Children need a space in the classroom, and at home, where they can go when they are upset, frustrated, worried, dysregulated, etc. This calm corner in classroom or home is a safe space children can go to regulate their emotions. How do you set up a cozy corner, or calm corner in the classroom or at home? What do you need? How do you manage it? I’ve got you covered in this blog post!
What Should I Call the Take a Break Space?
There are so many names for the calm corner in classroom. Calm corner, cozy corner, take a break space, you name it. They are all wonderful names. I personally like to call it the control spot. I call it the control spot because the emphasis on the space is for children to get control over their own bodies and emotions. It reminds them that they are in charge of what their body does. Whatever you call it, it doesn’t matter, as long as you have a space for your children. You can even have your children help come up with a name!
What do I Need for a Calm Corner?
You do not need much for the calm corner. You just need a semi-private space for the child to go. I say semi-private, because you don’t want other students to be able to stare at the child in the space, but you need to be able to keep an eye on them. Beyond that, it is a matter of preference. I like to have a comfy chair or bean bag. There are a few visuals on the wall that I have taught my students about. I always have a glitter jar and a breathing ball in the space. I also love the idea of a sequin flip pillow for the children to pet while in the calming space. Children do not need tons of toys or tools in their cozy corner. In fact, less is better. More tools in the space, the more likely they will be distracting to the child and will end up being used as a toy instead of a tool. Whatever you have in your calm corner, you need to introduce to your students and give them chances to practice using the tool the expected way before you put it in the space.
I love the breathing ball (example from my Amazon store linked here) to help encourage deep breathing. I teach the students that as the ball expands, they need to take a deep breath in. The expanding ball is a symbol for their lungs and belly filling with air and expanding. Then, as they slowly push the ball in, they let the air out of their lung slowly and their belly contracts as well.
The Glitter Jar is the perfect tool in a calm corner. It is a metaphor for what is happening in children’s brains when they get upset and I always introduce the control spot with the glitter jar. I show the children how, when we shake the glitter jar, the glitter goes everywhere. It’s hard to see through the glitter. This is like our brains when we get upset. Our neurons start firing away going all over the place really fast. It’s hard to think straight, see clearly, make a plan, etc. As soon as we start taking deep breaths, we watch the glitter start to settle and we can start to see through the bottle again. This is the same as our brains. When we start to take deep breaths, we can think better and make a plan for how to solve our problems. The children learn to take deep breaths until the glitter settles to the bottom of the glitter jar. This acts as a natural timer to use the space as well.
You can buy one (some examples are linked in my Amazon storefront) or you can easily make one!
How do I Introduce the Calm Corner?
When introducing the calm corner, you need to first ask students if they have ever felt really angry or frustrated or sad. Then tell them that this happens to all of us! We all feel these hard feelings. (A great connecting lesson is on identifying emotions!) When these hard feelings happen at school, it’s important to have a place we can go to calm down and get our feelings in control. This place is our cozy corner. Students can go there or teachers may tell students to go there to calm down. When you go to the space, you can use the glitter jar to take deep breaths and when your body feels ready, or the glitter is all the way on the bottom, then you can go back to be with the group.
After introducing the space, give each child a chance to try out the space. Everyone will be curious and will rush to go to the space to check it out, so tell them that for everyone’s first time, you will call students one at a time to try it out. Give them a few minutes in the space to check it out on their own and then let someone else have a turn. This will make the space less exciting and really teach students how to use the space appropriately.
How do I Manage the Cozy Corner?
The calm corner should never be a punishment to children, so be careful about how you talk about it. If you yell, “Johnny, CALM CORNER! NOW!”… that’s kind of a punishment. Instead, calmly and quietly say, “Johnny, your body is not safe right now. Calm corner.” Tell students why you are sending them there. After a few minutes, when they look calmer, check in with them and see if they can process what happened and how they are feeling now. For more help on regulating emotions with kids, check out this blog post.
Teachers often ask me what to do when children spend too much time in the calm corner. Sometimes children can try to escape their work demands by going to the cozy corner. When this happens, talk to the child about what you are noticing. “I’m noticing that every time we have reading, you go to the cozy corner. Why do you think that is?” Then make a plan with the student to wean off of the calm corner. For example, “during reading, I need you to read for 5 minutes and then you can go to the cozy corner.” Or, “when you go to the cozy corner, I am going to set a timer for 1 minute and then you need to go back to work”.
If a child is using the cozy corner too much, it isn’t the calm corner’s fault! It’s usually a symptom of something else going on. What are they trying to escape? Why? How can you support them to not need the space as much? You might want to try a behavior plan to encourage more independent work – check out this blog post for more information.
The calm corner is a must have for classrooms and is also a great idea to have at home too! You don’t need much at all to set up a calm corner in classroom. Teachers should make sure to introduce the space and give students a chance to practice using the tools inside of the space. Do you have a calm corner in your classroom? Let me know in the comments!