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A calming corner can be used in your house, in the classroom, and in your counseling office. I view calming corners as a way to help students regulate their emotions and focus on positive coping skills. A calming corner encourages students to cope with their negative emotions and “self-soothe”. Learning these positive coping skills at a young age is something that will help them throughout the rest of their lives!
If you don’t have a corner in your office/class big enough for a calming corner, then you can always create a little calming box or basket. You can pull it out whenever a student is in need or you can place it on your desk so it’s easily accessible. I typically have a little basket on my desk but this year we’re getting a new counseling center where we’ll have a “chill room”. Yes, a whole room for student’s to use their positive coping skills!!
There’s a wide variety of items you can place in your calming corner. The items in my calming corner tend to focus on expression of feelings, physical/sensory calming items, and distraction tools. Keep reading for a few of my favorite items in my calming corner:
The most important thing to add to your calming corner is a timer! I tell students “You have 5 minutes in the calming corner and then you’ll need to return to class.” Keep that in mind as you’re looking at some of the items described below. Students don’t have an hour to do a puzzle with me, they get 5 minutes to reset themselves and get back to class.
Fidgets, fidgets, fidgets!! Can you even call yourself a counselor if you don’t have 500 fidgets?? Sometimes I give students a fidget to keep but some of the fidgets, like my maze ball, have to stay in my room. You can buy fidgets at the dollar store, the Target dollar spot, FiveBelow, Dollar Tree, or on Amazon. I find amazing fidgets every where I go, but here are a few of my favorites:
- sequence bracelets
- pencil top spinners
- stretchy strings
- sensory rings
- bubble pop key chains
- fidget collection
- maze ball
Speaking of fidgets, have you heard of my weighted pillow?? My weighted pillow is something people think is crazy when they first come into my office but within 2 minutes they’re almost always using it. I purchased a sequence pillow case cover on Amazon and then filled it with birdseed (double bag the birdseed before adding it to the pillow). The weight and sequence are great calming strategy for kids and adults.
I have a few flip books located in my calming corner for students to use at their convenience. These Mindfulness Activity Cards and Grounding Exercises (grounding exercises are from Counselor Keri’s free resource library) make great little flip books for students. I print the books, cut out each card, laminate the cards, punch a hole in the top corner, and then add a binder ring.
Sometimes if I have a student who’s really struggling in their classes, then I’ll give them a flip book to take home (I don’t laminate the take home ones though). I also try to give each teacher at least one flip book as a tool for their classroom. I love walking into a classroom and seeing my little flip book hanging on the teacher desk/wall.
Kinetic Sand Station
You’re either going to LOVE having kinetic sand in your calming corner or you’re going to absolutely hate it!! The best part about kinetic sand is how quickly some students can calm themselves by simply playing in the sand. A few years ago, I had an autistic student who loved playing in my sand. They would scream at their teacher and after 5-10 minutes of playing in my sand they’d be a totally different kid. It was like magic!! I loved my kinetic sand!!
Then there’s the negative side to using kinetic sand–it’s always messy! Students will end up getting sand on the floor, on your desk, on their chair, etc. I will say placing the kinetic sand in a tupperware container with tall side walls seems to help limit the amount of sand that gets spilled. Also having a few toys and tools for them to play with helps limit the “spillage”.
If you’ve never used or touched kinetic sand before, then I recommend giving it a shot. Kinetic sand is different from regular sand. It clumps together more and has a different feel to it. Kinetic sands ability to clump together is what makes it so fun to build with using different molds. I’ve also had just a regular sand tray on my desk with some tools. Both kinetic sand and regular sand are great calming tools, it’s just a matter of preference.
Art is a great way for students to express and calm themselves after an upsetting event. Here are some of the art supplies I have located in my calming corner:
- art prompts (my free download)
- scratch-n-color paper
- diamond art
- stencils (stencils make artwork easier for students and less stressful)
- Colored pencils
- coloring books
I firmly believe that journaling is one of the best coping skills there is! It forces people to identify their problem and to face the issue head on. It also allows them to fully express themselves in a safe environment. I wish all of my students journaled!
I provide students with journals (composition books), which I offer to lock up in my filing cabinet. The rule is I don’t read the journals unless they ask me to. I tell students “I want you to have a safe place to express yourself. Don’t worry about me reading it because I don’t have time to ready everyone’s journals! haha…but if you want me to read it, then all you need to do is ask me.”
Some students prefer to journal on their phone using an app, which is totally fine. As long as their working through those difficult emotions, that’s all I care about. Day One and Penzu are both free apps I recommend students use for journaling.
Sticker Mosaic Poster
I love placing “distraction activities” in my calming corner. I consider “distraction activities” something that requires enough concentration to distract the student from their current stressor. Once the student is calm, then they can face the issue with a level head.
My favorite “distraction activity” is my sticker mosaic poster!! When a student comes in upset, I tell them “grab 10-15 stickers and we’ll talk when you’re done”. I was worried the students would finish my mosaic poster in a month but it lasted me an entire year! If you don’t have enough room for an entire mosaic poster, then you can invest in a sticker mosaic book.
Puzzles are another great “distraction activity” for students to use in the calming corner. I try to keep 2-3 puzzles in my calming corner for students to rotate through. Normally we leave the puzzle out and it’s a “come and go” station. So throughout the day I might have 5 different students working on it, it’s not a “personal puzzle”. I love to buy puzzles at Dollar Tree for $1, best deal you’ll find!
Seek and Find Book
A Seek and Find book is another great distraction activity. I’ve been using these books ever since I was teaching and my students just love them! The only rule is students can’t write in my books. Some students will try to circle the items they find, but that ruins the book for everyone else.
I keep a set of headphones in my calming corner for students who use music as a positive coping strategy. They can plug the headphones into their phone and enjoy a few minutes of peace. Most of my students have their own headphones so my headphones are really just a sign they can get theirs out. They see my headphones and go “I didn’t know I could listen to music. Can I get my headphones out of my bag?”