Helping children to manage their emotions and learn to regulate them can be a daunting task. Children’s rapid brain development means that whilst they develop logic and reasoning from the age of 5, they can often be impulsive, as the frontal cortex of the brain, which controls logic develops much later. In fact, the frontal cortex development continues into adulthood, so recognising that children need our help to develop reasoning and control is the first step to connecting and helping them.
The later development of the frontal cortex means that children;
- are more likely to act on impulse
- are less likely to think before they act
- are more likely to take risks or act out risky behaviours
- have difficulty considering the consequence of their actions
- may behave in inappropriate ways
Therefore, as adults, supporting children to develop the knowledge and understanding of these areas is important in their social and emotional development.
A great starting point, is to help children find constructive and positive ways to calm down when they are tired, frustrated or overwhelmed, as these are often trigger emotions for unwanted or difficult behaviours.
A starting point for this, is to construct a sensory/calm box at home.
A sensory/calm box allows children to:
- take time out to calm down
- engages them on a sensory level which helps to regulate their emotions
- offers a safe place to retreat to
- engages all the senses which helps children connect with the ‘now’
- develops nerve connections in the brain which help with more complex tasks
- supports language development
- develops mindful actions
How do I use it?
I always suggest to parents to have their sensory box on a table at home where it can be accessed at any time. Leaving it available to children encourages them to access it independently, as well as being something you might suggest to them, or plan into their routines.
When can I use it?
A sensory/calm box can be used:
- after school when we need to decompress
- if frustration is escalating and we need some quiet time
- in moments of the day when children feel overwhelmed
- before bed to wind down from the day
- for a quiet time
- when children need to process or take time out to work through
- if children select it for themselves
A sensory/calm box can be initially suggested, but over time children are more likely to select it themselves. Having it available after school, along with a drink and snack, can be the perfect strategy to unwind and decompress from the emotions of school. Especially if your child is one who holds their emotions in during the day and feels like a coiled spring come home time.
What can I include?
The world is your oyster when adding to a sensory box, some things you might want to start with include:
- Kinetic sand
- Putty or play dough
- Bubbles (perfect to regulate breathing)
- Sensory bands
- Bendy people
- Stress balls (in varying strengths and sizes)
- Prickly balls (handy for children who need to ‘feel’ things)
- Sound CDS (e.g. rainforests, the ocean, rain)
- Story audio CDs (check out www.adventuresofbrian.co.uk for our Brian collection)
- Light up balls or toys
- Sensory or sound tubes
There are a great range of sensory toys on:
You might start the box yourself, or include your children in the process, adding to it as you find the things that help them most. Consider the senses (sight, hearing, touch, sound) when finding items to add.