Tips for Designing Calming Spaces for Kids
For some children, it can be challenging to teach them the skills they require to manage their emotions effectively. Part of the way parents can help children with their emotional development is to provide them with a calming space to do so. Having a space that is comforting and safe without distractions can help regulate the emotions of children with conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
What could the space look like?
When creating a space for children with ASD or ADHD, it is important to have an understanding of how your child may experience and interpret the environment and the objects within it. Some recommendations on what the space could look like are listed below.
• The space could have a simple layout that promotes a sense of calm and could be as simple as using the corner of the lounge room or your child’s bedroom. A tent or small cubby can also promote a calm and safe space for children, depending on the child. Some children may be frightened by large, open spaces whilst others may not enjoy enclosed spaces. An occupational therapist can help you decide which space would be best suited for your child.
• The space should be free of clutter with good levels of natural light and ventilation. This allows for promoting a low sensory environment to reduce sensory overload, stress and anxiety. This can be done by keeping the space empty with a minimal amount of your child’s favourite sensory tools (eg. soft teddy or weighted blanket).
The importance of quiet time
Quiet time for children is important as it encourages reflection to process new learnings, allows the brain to make new connections, and provides time to recharge. Using your quiet calming space for this is ideal. This is also a time to reduce stress and anxiety from the day. Engaging in quiet time also gives children the chance to explore their individual interests, leading to furthered self-reliance.
Tips and tricks for your child’s calming space
• Your child might benefit from relaxation and breathing techniques to assist with calming. This could include breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth five times to assist with calming and relaxation. These can also be demonstrated and practiced in occupational therapy sessions.
• Helping your child to reflect on a situation may help reduce anxiety the next time they participate in that activity. For example using a ‘catastrophe scale’ to reflect:
o How bad was that really? 1-10
o Did they need to feel anxious?
o What did they do well in the situation?
o What could they do better next time?
o Three things to do next time to help them stay calm
• Your child may benefit from listening to soft music. Music which has a tempo of 50-70 beats per minute has been found to best regulate the sensory system. An occupational therapist can help you trial and identify music which would best work for your child throughout their day.
• Your child might benefit from increasing their awareness about their own sensory needs, and strategies that work for them. One way of doing this is through the “ALERT – How does My Engine Run?” program. This can be taught during occupational therapy sessions.
These are just a few ideas when developing your calming and quiet space. If you are concerned about your child’s emotional regulation and sensory strategies or would like assistance in creating a calming space that will work best for your child, an occupational therapist can assist with this.
For more information about how an occupational therapist can help your child visit talkingmatters.com.au or call us on 82557137.
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