Magic Wishes #5: Calm, Quiet, Destress Space for Kids

Play can include a calm, quiet, destress space for kids. One parent’s wish is giving the rest of us something to think about for at school and at home.quiet calm spaceThis month, blog posts are based on answers to the question, “If you had one wish for a preschool or kindergarten or other childcare program left-over from St. Patrick’s Day or a sort-of realistic magic wand you found on April Fool’s, what would you want?” Answers have been varied and really interesting. This wish for a quiet place for kids come from L-A, a mother of two and kindergarten teacher.

Do kids need a quiet retreat at school and at home? Absolutely. Just like adults. What about you? Do you have a place where you can go when you are feeling overwhelmed? For parents, sometimes it’s locking yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes. At work, it may still be a bathroom or even a storage closet. Anything for a few minutes where the phone isn’t ringing or someone is stopping by your counter or desk. We take coffee breaks, but that’s not the same as a quiet break.

We might expect a calm, quiet space for kids to have dim lighting, soft cushions, furry stuffed animals, and books, but many of them also include sensory materials. A spongey ball, lava lamp, heavy blanket, and squishy playdough are possibilities. Carolyn Feder shares some suggestions in her article Top Ideas to Create a Calming Sensory Bedroom Space for Autism Parenting.

calming glitter bottleAt home or in a care or school center, we may be able to find a room or a corner to make a retreat. Sometimes, a big box or small tent is an option. In the car, this can be quite tricky. A super article gives a list of 40 items you can use to make a calm-down bin. For kids that find public spaces like stores or offices a challenge, you can tuck a few into a bag to take along.

In a child’s own words on this video, “Sometimes I get really frustrated and mad.” After spending 5 minutes in the special sensory calming room, “I go back to class and then everything starts to return happy.”

No wonder a quiet place for kids is a wish from this parent. Is there a calm, quiet, destress space for kids at your house or childcare center?


Darth Vader Helps Kids Learn Facial Expressions

Toys, like Star Wars Mr. Potato Head and Darth Vader can help kids learn facial expressions. Facial expressions are a significant part of our communication with each other but not only do kids have to ‘read’ the expression, they also have to match it to the feeling.

star wars and facial expressionsNewborns respond to smiles with delight and toddlers are pretty good at realizing a particular look on a parent or caregiver’s face means oh-oh. But there are so many more than expressions and emotions than happy, sad, and angry. Worried, frustrated, scared, nervous, surprised—the list is extensive. No wonder it’s such a challenge.

It’s easy to see how a toy like Mr. Potato Head is useful. Kids get to make faces and try out some mouths and eyes. The lips can be turned up or down but Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head doesn’t have much range beyond basic feelings. The mixing and matching can be fun even if it’s limited. Play certainly helps kids learn facial expressions.

How can Darth Vader help kids? His face has no expression at all. That’s a significant part of the reason why he is powerful and menacing. There are no clues as to what he is thinking and feeling. He doesn’t give anything away because he can hide behind his mask. Just wearing a Darth Vader face can give kids some of this power too. Without revealing themselves, they can really look at our faces. Kids are not quite so vulnerable with a Darth Vader blank face. No wonder some of them want to wear it all day long.

darth vader children's playWhile no parent wants to be as scary as Darth Vader, we do hope the expression on our face communicates a message. Another way to have fun with facial expressions is to make silly ones. Often, there is someone in the family circle who is especially good at this. I had an uncle who made the best monkey faces and could even wiggle his ears.

For some fun today, can you and your child make some Darth Vader and other expressions without the mask?  🙂  🙁   😉   ;(    😀

Happiness and Kids: Helping Kids Be Happy

International Happy Day is not just for adults, it’s for children too. Contrary to what we assume, kids are not automatically happy, without a care in the world, playing all the day long. The world can be very scary and confusing place and children have limited language to tell us what they need. Their time and space to play is increasingly under threat. As parents and caregivers we can influence the happiness of our children.

helping children be happyAccording to Dr. Laura Markham in her book Teaching Your Child the Art of Happiness, happiness is less related to luck and more something we create, a product of our “mental, emotional, and physical habits.” What can we do to help children enjoy happiness?

Feeling happy is an emotion. We can help children learn about emotions by talking about them, reading stories, noticing when they feel different emotions and naming them, making faces in the mirror and guessing what feeling they show, and sharing information about our own emotions. Either our emotions can control us, or we can deal with our emotions. It is critically important that we help children develop the skills to handle their own emotions. We can even sing about them:

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands…
If you’re angry and you know it, stamp your feet…
If you’re sad and you know it, cry boo hoo…
(Tune: If You’re Happy and You Know It.)
Add any other verses you can think of.

Another study showed the kids who know more about their family history had a greater belief that they could control their world and a higher degree of self-confidence. It was the number one predictor of a child’s emotional well-being. (Drs. Marshall Duke and Robyn Fivush) Share stories about the family and include time to connect with each other, such as eating a meal together.

Physical habits such as eating well, getting a good sleep, and plenty of outside and active time are ones that we can start with kids long before they go to school.

When it comes to mental development, do you know how a child learns best? PLAY. Make sure each day has time for active, imaginary, sensory, and discovery play. This doesn’t require expensive toys and programs. An empty box, a stick, and a pile of dirt are tremendous for play. So are balls, blocks, puzzles, and dolls.

There are two other qualities that are perhaps beyond emotional, mental, and physical levels. These are being grateful and kind. Being thankful allows us to find joy all around. Allowing children to help in the family and community gives them the opportunity to develop and experience the glow of kindness.

Life is challenging no matter our age, even for children. If we help children discover and develop happiness now, they will remember as they grow up. Happy day!
How about you? When are you happy?

Emotions, Not Just Academics, Important For Kindergarten

Series Part #13: Emotions Can Impact Getting Ready for Kindergarten The world can be a confusing place for children but sometimes emotions are a big challenge, even for adults to figure out. The early years between the ages of birth and 5 years old are the most sensitive for learning about emotions and how to … Continue reading Emotions, Not Just Academics, Important For Kindergarten