This past year has been especially challenging, with changes, losses, and continual adaptation to new routines. Most of us have felt many different emotions! Children’s feelings tend to be close to the surface, and as a caregiver, it’s great to have ready ways to help them learn to manage emotions in a safe and healthy way. A wonderful resource for processing feelings is a portable “Calm Kit” or “Mad Kit”. Keeping feelings in doesn’t help children regulate or heal, and let’s face it, adults need more ways to have their feelings too!
A Calm Kit makes liberal use of items that help us access and calm the 7 senses. Calm Kits can help if a child is overwhelmed, sad, or scared, or if they need to relax before letting their anger out. Using tools that access our senses helps to regulate and soothe, quieting the activation response our bodies and brains experience when we are experiencing these feelings. Besides giving us the message that we are safe, doing something actively to help ourselves feel better is empowering and helps build new response pathways in our brains.
A Calm Kit can include:
A soft blanket that they can completely wrap up in
A soothing light (like one of the animal lights that projects stars onto the ceiling, or a moon light)
Books that have calming art (for non-readers) or themes (for readers)
A picture that reminds them of taking slow deep breaths (practiced with an adult in advance so they know how to do it)- or a beach ball that they can put between their belly and a wall to practice diaphragmatic breathing
A weighted lap pad at an appropriate weight for little ones
Bubble timers or glitter jars
Something chewy or crunchy to chew or something to suck on (pretzels, lollipops, dried fruit, etc.)
Scratch and sniff stickers
Harmonica or small wind instrument (recorder, etc.)
Yoga activity cards
A Mad Kit is full of objects that can assist in “getting the mad out”. The purpose is to release anger from our bodies in a healthy and safe way, rather than the explosions we might experience, or the tendency to keep feelings inside. It can help to "play" with an adult first, imagining feeling mad and practicing using the tools before actually accessing the kit during a mad moment. Of course, if a kiddo is really escalated, they may need to calm down first before physically releasing feelings. Safety is the first priority! And for anyone who is in treatment for anger management issues, partner with the provider to explore whether a Mad Kit is helpful.
A Mad Kit could include a variety of the following items:
Play dough or other clay
Soft balls to throw inside
Soft blocks to build and knock down towers
Markers or crayons and paper to scribble
A pillow to hit
Newspaper or other paper to rip up
Music for “dancing it out”
Towel or small blanket to wring
Pick a few items that you think will resonate- you might already own some, and others can be homemade. A few are pricier, but if it seems like one of the objects may be a really good fit or particularly helpful, the investment might make sense.
Some resources that can help to build a kit pretty inexpensively:
Directions for a glitter jar:
Homemade yoga cards with pictures printed from the internet of kids in the following poses: child's pose, legs up a wall, downward facing dog, standing forward bend, side bend, hero pose, tree pose, mountain pose, cat and cow poses. There are also printables online, including this one: http://206sdy3pjq8gg5fkd2z07680-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/WY-Quality-Counts-Kid-Yoga-Card-Deck.pdf
A recipe for lavender play dough which is both tactile and olfactory:
Some of these items can be found on this site inexpensively:
Exploring the benefits of a Calm Kit or Mad Kit (or both!) could be a fun experiment for your family or for yourself! Everyone has feelings that need to be expressed, and use of a kit may be just the thing to help make this practice easy and accessible.
Danica Delgado, LCSW