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Creating a calm down corner was one of my favorite things about the changes we made. We specifically made the calm down toys ourselves so it became a craft, rather than a chore or forced activity. It put a positive spin on a calming place and set the tone for how we wanted the area to function. It was also a good bonding activity for myself and my son to do together.
Calm Down Corner Craft
- 2 liter sized bottles (or smaller ones for smaller kids to handle)
- liquid at room temp oil (grapeseed, canola, or avocado oils work great)
- polymer beads
- food coloring drops
- super glue
We did 2 different themed bottles: one with water and oil and glitter; the other with water, water absorbing polymer beads, and glitter. For both, the water was colored with food dye. My son picked the colors of glitter and water because it’s important to include your child throughout the process of making changes in the household. That way they feel like their voice is still being heard and they are able to exert some control.
Directions: add your water to the bottles then color it, shake with lid on to mix. Fill the bottles with water about half way for the oil one and 3/4 for the other. Add your glitter to each bottle. We did about 2 Tbsp in each, but add as much or as little as you like. Then add your oil to the one bottle and your polymer beads to the other. For the oil bottle leave a little bit of space for air. For the polymer beads add 5 at a time and allow to fully absorb the water. We ultimately added like 20 beads and topped off the water once we were done. Then use the super glue on the inside screw threads of each lid, tighten the lids on and allow to dry per manufacturer instructions before you play with them.
We keep these bottles in the calm down corner and they are only allowed to be played with if you are there. It helps to keep them feeling “special” if you’re in the calm down corner.
We also hung up some pages from his therapist, like a thermometer of how high your emotion was that landed you in the calm down corner and of the S.T.O.P. skill (I’ll do a post about that soon).
The other big factor about the calm down corner is that it’s chosen by the child. We offer our son the option to go to the calm down corner when we see him beginning to get upset. He chooses to go of his own free will or not. If he doesn’t go, he usually gets more upset and makes choices that land him in time-out….which is by our appointing, not his.
This little action of letting kids pick their own consequence goes a long way. Plus it teaches children how to start self regulating their own emotions (which is a challenge for most kids, let alone one’s with behavioral struggles). When they are in the calm down corner, they decide when they are ready to come back to the activity at hand.
Occasionally (and when starting out) you’ll have to send them back because they weren’t actually ready to return to the activity at hand; they’re still too wound up but that’s just part of the process-it becomes sort of a natural consequence.
Also, time-outs are used as a last resort and a no tolerance tool. Meaning that if my child does something that is absolutely unacceptable-like hitting, spitting, back-talking, breaking or throwing things, ect-he gets put directly to time-out and I decide for how long. We keep the rule of 1 minute per year of age starting at 2 years and that seems to work fine for us.
For most kids, you can explain briefly why they are there and that you will get them when their time is done. For my child I have to say nothing, any talking with him becomes a form of engagement in his eyes. I don’t want to reinforce that he gets my attention while in time-out so he gets the silent treatment or the one phrase treatment. “Go to time-out”, I say it once. If he squawks, I go put him to the garage which is right next to our time-out area.
This works like a sort of reset button for him, similar to the calm down corner. He decides when he’s ready to come back in and finish his time-out but if he keeps making poor choices he’ll keep being sent to the garage. It then gets put on him to manage his emotions to get out of time-out. Same thing for when he used to try to leave time-out; I physically and silently go get him and put him back. For as many times as it takes…..I’m glad he doesn’t do that anymore. The garage upgrade seemed to fix that.
Retraining kids on what is expected and tolerated is tough work. But the right tools and planning can make it a lot smoother. Giving them the opportunity to try again with a calming environment they can go to helps them to seek out space when they need it and redirect their our emotions in a positive way.
Next time on Parenting a Person With ADHD: Deep Breathing and Other Tools