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Calm Down Corners: Helping Children Manage Emotions

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Children have a wide range of emotions, from joy and excitement to sadness and anger. Unfortunately, little ones don’t know how to regulate their emotions yet and can easily feel overwhelmed. This is where calm-down corners come in. These designated corners help children learn to manage their emotions safely and healthily. 

Calm-down corners help parents, teachers, and caregivers equip kids with the skills they need for self-regulation so they can grow up to be emotionally intelligent adults. Remember, self-regulation is a key part of the advanced thinking skills that grow quickly during early childhood.1

This article explores the concept of calm-down corners and how they can benefit children’s emotional well-being. Pin, save, or share the image below to help other parents and caregivers discover this helpful technique!

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What is a Calm-Down Corner?

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A calm-down corner is a safe and quiet place where children can retreat to when they need to manage their emotions. It’s a designated area, usually in a room or corner of a room, containing items and activities to help kids calm down and regulate their feelings.

The purpose of a calm-down corner is not to punish children. Rather, they provide them with a safe space where they can learn how to cope with big feelings. It also lets them take responsibility for managing their own emotions instead of acting out or relying on adults to soothe them.

An image file of the text "Self-regulation depends on your experiences, relationships, and genetics."
Maternal and Child Health Program.1

What Can You Include in a Calm-Down Corner?

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There’s no hard rule on what items or activities you should include in a calm-down corner. But generally, they should have things to help children relax and express their emotions healthily. Here are some ideas:

  • Soft pillows, weighted blankets, or stuffed animals for comfort
  • Sensory toys such as playdough, stress balls, or fidget spinners
  • Calming music or white noise
  • A jar of glitter to make calming sensory bottles
  • Books about emotions and coping skills
  • Drawing materials or coloring books to encourage self-expression
  • Pinwheel or bubbles to encourage deep breathing
An image file of the text "Being exposed to stressors like poverty, parents with mental struggles, food scarcity, and tough neighborhoods can make it harder to regulate your emotions and behavior."
Maternal and Child Health Program.1

How to Introduce and Use a Calm-Down Corner

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Introducing this space to your child requires patience and understanding. Here are some tips:

  1. Explain its purpose: Inform your munchkin that it is a safe place to go when they need help managing their emotions.
  2. Decorate it together: Involve them in decorating and personalizing the space with items they like.
  3. Practice using it regularly: Encourage your child to use it during moments of emotional distress, but also make it a fun place for them to visit even when they’re not upset.
  4. Model healthy coping skills: Show your child how to use the different items in this space to relax and express emotions.
  5. Encourage reflection: After they’ve calmed down, talk with your child about what caused their big feelings and how they can handle them better in the future.
An image file of the text "Prolonged or pronounced stress and adversity can disrupt self-regulation and result in long-term negative effects on development."
Maternal and Child Health Program.1

    How Can Calm-Down Corners Benefit Children?

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    Early childhood is a key time for building self-regulation skills because the brain develops quickly during these years.1 A calm-down corner offers many benefits for children, including:

    • Learning how to manage emotions in a healthy way
    • Developing self-awareness and emotional intelligence
    • Building problem-solving skills
    • Encouraging independence and self-soothing techniques
    • Promoting a positive outlet for big feelings
    An image file of the text "From infancy onward, kids develop skills for managing their attention, behavior, and emotions. By the time they're 3 years old, these abilities are called self-regulation."
    Maternal and Child Health Program.1

    Tips for Setting Up an Effective Calm-Down Corner

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    When creating a calm-down corner, keep in mind that every child is unique. Some prefer quiet activities like reading, while others need more physical outlets like jumping on a mini trampoline.

    Tips for setting up an effective calm-down corner

    Here are some tips to consider when setting up one:

    • Keep it accessible: Make sure your child can access it easily whenever they need it.
    • Keep it private: Create a quiet and secluded space away from distractions and noise.
    • Use positive reinforcement: Acknowledge when your bubba tries to use it and when they successfully use the calm-down corner or practice healthy coping skills. Positive reinforcement can encourage them to continue using it.
    • Make it inviting: Use soft, cozy materials and calming colors to make the space feel safe and welcoming.
    • Keep it consistent: Keep the calm-down corner in the same location so your child knows where to go when they need a break.
    • Personalize it: Let your child help choose items to include in the corner, such as their favorite stuffed animal or book.
    • Update and rotate items: Regularly update and rotate items in it to keep it fresh and interesting for your child.
    An image file of the text "Early self-control in kids can predict how well they do later in school, work, and overall health. It can even predict things like how they do in their careers, whether they struggle with substance use, and how healthy they stay physically."
    Maternal and Child Health Program.1

    Calm-Down Corner Ideas

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    Here are some ideas for items to include in a calm-down corner:

    • Get crafty: Make your stress balls or sensory bottles.
    • Bring nature indoors: Design calming corners inspired by nature or under-the-sea themes.
    • Unplug and unwind: Create technology-free zones for screen-free relaxation.
    • Personalize with personality: Incorporate favorite characters or themes to make the space uniquely theirs.
    An image file of the text "According to their parents, children with good self-regulation are healthier and have fewer emergency room visits."
    Maternal and Child Health Program.1

    Wrapping Up

    A calm-down corner is valuable for children and parents to practice self-regulation techniques. Follow these tips and ideas to create your child’s peaceful and personalized calm-down corner.

    Have you already created one for your child? Share your experience and any additional tips in the comments below!

    1. Claussen et al. “Factors Associated with Self-regulation in a Nationally Representative Sample of Children Ages 3–5 Years: United States, 2016.” Maternal and Child Health Journal, 2021. ↩︎
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