Monday, April 14, 2014

Calm Down Basket

Making calm down baskets have been on my bucket list for years. Nothing like having a homestudy being done at your home, where your parenting techniques will be under a microscope, to light a fire under me. Part of the reason I held off for so long is because I thought it would cost a lot to get everything together or too difficult to make a calm down jar (something that I felt just HAD to go with it). Yeah, I was so wrong on both counts.

If you don't know what a calm down basket is let me enlighten you. It is a basket of items your child can use tools to help self soothe and/or self-regulate their feelings. Calm down baskets are NOT to be used as punishments. I actually have them in a different area of my house than our time-out (or in) chairs. I personally made a basket for each of my boys because some times I need them to calm down at the same time, say when sibling emotions are running high. Also with the four year age difference I needed to think about gearing certain items to appropriate age/maturity (mainly books). I ask the boys to go calm down when they are starting to get irritable and either a meltdown or fight will break out, overly-hyper and I can tell an accident will occur or any times they are being over-emotional. The trick to the success is finding times to implement it BEFORE a choice has been made that would result in a punishment. They go shake the glitter calm down jar (acts as a timer and object lesson) and then they work in the baskets until THEY feel calm. It is meant to be self-regulated where they can learn when they need to calm down and also when they can come out. Self regulation is a life skill for all kids, but for SPD (sensory processing disorder) children it is especially important. Of course, as a mom we need to teach them how to do this. You may need to give a few reminders. Don't forget to model!!! When they are in calm down I try to do something calming too: read a Psalms, drink some tea, take deep breaths, journal, and sometimes I even color.

Here is what I included in our calm down basket. Keep in mind almost ALL items I had around the house or got for a couple dollars at Target. I so wish we had a Dollar Tree up here in Anchorage. I would check there first. The goal is to find items that are calming, deal with kiddo emotions, and think about letting the children use all of their senses (great for all kiddos and especially ones with SPD).

Sensory Items: teething/oral tools, massager, pinwheel, bubbles (that don't spill), Walbarger Brushing Tool (only for kiddo with SPD), velcro, I Can Calm Myself ABC Cards from Training Happy Hearts, and some natural components (smooth rocks to rub or shells to listen to).
Lacing Cards, squishy toys that have different textures, weight, and lights, stress balls, and small stuffed animals for comfort. The elephant is a baby toy but we like it because it makes a crinkly sound and B can chew on the feet.
Picture books on emotions, manners, and behaviors, a picture book of the boys doing positive things, a prayer book, children's bible, and a compilation book of poetry for children.
Each basket has an accordion file. In it is some laminated mazes, search and finds, and code breakers for A, For A I also add special paper airplane folding paper and mandalas to color (which is used in Tibetan culture for gaining wisdom, compassion, and healing through positive energy).  I also added a white erase marker and some crayons in the file.
A stretching printout (image from Bambinis) and Angry Bird Cool Down Strategies from The Home Teacher( (this unit she created is  EXCELLENT)
Of course it would not be complete without the much loved glitter calm down jars.These are so easy to make. Get glitter glue (think Elmer's glue size) and put about half of it in a mason jar. Then add HOT water (almost boiling). Stir until all the glue dissolves (takes a couple minutes). Next hot glue the lid on. Wait to cool and then you are done! Some use these as a timer to get out of the calm down area, but my jars take about 20 minutes to settle. The object lesson  is just like we feel all jumbled when we are out of control (have kiddo shake the jar-which reliefs stress and show the glitter whirl about) we can calm down and feel relaxed when we take time to quiet our body (set jar down and watch glitter settle on bottom). 

What do you or would you add to your calm down basket? I am planning on a small crank music box and making a lavender rice pillow to add in more smell and audio. Love to hear other ideas.


  1. Wow, this is SUCH a great idea! I've never heard of these. I've shared on my blog's FB page, but would love to have you link this up to the After School Linky party on my blog too!

  2. Thanks for sharing it on FB. Just added it to your Linky.