If you have ever been around young children, you know that they can have some BIG feelings for such little people! Understanding how to handle those feelings is not something that comes naturally — but it CAN be taught. I am teaming up with Generation Mindful this week to share some amazing ways to teach mindfulness and come up with some calming strategies that your child can use to help conquer some of those big feelings — and I have an awesome giveaway for my birthday at the end of this post! 😉
The ways little ones express their big feelings — meltdowns, not following directions, physical violence, nasty words, full-on tantrums — are often misunderstood by adults as misbehavior or something that needs to be punished. Children are sent to an isolated spot for a “time-out” when what their behavior is suggesting is rather the need for a better connection and way of verbalizing feelings so that they can be regulated appropriately.
Building social-emotional skills is a huge part of the Montessori idea of an education for the whole child. In a Montessori classroom, you might find a peace corner or thinking chair — a space that a child can go when her feelings are too big or she just needs to take a break. Generation Mindful has developed a comprehensive Time-In Toolkit to help parents provide that same kind of opportunity for teaching mindfulness and using calming strategies at home, and we’ve been testing it out for about a month now.
We first set up a Calming Corner in a relatively peaceful room in our house. I talked with the girls about setting up a space for them to go when they just need to get away from it all — what L describes as “when I need some lonely time.” [“Lonely” is not a negative word for her — she just means she needs some alone time.] I hung up some of the posters that came in our Time-In Toolkit — one that lists some ideas for calming strategies, and one that shows what different feelings might look like. We set up the corner with a soft rug [actually a bath mat!], a comfy pillow, a small stuffed animal, and a blanket crocheted with love by Gaga [Grandma]. Then we filled a bin with some things to use in the Calming Corner when the girls need some alone time or are trying to get a handle on their big feelings.
Our bin contains:
- Books about feelings and mindfulness: In My Heart and I Am Peace are some of our favorites
- A stress ball for squeezing
- A sketchbook and colored pencils for drawing
- A mirror to see what their faces look like when they feel different feelings
- Two sand timers — not to time how long they must stay in the Calming Corner, but to watch the sand slowly trickle down from the top to the bottom.
- A lacing dinosaur
- A mermaid bracelet for stroking
Our bin is made up of items that the girls chose or that I know help them to calm down from my past observations — yours might have many of the same things, or it might be completely different based on your child’s interests.
Please note: this Calming Corner is NOT a time-out corner. I do not send the girls there when they are “misbehaving” or having a meltdown. I DO ask if they need to take a break in the Calming Corner when I notice that they can’t quite handle their big feelings, and they are free to say yes or no. Spoiler alert: they have never said no.
Another piece of the Time-In Toolkit is a set of PeaceMakers Cards. These can be used for talking about feelings and different ways to express them — which I love because it helps us to discuss big feelings BEFORE they happen as well as remember back to past big feelings and explore them together. L is about to turn 4 years old, and she is fully able to have these conversations with us. N can’t quite express it as much yet at just 2 years old, but boy, is she listening and learning!
We decided to begin by using our PeaceMakers Cards twice a day: once in the morning at Circle Time, and once right before bedtime so Daddy could also take part in the discussion. We choose one card, read what it says, and then talk about how it makes us feel or what it means to us. I have found that it really helps the girls to calm their bodies and minds right before bed, so I highly recommend that time of day for this. They would also be great conversation starters at mealtimes or while driving to school.
These PeaceMakers Cards provide that mindfulness element that is so important to develop in young children — how to be aware of your feelings as well as adjust them when necessary. What a fantastic tool for little ones! Keep reading to the end — because I am giving away a few of these PeaceMakers Cards sets for my birthday!
In addition to the posters and the PeaceMakers Cards, the Time-In Toolkit also comes with a 90-page digital manual full of printables, game suggestions, and more tips and tricks for talking to your children about feelings and how to handle them — you know how people always joke that it’s too bad children don’t come with a user manual? Well, now they do!
When we first started using our Calming Corner and PeaceMakers Cards, I wanted to quit. L suddenly started having MORE meltdowns, instead of fewer. More INTENSE meltdowns, instead of shorter ones. We were constantly trying to get her to name her feelings, or pointing her toward the calming strategies chart so she could choose one — and it felt hopeless. That whole first week was a nightmare. It was almost as if she suddenly felt so much freedom in being able to fully express her emotions, but she just didn’t know quite what to do with them yet.
We kept using our PeaceMakers Cards and being intentional about naming our own feelings and talking about calming strategies that we used ourselves. We kept offering love and calming strategies. And we started to see a difference. We started seeing our very spirited 3-year-old pausing when we asked if she wanted to try a calming strategy, and then we started seeing her running to the Calming Corner and choosing one all by herself. We started seeing our 2-year-old doing exactly what she saw her big sister doing, and choosing her own calming strategies. We are still having meltdowns, but they are far less intense and end much sooner — and when they are over, we talk about what feelings were felt, what calming strategies were used, and what we might try the next time.
As with any parenting method, consistency is key. As I said before, emotional regulation skills do not come naturally — not even to adults.
You can read more about the Time-In Toolkit HERE, but before you do:
Generation Mindful sent me three extra PeaceMakers Cards sets to give away to you! I will be giving away TWO of the sets to blog readers and saving one to give away to my Montessori Parenting E-Course/Consulting clients.
To enter to win 1 of 2 PeaceMakers Cards sets from Generation Mindful, click HERE!
*This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Amali & Halley!*