You may have heard of a Calm Corner, Cozy Corner, Chill Space, or Calm Down Kit from your child’s Occupational Therapist or school teacher. But what are we talking about, how can it help your child, and how do you get started?
The concept behind the Calm Corner is that it provides a designated space for your child to practice self-regulation and emotional regulation, or a space to just chill out and disconnect from everyday stress/anxiety. Your child should be involved in the creation of this space whenever possible, since it is meant for them to feel safe and relax in, to visit when they need a break from technology or siblings, and to calm themselves down. Benefits of a Calm Corner include opportunities for a child to form their own sense of self, develop creativity, build self-confidence, and promote a sense of safety (physically and emotionally). Just as important is the fact that this special space can also help kids learn to regulate their energy levels and emotions and provide a reset to stressed bodies and brains.
Most often, we consider the sensory needs of a child and aim to reduce the sensory inputs coming into a Calm Corner, for example by limiting visual and auditory inputs. To limit visual input, try using a pop-up tent, creating a sturdy blanket fort, or even clear out a closet. To limit auditory inputs, plan the Calm Corner in a quiet part of the house or in your child’s bedroom. You can also consider noise-canceling headphones, a white noise machine, or an old iPod loaded with music that helps your child feel calm and happy. When setting up the space, think about your child’s hidden senses (proprioceptive, vestibular) and their preferences. Add a sleeping bag, pillows, bean bag chair, weighted blanket… anything that will make the space physically comfortable and cozy.
Once you’ve got a Calm Corner space set up, work with your child to plan and collect what will go in it. Help your child choose items/tools that they think will help them feel calm or chilled out, using each sense as a guide (tactile, olfactory, and even taste). What textures help them feel safe and relaxed? An extra fuzzy blanket, mermaid sequin pillow, fidget items, playdoh, thinking putty, or other fidgets? Consider what smells they enjoy. Maybe it’s a lavender pillow, scented stress ball, or essential oils? Do they respond well to chewing gum, fruit chews, a lollipop, or drinking cold water through a straw? Additional tools may include breathing visuals, emotion cards, a yoga deck, or a favorite story. A pinwheel is a simple visual cue to promote deep breathing and can even be made at home.
We recommend keeping the space simple and placing tools/sensory strategies in a container so that a child can see all their options and find the one that best meets their needs in the moment. Work with your child to utilize the space and tools as somewhere they can go to unwind and be alone (this is SO important after a stressful school day, Zoom calls, or the general frustrations/anxiety kids experience on any given day.)
Here’s an example of a Cozy Corner created at home under the guidance of a BAC OT, and a message from her parents:
“Our daughter was proud of the cozy corner she developed with help from your guidelines. She put her stress balls, vibrating massager, breathing tool, etc... in the basket to use as she needs them and included lots of comfy pillows. She wanted to show it off!”
Interested in learning a little more about the science behind why spaces like Calm Corners and forts are so good for kids, especially during stressful times? Check out this Washington Post article:
Here are a couple more photos to give you ideas:
Looking for more tips and tricks to help your child with self-regulation this upcoming school year? Give our office a call at 781-239-0100 to connect with one of our occupational therapists!
- Written by Arielle Simons, MSOT, OTR/L