Creating a Calm-Down Box

calm-down-boxThe idea of a calm-down bin for kids is a fantastic concept that has been around for a while. I have a calm down box in my playroom and I am always looking for new ideas on how to build these with my clients.

Personal side note: my own calm-down box involves a warm bath, candles, a glass of wine, and spa CD! But while adults can have a calm down took kit, this post is geared towards items for kids!

When to Use a Calm-Down Box:

These are perfect for encouraging your child to calm down from a tantrum, occupy themselves while waiting for something (such as lunch), or anytime they feel frustrated, angry, or sad. Everything in your box should represent a positive and acceptable means of managing emotions.

What to Include:

Calm-down boxes should contain items that appeal to the senses (you may hear the term sensory toys). Basically, these are toys that appeal to sight, touch, smell, sound, and taste. Here are some examples:

  • Rice bin
  • Glitter bottle
  • Soft pillow and/or blanket
  • Squeeze toys
  • Playdough
  • Calming music
  • Sensory/textured balls

Items that focus attention are also good to include:

And items that encourage deep breathing:

  • Bubbles
  • Pinwheels

Make Your Own Items!

For some homemade items (great for activities in session too), check these out:

The homemade items are half the fun of putting these boxes together. These activities encourage creativity and personalization. Kids love to know they can use something them made by hand!

As always, questions, comments, and suggestions are welcomed!

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    • Kim

      Regarding calming box and 3 year old grandson: is the box something one should leave accessible and readily available or when behavior dictates a need for the calming box to be brought out? I feel ambivalent because on one hand the child recognizing the need independently has its merits while having the box brought out occasionally makes the items inside more a novelty and drawing a stressed child’s interest more effectively?
      I’m interested in your feedback! Thank you for your time.

      • Thank you for reading and for sharing with us Kim! I apologize for the delay on my end. I have considered these options many times myself with my own child. I have found that pulling it out when the child needs it works best because it allows you to help them apply the calming methods. Decide or a gesture the child can use if they need the calming items. If needed, you can put similar calming materials or activities in their room to use when they need time alone. Let us know how it works out! 🙂

  • This is wonderful to hear. It sounds like you are doing some very important work and making a difference in many lives. Thank you for sharing your story!

  • Thanks for linking to my sensory bin 🙂

  • lori

    I am looking for some coping ideas for kids, but more in the moment, ie. during games and athletics. We are having a over competitive and very self critical time with our son.

    • Hi Lori. This is a great question and a common problem to address. Using deep breathing and cognitive reframing can help when someone needs immediate relief. However, these skills still need to be taught and practiced so they come more naturally in the time of need. Using a calm down box can encourage this practice time, as well as participation with parents. When you are all heated and in a stressful moment, get everyone to practice taking deep breaths, or at least be a model for using the skill when you are angry. Hope this answers your question and thanks for reading! 🙂

  • I really like this idea! I think I would add a nice picture book to flip through. That has been one of my little guy’s (now four years old) favorite ways to relax when he is upset or sad.

    I’m sharing this post around! 🙂

    • Thank You Sheila!! I’m so glad you are finding useful techniques and I love the idea of a flip book added! 🙂

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  • Jenny

    How do you think this would work with middle school students? How would you modify the box? I am seeing a lot of my students don’t have coping skills and “fly off the handle” easily. I’d like to help them and like this idea, but the contents listed might be too “babyish” for middle schoolers. Some of them might work–coloring book, stress ball, rubix cube, etc.

    Thanks for responding!
    Jenny

    • Hi Jenny. Thank you for reading. I suggest taking the concept of a calm down box and making a corner or basket with items more age-appropriate. These may include the popular Zentangle coloring books, rubix cubes, anything that smells good, a radio, putty, and fidget toys. And remember that no matter what the age, colors and pay-doh never get old (even if they don’t admit it). Giving the students an opportunity to take a time out to destress can also be helpful because it encourages self-awareness and responsibility for their own feelings and behaviors.Best of luck with the adolescents! 🙂

  • Lauren

    I have created a calm down box for a 3 year old client. She tends to fib that she is mad in order to gain access to the box. I have complied with giving it to her as this intervention is new and i want her to understand that she needs to say she is angry or sad in order to use it. I use a timer when she uses the items because she will say she is mad in order to maintain access to it. I am wondering if I am using the intervention wrong- she has had it for a week so I am going to suggest to mom that she only get the box when she is truly angry or tantruming. Is using a timer with the box appropriate?