step #5: Choose sensory tools
Children’s behavior serves many different functions. Most of us are familiar with “attention-seeking behavior”; however, some challenging behavior in kids happens when they attempt to gain or avoid stimuli.
Tactile sensory tools are a helpful addition to a calm down kit and are often especially helpful for children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
If your child has significant sensory needs, consider consulting with an occupational therapist or other professionals on their support team (if applicable).
Here are a few of my favorite kid-friendly sensory tools:
Step #6: Choose comfort items
If your child has a favorite blanket, stuffed animal, or special photograph that can elicit a sense of peace, by all means, include it in their calm down kit!
Here are a few examples of comfort items that often work well with young children.
The last thing you need to know about how to make a calm down kit
When we make a calm down kit with a child, we are asking them to find the courage to try something new. We encourage them to keep practicing something that might feel uncomfortable until it becomes second nature.
We must model this type of growth mindset for our kids. By doing so, we can push ourselves to learn and step outside our comfort zone as parents and caregivers.
If you are not feeling 100% confident in an authoritative, positive approach to discipline yet, that’s perfectly okay.
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It does not have to be overwhelming. Just one small step a day can lead to big changes that have a lasting and profound impact on your child.
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You’ve got this!