Chill-Out Corner: A PositiveTool for Learning Emotional Self Regulation

**This post was written by Renee**

How to teach children self-regulation and how to remain calm at times of temper tantrums is something that is very important to many parents.

In my home, instead of punishing temper tantrums or using the traditional time outs and the minute per year of age, we have established a calming chill out corner where dimples (my son) can go to re-center, calm down or chill out. It’s a bit like a thinking corner I guess, with a positive twist, nothing like time out or the naughty corner.

The basic idea is that it will help diffuse situations before they escalate into chaos. Even if this doesn’t happen often young children can get overwhelmed by big emotions in their tiny bodies, whether its frustration or anger or sadness and this provides him an appropriate outlet for these because we all know big emotions can escalate into yelling, shouting, name calling, lashing out, tantrums and even physical attacks which we do not want.

chillout

Here are some ideas of things that can go into a calm space or a chill out corner and what we have included in ours.

1. Music: Calming music is a good stress release that aides in relaxation. Soft tranquil nature sounds, classical or calming noises that you can find on mediation Cd’s or baby toys do wonders for the mind. If this isn’t something that appeals to your child, many people feel that dance or “dancing it off” to fast up beat music you can groove and move to is a great physical release for pent up energy.

2. Colours: Blues, Greens, Purples and Greys are said to be calming colours. Notice they are all on the cool side of the colour spectrum. Light and neutral colours that aren’t overwhelming and will help calm the soul are great to have in your calming space. It has been said that warm colours, such as yellow are stressful and can even cause distraction and agitation in children.
Use your colours in your chill out area through storage boxes, materials, cushions, curtains or a theme.

3. Sense of Smell: Lavender has long been known to aide in stress relief. You can use smell by adding it in diffusers, Room spray on the cushions or materials, clean the room with lavender carpet deodoriser, or use lavender in pillows, pot pouri or in teddies with the stuffing. Have a look at the Scented sensory bottles we made and our Dyed rice soaked in lavender like the lavender Zen garden we did here in our Relaxing Mini Zen Garden Using Lavender Dyed Rice.

4. Sensory Tactile Objects: These objects require focus and attention and have been used in calming activities with children for a long time. Occupational therapists utilise sensory activities and things that they call “fidget toys” for children who have adhd, autism and sensory processing disorder but for all children these types of toys can provide a release of energy in a highly attentive manner where they require a re-focus of cognitive ability and a distraction from the spaces surrounding them. This helps them self-regulate their emotions, calm down, re-centre, settle the mind/body and provides a stress-release (much like the adult stress balls I am sure you’ve seen before).

5. Deep Breathing: Most children don’t know how to calm their body down and self-regulate so they need to be taught this skill. Asking them to close their eyes and take deep breathes can help but for younger children there are fun little activities that can help that require deep breathes. Tell them to take a big breath before entering the chill out corner and to use their breath in pinwheels, balloons, soft whistles and bubble blowers.

6. Reading, Drawing and Art Therapy about feelings: This gives a child the opportunity to distinguish their feelings through pictures and discuss how they might feel without directly talking about it. Art therapy is often used with older children to release negative energy and express inner feelings but for younger children just doing a big hard scribble can be a great release, ask them to draw how they feel and see what they come up with. Whether it is a picture a scribble or a bunch of hard lines doesn’t matter as long as they feel they can openly let out how they feel in an appropriate way. The idea is that it is OK to feel angry or upset, emotions are normal but what you do with them is even more important.

7. Ripping and Scrunching appropriate Objects: If it is strong emotions relating to aggression, frustration and opposition that a child experiences you can provide them with safe objects to take their feelings out on. Ripping and tearing up paper or scrunching it releases physical stress and can give the child a sense of control that they feel angry and are allowed to show it but not projected onto their self or others. Another great physical release for pent up negative energy is pounding play dough. The child can’t hurt them self and often the act of letting it out physically will release their stress and cheer them up.

Will it work for you?
The idea of our chill out corner is that children can go there when they need to calm down or when you can see they’re getting worked up or not coping with strong emotions. Once they do this and feel calmed down there is opportunity to discuss what happened and what helped improve the situation. This tool is a form of prevention and an opportunity to learn how to self-regulate, it is not a form of punishment or a ‘Naughty Corner’.

These tips are relatively broad and can be used in many areas, it doesn’t have to be a corner, you could employ some of it in a feel good box or apply it to an entire play room.

The other concept of our chill out time is that it’s for ME TOO. It is important to set a good example, children learn by observation and imitation so if they see that everyone, even adults get agitated or frustrated and that its ok to do that but important to calm down or “chill out” they will follow what they see. For that reason I will be using the chill out corner to, if I need to re-centre and calm down I will go do what calms me down a sketch or a drawing, or play with the meditation balls.

If you would like to see even more ideas and pictures for a chill out corner, visit the “chill out Post” at Adventures at Home with Mum!

Chill out & Happy Adventures
Renee from Adventures at home with Mum

-Portions of this post were previously published at Adventures at home with Mum-

In what positive ways do you help your child deal with strong emotions?

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10 thoughts on “Chill-Out Corner: A PositiveTool for Learning Emotional Self Regulation

  1. I think this is a great idea, but I have a question. What happens if they refuse to go to the Chill out corner? In Fact, we have tried this for a short time and it sounds great, but the reality is something quite different. If you force them to go to a chill out corner then what is the difference between that and time-out? Most likely I am thinking of this incorrectly, and need some clarification.

    • Stephen, I hear what you are saying with reality vs. theory of the calm down corner. my experience has been that if I don’t use/suggest the cool off corner before the pent up feelings are full blown it will not work, like you said it can turn into a power struggle of “go calm down!” “NO!” and so on…UNTIL children start to see the benefits of using it and chose to go on their own. SO, a few ideas, spend time in the cool off corner together exploring the various things in there, how the scented things smell “what do you think when you smell this”, coloring together, blowing pin wheels together etc…this way the corner has a familiar feel. Allow your child to be in the cool off corner, even if it’s not for cooling off. Would you consider modeling using the corner yourself? the next time YOU feel a bit stressed could you say “hey I’m going to go over here in the cool off corner and I’m going to color off some steam!”
      Lastly, one thought is to suggest the use of the cool off but let the child decide for example “Well, looks like we could all cool off a bit, I’m going to my room to take a breath – feel free to use your cool off corner, I’ll be back in two minutes”. This I would only suggest if you KNOW your child will be safe on their own. Hope that helps!

    • I love your reply to Stephen. It’s so helpful to know how to navigate the reality of a great theory.

      My question is about the tactile objects. What do you suggest for “fidget toys”?

      • Bethany,
        Hoberman spheres (the expand and collapse and are rainbowish – really nice) slinky’s, stress balls, there is something called tangles that I like as well. small balls with spikes on them are great too :) hth!!

  2. Pingback: Why is Will Sitting in the Corner? Building Classroom Community One Child at a Time? By Dr. Amanda Quesenberry, ISU ECE Associate Professor | eceteachertalk

  3. This is a great idea and I think my almost 4 year old could benefit from that. How could I introduce this concept to him? I also have an 18 month old who would probably try to use the chill out corner in a way that my oldest son would get upset… Any ideas of how to make it suitable for young toddlers and older kids? Thank you!

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