Toddlers are so much fun! They are learning and growing and changing at every turn and seeing them take on new skills is one of my favorite things about parenting. That said, toddlers are not without their challenges, and one of the biggest challenges can be tantrums and behavioral issues. Toddlers are still just learning about the world and their emotions and frustrations are inevitable, but there are ways to help and a “cozy calm down area” is one of them! Keep reading and I’ll explain…
My educational background is in Family and Child Development and I was a preschool teacher before becoming a mama and freelancer, so I’ve been fortunate to collect quite a few good tools for dealing with behavioral challenges over the years and these have started to come in handy now that I have a toddler of my own. One of my favorite tools that I used during my teaching days that I’ve begun using in my own home is this idea of having a cozy calm down area.
In lieu of time outs, you set up a cozy corner of your home where your little one can go to calm down when they are having a behavioral challenge. The idea is that you introduce the space and suggest it as an option when they are feeling frustrated (i.e. “You look really frustrated right now. I think you should go take a break in your cozy space for a minute to calm your body.”), but eventually as your little one gets older and more in tune with their feelings, they can choose to go take a break in this area all on their own.
When you first introduce this idea it may feel silly, because your child is still so young and may not completely comprehend the idea, but the earlier you start, the more your little one will begin to understand the concept and if you have a child who can identify their emotions it will help immensely with curbing these behavioral outbursts. So…here are the “how-tos” for creating a cozy calm down area!
Creating a Cozy Calm Down Area for Your Toddler:
1. Designate a calm down area.
Setting aside a specific space in your home as a “calm down area” is step one. It doesn’t have to be a big space. Just a little designated corner in a room. I would suggest setting up this space in the main part of your home and not in your little one’s bedroom, so as not to make the calm down area feel like a place where they are being “banished”. This is a space where your toddler can go when they are feeling frustrated and it should be a positive experience.
2. Define the space.
Once you’ve chosen a space for your calm down area, it’s time to define the space. In our home we have a teepee that works as a cozy calm down area (here’s a visual example), but it doesn’t have to be something that specific. Even just a little corner with a few pillows would be great.
3. Add comfortable seating.
Part of defining the calm down space for your child is to make it a warm and inviting place for them to be and that means adding comfortable seating. You can check out the little cozy pillow corner I set up in my daughter’s room to get an idea, but just know it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. When I was teaching preschool, we actually used a dog bed (bought specifically for the purpose) and the kids loved relaxing in it!
4. Display a feelings chart or book.
Part of the appeal of having a calm down area is giving your little one a space where they can stop long enough to reflect on their feelings. Obviously at such a young age, toddlers are still in the process of learning about their emotions and how to give names to them, but anything you can do as a parent to encourage this can be really helpful. Here are a list of great kids books about feelings and I would suggest having some of them available in your calm down area for your child to look at while they’re there. One of those feelings charts with the different faces would be a great option as well. Once your child has calmed down a bit, you could sit down and go through the emotions with them to help them identify their feelings.
5. Have calming materials available
In addition to having books about feelings available, it’s a good idea to have other calming materials available in your space as well. In my classroom, our quiet calm down area included a CD player with headphones and books on CD so little ones could unwind and relax in a constructive way. We also had a turtle puppet that was part of a social story that we kept there that we could use to engage in a dialogue with them, but sometimes just having a stuffed toy to snuggle with was nice for them. Get creative, but be sure to keep the space simple and calm.
What type of techniques do you use to help your little one calm down during those challenging behavioral moments?