After a conference for my two year old (who is now three), I picked up an awesome idea that I had never heard of before. His school explained to me how they have a “Calm Down Box” they use when the little ones need to focus their energy elsewhere. They are given a box full of miscellaneous sensory items that assist in calming their emotions. Whether frustration, anger or sadness, this box allows them to re-focus their energy on one of the random items contained in this box.
At that very moment, it clicked in my mind how great of an idea this was and how beneficial it could be in my household. Children and their behavioral needs seem to vary depending on the child, so while my eldest was always calm and rarely had mood swings the others are not quite the same. My youngest children have the tendency to be more emotional and once they pass a certain threshold, there is no turning back. No amount of hugs or gentle words will reel them back and personal space seems to be the only option for them. Being able to provide them with a box of safe and calming items to assist them in self-soothing seemed perfect.
A few weeks passed and I decided to create my own calm down box. Very soon after, the opportunity to use it presented itself. My four year old was Ms. Cranky in the morning and after getting her dressed her clothes magically were removed minutes later. I was then greeted with screams of tiredness and unwillingness to get ready. Morning routines are best disrupted by tired and cranky kids with the added pressure to make it out of the house before everyone ends up late. Knowing this, I calmly walked downstairs and grabbed the box. She looked confused when I opened it put bubble wrap in her hand. She then began to quietly pop the bubble wrap and I went about my morning routine. I checked in with her a couple minutes later. At this time she was shaking the water bottle that had food coloring and glitter (that was safely secured with super glue) and I asked her if she was done and she quietly shook her head no. Another two minutes later, she was back to popping the bubble wrap and the next time I checked on her she was ready to get dressed without any objections.
I decided to add more items to the box in order to provide a variety of sensory objects to. The items that other parents include will obviously vary based on the child. I am a strong believer in calming colors, so I steered clear of a box that had any red on it. I opted against the rainbow box simply because of the red stripe. The items inside were selected based on the variety of stimulation they provided from squishy play-doh, to furry characters to musical items such as maracas and a recorder. I chose items that I knew my children would enjoy, but made sure not to select things that could possibly injure them if they were upset. Scissors, pencils, or sharp objects should NOT be included and my calm down box is meant for three years of age and up.
This small but meaningful project reminded me that there are more ways than one to accomplish something. Open-mindedness (for me) is key to growing as a parent (and a person).