Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved teaching. In fact, when I was seven years old (with my poor two-year-old sister in tow), I redesigned a corner of our basement for my ‘schoolhouse,’ complete with decorations I acquired from teachers at the end of the previous school year, homemade notebooks, and various artifacts I forced my poor mother to purchase from the local education store. I then ‘taught’ my poor little sis everything from addition and subtraction to the sounds each of the animals made.
I loved teaching, and that passion carried forward into my college years with pursuing an education degree and teaching license, and into my adulthood, too, as I completed my MEd. in Reading Education while simultaneously launching and running a full-blown microschool out of my two-bedroom house in 2020.
As a "regular mom"-turned-private-school-director (out of my kitchen), I know, firsthand, the value of creating spaces where students and children can feel safe, comfortable, and confident. And on the heels of a difficult year where so much of our lives turned virtual (from school to everyday conversations), creating a calming corner for both education and social purposes is truly invaluable.
Here’s what you need to know about the calming corner teacher trend and how it’s influencing the way families and parents are designing their homes.
What Is a Calming Corner?
The idea of a calming corner has been a trend for teachers for quite some time. While I can’t say I know the exact origins of the phrase, it was intentionally created by those who understand the psychology of children and how psychological theory plays into their emotions, connections to the classroom and peers, and ultimately, behavior.
Much like the idea of a "time out" area but with a far more positive connotation, the idea of a calming corner is to create a space for the child to self-regulate, regain a sense of control, and safely express their feelings while not disrupting the learning of others.
In the world of education, this type of space helps in many ways. For students with disabilities, creating a ‘haven’ can help with emotional dysregulation or sensory issues. But it’s not just a space for students with learning challenges—it is a place for any child who may feel overwhelmed, may need a moment to hit the ‘reset’ button, or simply an escape when schoolwork or life feels heavy.
What Goes Into a ‘Calming Corner’?
There’s more to this space than a name, but the fun part is that every calming corner looks different. And, of course, creating one at home is going to be far more personalized and unique based on the children.
At one of my last full-time teaching placements—a specialized school for students who struggled to learn in traditional learning environments—I created a calming corner inside of a walk-in closet located in the back area of my classroom. I set up a multi-level bookshelf with readers for all ages, lava lamp, comfy pillows, bean bag chair, motivational posters on the walls, and string beads across the doorframe to create separation without a physical barrier.
This is just one example, but a calming corner should, ideally, include the following:
- Objects that create a calming feel or positive sensory experiences
- Fidgets to help with self-regulation (stress balls, dough, or a ‘squishable’ object/toy)
- Books, comics, puzzles, or brain games that are stimulating without being too challenging or overwhelming (multi-level readers, Where’s Waldo? books, and iSpy books)
- Low light, lack of harsh lighting
- Comfort objects (blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, etc.)
Why Should You Create a Designated Corner at Home?
The idea of a calming space has been around for ages, and, thankfully, has become more of the norm in different school settings. However, with the shift to virtual (and disconnected) learning, there has been a lack of a ‘safe space.’
When children are connecting to their learning through a screen—or worse, having to blend their ‘safe space’ with their learning space as they connect from their homes and bedrooms—there becomes an even greater need for a space that truly feels like a haven.
Regardless of whether your child is learning from home, from school, or from a restricted environment (different schedule, virtual classrooms, masks, etc.), the reason a calming corner can be beneficial for your home is because it allows for your child to release and self-regulate—a valuable coping skill for life now and in the future.
How Can You Intentionally Design a Calming Corner in Your Home?
So, how do you intentionally design a calming corner?
Consider where your child can be that is private without completely separated from your home: part of their bedroom or closet, basement, alcove in the kitchen, section of the living room, behind the couch (like a fort), or even something crazy, like a treehouse or small, outdoor shed (depending on where you live and the temperature outside, of course).
Think about how you can reconstruct the layout in a way that feels intentional without taking away from the normal routines of your everyday life. For example, there can be a part of your kitchen dedicated to this self-regulation space, but be sure to create it in a way that doesn’t inhibit cooking meals or the family coming to eat together.
You can also involve your children in the process. Make sure they understand why you’re creating this and what the intent is. Then, ask for their input. Perhaps they’ll want to make a sign for the space or add their own design tweaks. Maybe they’ll want to select the comfort objects, or perhaps they’ll even want to be the leader in the process.
Whatever works for your family will be different depending on your space, the ages of your children, how your day-to-day schedule looks, your budget, and, of course, your child’s unique needs. And a calming corner doesn't just have to be for children; having a designated space in your home where you can relax, recharge, and be away from distractions is essential for people of all ages.
The idea is to make your house feel like a home—even when that home is somewhat disrupted or different due to outside circumstances. We can all use a space to reset; why not make this an add-on to your home?