Earlier this year I created a calm down basket for each of my children aged 3 and 4 years old. We keep these baskets in their rooms for their rest time and also when we need resources to help calm and regulate their emotions.
Our calm down baskets are not used as a punishment but instead for quiet play during rest times and as a strategy to help self-regulate their emotions and big feelings.
When we introduced these baskets I sat with them and showed them some ways the items can be used to help them recognise how they are feeling. For example paying close attention to how the glitter falls through the calm down bottle to give them a moment to pause or looking through the emotions flashcards to see how they feel now and talking about how they somethimes feel then when their emotions are heightened and confusing.
Each day we have 30 mintues of rest/alone time where we are quiet in our own space.
I found by offering these baskets at rest time it has created an insentive for them to pause, reflect and relax. It has also meant that these are familiar items for them when emotions are heightened. Its been a handy resource to have in our home and one we reach for most days!
If you're wondering what to include, think of items that are repetitive in motions such as spinning, clicking or rolling. These can build children's concentration through their calming effect.
Playing with items such as these, that have different textues and sounds can help take their attention away from those big emotions.
Here's a list of some resources you can include to make your own and how they can be used.
Calm Down Bottles are a great resource to include as children often find the glitter slowly falling through the water very calming. You can also include other items such as CollectA animals, rainbow rice, water marbles or turn it into an I spy bottle with miscellaneous items or letter beads to search for.
Playsilks can be used to throw in the air and watch them softly fall down. My daughters also enjoy tying knots in them or laying them on their legs.
The Mini Spinny is a great sensory tool which can be turned upside down and children will enjoy watching it spin to the bottom. The Grimm's spirelli is also a similar item but it is better suited to older children as the wire can bend.
Feelings and Emotions Flashcards are great for talking about the emotions they may be feeling at the time. We like to pull out what they are currently feeling eg. frustrated or sad and talk about what we could do to change that and feel another such as happy or loved. Another great option is the Emotions story tellers which are on wooden discs.
Sandbags can be a useful tool for letting out frustrations. My girls like to throw these onto a pillow when feeling frustrated or also line them up or balance them ontop of things.
Dimpl poppers are a great fidget toy which can help children calm by offering them something to focus on. By popping them it gives children something to focus on. There are many different kinds that incorporate colours, shapes and textures.
This Maze Puzzle is a great little problem solving one that take more time than a regular shape sorter. Children need to pull the string with all the shapes through the maze to post the next one through.
Sand timers are very relaxing to watch as the sand falls through. If you're wanting to use them for a calm down activity I would reccommend a 3-5 mintue timer depending on the child.
We also have a 30 minute timer to visually show them how long they have left of their rest time each day.
Visual timers can help children to understand the concept of time, make a transition to another activity and independently complete an activty for a set amount of time.
You could also use them in your daily routines for timing things such as screen time, time until packing up or brushing their teeth.
Marble Trees are another calming resource which has a beautiful sound when children place marbles or small balls down the tree.
Children will love the repetition and the sound it makes is very calming and equally mesmerizing!
Remember that sometimes items that work for one child may not work for another and I do keep slightly different resources in both baskets for this reason. As you utilize the basket you can keep or change resources as you notice how your child responds to them.