Have you ever heard of a calm down box?
Typically used by children with additional needs such as autism or sensory processing disorder, the idea of a calm down box is to help when a child is feeling angry, frustrated, overwhelmed or even anxious in new or stressful situations.
For many parents, a calm down box is a game-changing sanity-saving tool proven to help and avoid meltdowns when they are in a state of fight, flight or freeze mode.
Used as a tool to help regulate a child, these boxes filled with calming tools that suit a child's particular needs and interests can also help a child seeking sensory input or when their concentration levels are low.
Calm down boxes can be created inexpensively. In fact, most of the items you probably have at home already but it is important to remember that children with sensory issues or additional needs should not have access to the fidgets and calm down toys all the time - otherwise they won't work.
So, if you're wondering what to put in your calm down box to help your child when they are feeling unregulated or overwhelmed, here are some ideas:
Items to keep hands busy.
Putty, Play-Doh and slime are great stress relievers, making them an invaluable sensory tool to carry in a calm down kit. Other fidget toys such as spinners, stress balls, bubble wrap, a Rubix cube and a bag of tissue to rip can also be used.
Items to support breathing and relaxation.
Helping your child regulate their breathing in overwhelming situations is so important in helping them calm down. Bubbles, balloon animals and blowing pom poms through a reusable straw will help.
Items for motor-sensory support.
For kids showing signs of needing motor sensory support, pack a chewy toy or necklace alongside a wide range of snacks in different textures such as crunchy and chewy foods.
Items to visually calm.
Depending on the age of your child liquid motion sensory bottles, a flashlight, kaleidoscopes or a textured light-up sensory balls may help your child, however, if they are a little older try an eye mask or visual calm down cards.
Items to provide proprioceptive support.
A weighted blanket or vest, body sock and sensory tunnels are excellent tools at helping regulate children who need proprioceptive support, however, they may not be ideal to carry around with you. Instead consider a hand massager, a blanket, a weighted stuffed animal or stretchy resistance band.
Items that give the brain a break.
Help them unwind with doodle pads, books to read, puzzles and chalkboards, all of which are perfect items to keep in a calm down box as well as colouring books, notepads and a photo album filled with pictures of loved ones.
Items to help with noise.
Some children may need auditory sensory support so, for this reason, we recommend carrying noise-cancelling headphones or ear defenders, an iPod with soothing music or their favourite audiobooks can also help.
Items to encourage movement.
And finally, for kids who need to be active, carry a piece of chalk to draw hopscotch, pack a skipping rope or a ball so they can play catch on the go.