Write me: rebecca@positive-parents.org

I saw this great idea on Here We Are Together and knew it would be perfect for our home. I don’t do the traditional time-outs with my kids because they push away rather than bring closer, and connection and relationship are at the heart of this family.

But kids are kids, and sometimes they act up or get too angry and need to be removed from the situation. I know that my children’s frontal lobes, where sequential thinking, logic, and self-regulation take place, are grossly underdeveloped until at least age 6, and the maturity of this region takes a long time. You can read more on that here, if you’re interested. I also know that until the brain is regulated (calm), lessons I’m trying to teach my child go in one ear and out the other. So my goal is to help them get regulated (and the more I help them, the quicker they’ll learn to regulate themselves!) so that I can then teach them the lesson I want them to learn.

You may have seen the “calm down corner” that America’s Supernanny does. It is anything but calming! This, however, is our version of the calm down corner.

Here is the set-up. A comfy Pillow Pet to sit on and a calm down box to engage the brain out of that “fight or flight” mode and back to calm and reason.

Inside the calm down box is our calm down jar made with water, glitter glue, food coloring, and glitter. The idea is to shake the jar, and as you watch the glitter twirl around, it brings your attention onto the motion in the jar and instantly the brain begins to calm. It works for me too, and the boys love it.

Also inside the calm down box are a few books, a drawing pad and markers/pencils, and a container of rice. I made some colorful rice by adding 2 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol and a few drops of food coloring to a plastic baggie of rice and let set overnight.

Once dry, I put the rice into a container, added a few drops of lavender oil for that calming smell, and added a couple of pretty gems and spoons for digging around in.

The final result is a soothing place to go, engage the mind, and get regulated.

I know you may thinking, “What? A fun place to go when they’re in trouble?” 🙂 This is not a punishment, but a place to calm the mind. When my kids are regulated, I sit down with them and we talk about what happened and ways to improve or handle things better the next time. After all, the goal is to teach them better so they know what the right thing to do is, and they are much more receptive to my teachings when their brains are calm and regulated.

Of course, they’re welcome to go to the box anytime to play, read, and draw. In fact, the more practice they get with it, the better it is for everybody. I’m sure I’ll be sitting on that penguin shaking the life out of the jar myself at least once a day. 😉


  • Anonymous Posted 12 December 2011 19:59

    Love the play on the concept of time-in, and using soothing sensory play to engage the parasympathetic nervous system. Being a neuroscience geek, I love the references- so true that the littles simply aren't developmentally ready for a lot of self control. In some of my reading lately, I've also come across the concept that adults' ability to self control can actually be worn out by handling stressful situations- and so often adults expect more self control from children than themselves. Also really practical info and advice- my kids are older but still often need sensory activity- I may try the jars and rice!

  • Leslie Posted 12 December 2011 23:19

    ahhhh… i can feel the peace and calm. wonderful.

  • Alicia C. Posted 13 December 2011 10:04

    This is exactly what we need! My little guy expresses his need to be alone to calm himself, but he has a very hard time doing so. I think that all of the "ingredients" in your box make perfect sense and would help him out a lot!

  • Just Jen Posted 7 May 2012 13:27

    I love this idea and will work on a box/corner of our own!

  • Chelsea Ribbon Posted 27 September 2013 11:17

    I've been doing research on calm down corners and take a break stations. This blog was really helpful! So far the only ideas I had were a mirror so the child could see the expression on their own face, and a white paper with a blank head so the child could draw how they feel or what they saw in the mirror.

    Raking and digging in rice, very zen idea! A local shop has these canvases for sale where the artist uses normal water and a brush to paint something. As the canvas dries, the picture fades and when totally dry, the canvas is a blank slate again. The idea is that you keep it on your desk, paint out your stress and frustration at work, and let those feelings go as the water dries.

  • Elaine Vigneault Posted 8 October 2013 6:11

    I like the concept and I'm sure it works for some kids but not mine. His tantrums involve throwing things, tearing up paper, etc so he couldn't go to your calm down corner until he was already calm, which misses the point. For him, I think a better option would just be the pillow or a yoga mat without a box of toys. Or another option for him might be something very physical, like a place outside where he's allowed/encouraged to throw things (like a basketball hoop and a ball) or just a place to run or jump.

  • Margaret Elkins Posted 3 September 2014 14:48

    I have also added a pinwheel or bubbles for blowing, breathing deeply helps you calm down. I once had an inflatable baby water mat, very calming. Greal ideas.

  • Maggie O’Sullivan Graham Posted 3 September 2014 14:48

    Elaine, we use our trampoline for that purpose, i ask the boys to go and jump there til they feel all the big feelings die down. I love this idea of a calm down corner, and I love Chelsea's idea of the painting canvas – here in Ireland the brand is Aquadoodle. I will definitely be using this idea, I'm going to talk to my five year old about what he would like to put in it.

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