Creating A Calm In The Emotions Storm

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Recently I have gotten a lot of questions from parents about things that they can do at home to help calm and regulate their children when they are having a hard time. While there are some children who crave comfort and care from their grownups during these heavy times, there are many who need space, time and the opportunity to be alone in order to calm down. The first piece of advice I always give is to avoid having any kind of conversation or try to reason with a child when they are in the middle of a tantrum or having big feelings. This is not the time to talk about how they are feeling and try to problem solve how to get out of the moment. The best thing to do in these moments is to guide them to a safe space and let them ride it out. For families who have children who tend to have lots of tantrums, I have made the recommendation to set up a space in their apartment/house…..I like to call it the Calming Corner. If possible, try not to have it in their bedroom but if that’s the only choice, then that will work.

Tents/Teepees-One of the first things I suggest when setting up a cozy/calming corner  if people have the space, I suggest getting a tent that has been setup with the help of your child. I like the idea of a tent because it provides boundaries and can be enclosed which I find to be helpful when I child needs to calm down. Asking a child to calm down when there are possible visual triggers (siblings, toys that might have been taken away, television on, etc.) all around them is quite challenging. While you are setting up their calm space, you can talk about when they can go into the tent and how you will be there to make sure they are safe but that y0u won’t be talking to them until they have calmed down. It’s really important to set up the expectations and the plan with any child but even more important for children who have sensory processing, regulation and emotional regulation challenges. Explain to your child that when you notice that they are feeling big feelings or having tantrums that are making them or other people feel unsafe, you will simply guide them into the tent and let them calm down on their own and that they are not allowed to come out until they feel like they can be safe. I tend to suggest neutral color tents or teepees instead of ones with bright colors or bold patterns. Another things you can do when setting up a tent or teepee is to have calming fairy lights hanging up inside the tent or have a white noise machine in there to turn on via a remote from outside.   Here are some options for tents, teepees or contained spaces:
Lalo Play Tent
Tiny Land Teepee
Sensory Tent
Popup Blackout Tent

Beanbags-there are so many therapeutic benefits of beanbags. Not only are they comfortable, the provide a lot of proprioceptive input which helps with soothing and comforting a child when in distress. Also, most tents or teepees don’t have a cushioned bottom and I feel like when you have a child in state of distress or fright or flight, it’s important to set up the space to keep them as safe as possible. For that reason, beanbags make a great thing to put into a calming/cozy corner. They can lie underneath them or squeeze between two of them to provide deep pressure similar to a hug. I know that many kids who are feeling big feelings feel the desire to hit or punch and beanbags are a safe thing for them to do that with. When choosing beanbags, one of the most important things to me is that they can be easily cleaned. Because many of the teepees and tents don’t have a defined floor, it’s important to find beanbags or some kind of soft and safe surface to place in the space to offer comfort and sensory input. Some of my favorite beanbags are shared below:

The Classic Big Joe Beanbags
Pottery Barn Kids Anywhere Beanbag
Yogibo Mini Beanbag

Weighted Animals or Blanket-I’ve been using weighted animals at my gym for years and years for a variety of reasons but one of the most important things that they do is provide comfort to a child who is upset or having a difficult time controlling their feelings and emotions. I will have the kids get on or in a swing and pick out a couple of my weighted animals and slowly swing them while they have the increased pressure from them. For most kids, I see an immediate change in their body….they calm down, slow down and can see their bodies completely relax. Once a child is in a more relaxed state, it is easier for them to talk about their feelings and problem solve how to move through tricky situations. Here are some of my go-to recommendations for weighted products:

Hugimals-these are my favorite weighted animals because they are absolutely adorable but more importantly, can be easily cleaned which is SO important when you are dealing with children, especially those with sensory or regulation issues.  I’ve had a lot of different kinds of weighted animals over the years but these are the ones that my kids have been most drawn to and comforted by. There are 4 different animals to choose from: Frankie the Cat, Sam the Sloth, Emory the Elephant and Charlie the Puppy. While they come with names, I find that kids become more connected to them if they can give them their own names. Not only are Hugimals great for a cozy corner, they are great for helping kids sit during circle time or when at the table by having them sit in your child’s lap.
Nappling Blanket-this weighted blanket is made specifically for children and you can choose between 6 and 8 pounds and a variety of colors based on your child’s favorite color. While these blankets are meant for sleep purposes, I think they are perfect for a cozy corner since they are intended to help children fall into a more relaxing, deep sense of calm.
Hugget-not only little kids benefit from a cozy corner/space. If you have an older child who is sensory sensitive, they may also benefit from some tools and this knotted pillow is great. It’s available in three sizes and a variety of colors and provides sensory input that will help relieve stress. The small, palm-sized knot pillow can be used as a stress/fidget ball and is intended to massage specific reflex zones to help calm a child down. The medium knot pillow is slightly weighted and the design is meant to help keep hands busy while hugging, squashing or squeezing away your child’s stress. The larger knot pillow is meant for bigger kids/grownups and can be used as a lap pad while activating pressure points to help with relieving stress and anxiety.
Disney Weighted Plush Animals-if you have a child who is more resistant to the idea of a weighted animal, letting them choose one of these cute Disney stuffies of some of their favorite characters might be more motivating for them. There are only a handful to choose from, but they are cute characters like Simba, Dumbo and a character from the Mandalorian. What’s nice about these is that the 2 1/2 pound weights can be removed for those times when your child might just want a stuffed animal and not need the added weight. You can also add more weight to the pocket if necessary.

Noise Canceling Headphones-sometimes when kids are in a state of distress, any sound or noise can possibly bring them deeper into a spiral making it even more challenging to calm down. I often recommend noise cancelling headphones for sensory sensitive kids when they are going to be in environments that may have unpredictable and overstimulating noises (parties, amusement parks, theaters, parades, etc.) but also recommend them to families who are putting together cozy corners for their children or for classrooms. There are so many benefits of wearing noise canceling headphones including the following:
*they reduce stress and anxiety by eliminating undesirable sounds and offering a gentle white noise humming sound that may provide comfort
*they improve focus and attention to help with self-soothing/calming by blocking out distracting noises. Even if a child is in a closed space like a teepee or tent, they may need to block out all noises in addition to the visual stimuli in order to calm down. Check out this link for some of top rated noise cancelling headphones.


Fidgets or Squishy Toys-you can ask anyone I work with and they will tell you that I love a good squishy or fidget toy and have grown quite a collection over the last few years. There are a lot of therapeutic benefits of these kinds of toys and I often recommend that families have them on hand during times when their sensory sensitive child may become anxious, stressed or experience big feelings. The nice thing about fidget toys is that they are typically small and easy to take on the go so it’s a good on-the-go tool to manage emotions and feelings. When at home, they are a perfect tool to put in a cozy corner. Some of the benefits of squishy/fidget toys is that they can help in managing more intense feelings and emotions by squishing, squeezing or stretching them when feeling scared, nervous, worried, etc. which helps to calm a body down. Another benefit is that it the repetitive actions listed above can relieve stress by releasing dopamine to the brain. This release of dopamine can relieve stress thus leading to increased focus and attention. The problem with picking out squishy toys is that there are so many to choose from that it can become quite overwhelming. One of my biggest recommendations is to check out your local toy or gift stores because I have found that they have so many options and it allows your child to pick out what might work out best for them. Here are a few of my favorites right now. More importantly, these are the ones that my kids at work tend to gravitate to:NeeDoh Nice Cube-please check out your local toy stores for this one….I have seen it in my NYC local toy stores and grab them whenever I see them. This cube provides a ton of resistance and can be squished, squeezed and smushed which will provide a lot of sensory input.
Bumpy Ball-this shaking ball not only provides vibrating sensory input but the bumps on the ball can be chewed on if you have a child who benefits from oral sensory input to help calm.
Aaron’s Thinking Putty-some kids respond to squishy toys and others need something a bit different to do with their hands and Aaron’s Thinking Putty is perfect because it provides a lot of resistance which is great for hands and decreasing stress. There are a ton of different colors and consistencies depending on what your child likes. Sometimes I like hiding coins or little objects in the putty to give children something to focus on and tell them to take a deep breath in and out for each object they find to help with calming them down. An added bonus is that playing with putty will help with increasing grasp strength and manipulation skills.
HypnoTwist Fidget Toy-a good fidget toy can go a very long way in helping to calm kids down when they are feeling stressed, anxious or out of control. This rainbow toy is mesmerizing to the eyes and super satisfying to the hands which makes it a perfect fidget toy and great for someone who needs special tools when they are feeling big feelings and emotions. Each colorful coil glides seamlessly onto the next as you twist it and turn it forward and back. Not only is it good for helping with calming and soothing, it’s great for working on grasping and manipulation skills.
Liquid Motion Bubbler-I have found that these little toys are great for bringing some of my super hyper kids to a calmer state by putting it out in a place easy for them to see. Sometimes it requires having them lie down on the floor with weighted stuffed animals or blankets on their backs and being at complete eye level with the motion bubbler and when I do that, the effects are immediate and satisfying for the child and for the other people who are trying to help them through this tricky time. The way the liquid moves around has a very calming effect on children and helps them to quiet down, feel grounded and calm down in a way that doesn’t require 1:1 support from a grown-up.
Dimpl Pops Deluxe-pop-its are such a soothing and amazing therapeutic tool and great for any cozy space. It provides external stimuli to focus on and also provides an outlet for pent-up nervous energy. Pop It fidget toys also help to relieve anxiety and stress by providing something to keep your hands busy, which are the most visibly affected body part in stressful situations. I also really like the auditory sensory stimulation kids get from this particular pop-it toy.
GooToobz-these are one of my new favorite fidget toys because they provide visual, auditory and tactile sensory input. These transparent, sensory tubes are shaped like mazes and filled with glittery water, beads and other materials that rush back and forth through the maze providing a mesmerizing and calming effect on a body that might be experiencing stress. While I have linked to Amazon here, please be sure to check out your local toy and gift stores to find GooToobz.

Miscellaneous Stuff-here are a few other things that you can have available to your child in their Calming Corner:
-feelings or emotions chart. This allows them to identify their feelings by pointing and not having to access the language in the moment.
-white noise machine can provide a soothing auditory effect for children who may be sensitive to external noises and tend to avoid wearing headphones of any sort.
-box with some of their favorite books that they can choose from while they are in their Calming Corner.
-hang up fairy lights inside so that they have soft and soothing light while safely inside their tent or teepee.

To end, I want to share my most important tips when dealing with a child who is feeling big feelings or tantrumming:
*the less language used, the more effective. This is not the time to engage or problem solve.
*validate your child’s feelings while gently leading them to their calming corner/cozy space.
*do not use statements like “I am feeling sad or disappointed” while your child is in the middle of a meltdown.
*do not take anything your child says to you during these meltdowns or tantrums personally. It’s quite likely your child will have no recollection of what they said in the moment.

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