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How to Create an Elementary Classroom Calming Corner in 2022

Classroom calming corners are a great tool to add to your classroom management and SEL toolboxes. This quiet area in your classroom has the power to transform the way your students de-escalate. It also improves your classroom learning environment as a whole. If you want to learn how to create an calming corner in your classroom, then keep reading!

This post shares tons of information about classroom calming corners. It also answers the most popular questions related to them, which include the following:

  • What is a calming corner?
  • Why do elementary classrooms need calming corners?
  • What goes in a cool down corner?
  • When is an appropriate time for students to use a calming corner?
  • How do students appropriately use a calm down area?
  • What does it look like when a student uses a calm down area?
  • How can families make a calm corner at home for their child?

What is a Calming Corner?

A calming corner is a small space in the classroom that is designated to support self-regulation for students and provide a space for students to take a break from instructional time or other activities in the classroom. The goal is to provide students with a place that allows them to stay in the classroom while managing their emotions and regulating their behavior. A small space or nook in the classroom out of direct eye sight of other students and set apart from the rest of the room works perfectly. A calming corner is also often referred to as a safe spot, safe place, calm corner, cool down corner, calm down area, sensory calm down corner, quiet corner, and calm space.

Why do Elementary Classrooms Need a Calming Corner?

Teachers should create a calming corner in their classroom because it promotes self-regulation in students and can transform the culture of the classroom to one that supports SEL. It creates awareness in students that they are in charge of their behavior but you are going to help them with their emotions and be there for them as they need you to. It fosters the belief that emotions are normal and important feelings that all people have and we all understand and support that. Learn more about SEL in the classroom.

What is in a Calming Corner?

Below are 10 items to consider including in your classroom calming corner.

1. Sand Timers

Sand timers with different lengths of time are great tools. They can help manage the amount of time that students are in the calming corner. Teach students about big emotions and small emotions and which timers are appropriate. They are also helpful for you to track how long a student has been in the calming corner.

2. Fidget toys

Students can use fidget tools to help them regulate their emotions, cope with stress, and use mindfulness practices. Providing a variety of options helps students learn what works best for them. Putty is also a great tool to use.

3. Drawing paper

Drawing pictures and coloring can be a great way for kids to calm down. You can provide blank pages or coloring books and students can choose what works best for them. This is one of my favorite classroom calming corner tools!

4. Drawing utensils

A variety of drawing utensils helps students with sensory concerns pick a tool that feels right for them. It will also benefit your other students that you didn’t realize had a preference.

5. Emotion picture cards

Emotion picture cards can be on the wall in the calming corner or on a ring. Consider having a picture card for each emotion. This will help students identify the emotion that they were feeling that brought them to the calming corner.

6. Strategy picture cards

Picture cards with different strategies on them can help students pick a strategy to use when they are in the calming corner. The picture cards can also provide a visual reminder for how to use the strategies.

7. Liquid motion timers

Liquid motion timers are helpful in two ways. One way is that they can serve as a timer for kids to use. A second way is that students can look at the colors and how the liquid changes. This will help them calm their bodies, practice mindfulness, and regulate. This is another one of my favorite items to include in a classroom calming corner!

8. Alternative seating

Try having a seating option other than a typical desk and chair in the calming corner. A desk and chair can work but some students find desks to be uncomfortable and you want students to be comfortable when they are in the calming corner so that they are able to regulate their bodies.

9. Strategy think sheets

Strategy think sheets are an option to keep in calming corners. Students can fill them out and use them to identify why they came to the calming corner and what emotion/emotions they were feeling, what strategy they used to help, and whether or not the strategy worked.

10. Stuffed animals

Stuffed animals can be kept in the calming corner as another way for students to feel comfort. They can hold the stuffed animal, talk to the stuffed animal and stuffed animals are something that are familiar to them.

When do Students Use a Calm Down Area?

Students should access the calming corner when they are feeling an emotion that they aren’t successfully managing in their typical spots in the classroom and distracts them from completing their work. Students could also use it when they have an outburst that prevents them working productively in the classroom or is distracting others.

A calming corner shouldn’t be used as a consequence for behavior but rather as an opportunity for students to choose to make a better decision about their behavior and regulate themselves so they are in a better place mentally.

How do Students Use a Cool Down Corner?

Students will need instruction on how to use the classroom calming corner so that it is used appropriately and not as a toy or way to escape work. Explicitly teach students how to use the calming corner and that it is a place for them to independently go when they are feeling emotions that they need to regulate or need to regulate their behavior.

Additionally, teach students that when they enter the calming corner they need to pick a timer for how long they will be using the calming corner. Go over the different timers and what type of emotions might require different times.

Show students the emotion picture cards and strategy picture cards and tell them that these are there to help them regulate themselves. It is important to teach how to use the different strategies and how to identify the different emotions before having students practice them.

Make sure students practice the strategies outside of the classroom calming corner so they know how to use them when they are in the calming corner. Provide an opportunity for each student to also practice using any of the fidgets you include in your calming corner so that they know how to use them as tools and not toys.

Teach students about the strategy think sheets if that is something you decide to include in your calming corner.

What does a Calming Corner Look Like in Action?

Once students understand the expectations of the classroom calming corner and how to use it, they are ready to begin to access it. In action, this would look like students independently removing themselves from the activity that they are working on and going to the calming corner or safe spot. Once there, they would pick a timer, identify their emotion, and pick a strategy for regulating themselves. When the timer goes off, they will complete the strategy think sheet (if you are including it), put the items they used in the calming corner away, and return to the work that they were completing.

Talk to your students about whether or not it is okay to set a new timer or stay in the calming corner once their timer has run out. There also shouldn’t be a constant flow of students going in and out of the calming corner. It should truly be used for students to regulate themselves only when they need it.

5 Tips Teachers can Share with Parents for Replicating this at Home

Below are 5 tips teachers can share with parents for replicating this at home.

  1. Have parents find a place in their house that isn’t in a distracting and busy area but ideally in the eye sight of parents. They want to be able to see them so they can ensure their child is using it correctly and being safe when feeling big emotions that need regulating.
  2. Send home the emotion picture cards and strategy cards. This way parents can use them in their calming corner as well and students already know how to use the strategies.
  3. Have parents keep track of the time their child is in the calming corner. Tell parents about the importance of timers and how they can help their child regulate themselves at a good pace.
  4. Gather items for the calming corner. Having various items that will help their child regulate like a stuffed animal and fidgets will help them use strategies to regulate themselves. Make sure parents understand that the items in the calming corner should stay in the calming corner and only be used in the calming corner.
  5. Encourage parents to check in with their kids. Parents should check in with their kids after they use the calming corner. Have them identify what emotion sent them to the calming corner, what strategy they used to regulate it, and whether or not it worked.

Other SEL Resources

Another SEL resource to add to your teaching toolkit is this Social Emotional Learning Book Companion bundle. Read Alouds are the best way to teach SEL skills in the classroom. Thus bundle contains 35 Picture Book Companions with reading comprehension questions, writing prompts, word study activities, vocabulary activities and Social Emotional Learning lesson ideas. Learn more about it below!

SEL book activities

Our SEL units are another great collection of resources to add to your teaching toolkit. They are packed with resources that you can use in your classroom. Check out the units below!

Social Emotional Learning Units Bundle

In closing, we hope you found this information about how to create an elementary classroom calming corner helpful If you did, then you may also be interested in these posts:

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