I’m not a parenting expert. I hardly have the most peaceful, sane household. However, using a calm down corner has served us well and may help you too 🙂
I’m most certainly in the thick of it as far as toddlerhood goes. My daughter is just shy of three-and-a-half; my son had his second birthday in June. Back in my restaurant days, I remember a time where I wondered if “Terrible Twos” and “Troublesome Threes” were in the eye of the beholder. You see, in an attempt to strike up a conversation with tables with kids, quite often I would ask something along the lines of “Are the terrible twos as bad as they say?”
What surprised me was the disparity in the answers I got. Really, I could flip a coin and have a parent respond in the affirmative or minimise/ deny the existence of the infamous aspects of toddlerhood.
I couldn’t help but wonder if this was due to their parenting, children’s personality differences, or just all a matter of perception. Based on my experience today, I think perspective combined with parenting technique are what make or break the notoriousness of toddlerhood. Now that isn’t to say that I don’t have my parenting days where I consider toddler respite. Don’t worry, I know that isn’t actually a thing, but a girl can dream, can’t she?
When my daughter started being more vocal and willful, I set up a calm down corner. Simply, it was a blanket laid down between hers and her brother’s cribs with all of their stuffed animals and suggested that she go there if she was verging on a temper tantrum.
What I find so incredibly funny about having kids is how quickly you forget. The calm down corner served its purpose for a while in our family, my daughter seemed to need it less and poof! It was forgotten.
When I watched Katie Chiavarone‘s Periscope on hers, I knew it was time to set up a new and improved one in our new home. Sibling rivalry seems to be at an all-time high in our household. Also, my two-year-old has had a few tantrums and my daughter’s will is definitely proving to be strong.
Why Use A Calm Down Corner?
Research suggests that timeouts are not an effective parenting strategy. I will admit I had them as a child and do use them occasionally with my kids. Because they lack the words and self-regulation to deal with all that life throws at them, toddlers certainly have the potential to be quite vile. Without timeouts or an effective strategy to deal with tantrums, hitting, and other typical, toddler behaviour, a parent can really feel like their back is up against a wall.
It may seem to some that a calm down corner is merely a euphemism for timeouts. The differentiating factor between a calm down corner and timeouts is that the former does not isolate the child. While it does remove your child from the situation they are in, the time they spend in the calm down corner is determined by both their expression and demonstration of readiness to leave.
Also and most importantly, the parent can join the child in the calm down corner.
I find this to be especially beneficial when they are really overwhelmed or are not willing to go on their own. In our household, my three-year-old will go independently the majority of the time. My two-year-old relies on my help to spend time calming down. We have sensory jars, balloons filled with flour, and books. You could argue that bad behaviour or a very upset toddler could be read to or hugged or talked to without a calm down corner. What I find is that our set-up cues my kids that they need a reset and prompt greater receptivity to discipline. When sitting with my kids, whether I sit in the calm down corner with them or go when they say they’re ready to leave, we talk about their feelings, the words that would have been better for them to use, and what they can do next time. Overall, we have found it to be a very effective strategy. The key is being consistent, empathetic, and clear about expectations.
Here are two easy DIY items in our calm down corner that also make for fun activities to do with young kids.
Two Simple Activities to Build on your Calm Down Corner
What to use
- Mason jars
- glitter glue (we got ours from the dollar store)
- warm water
- sequins, small plastic rocks, small plastic toys, or any items to add in of your choice
- hot glue gun
I let the kids empty their glue and put the items we had pre-selected into their respective jars. Then, I filled it with warm water to the top. We used warm water to help the glitter glue dissolve a bit. Then, I glue gunned the lids shut.
What to use
- 1/3 cup of flour
- a funnel (I couldn’t find my funnel. Cutting the top off of a plastic bottle works just as well)
- a pencil or pen to push the flour down the funnel
I let the kids use a measuring cup to dump the flour into the funnel. Once we had filled their balloons, I tied them.
Adding some books and stuffed animals can be nice additions to your calm down corner too. I hope you find as much value in having a calm down corner as we have!