Regulation Zones, or “Chill” Zones
An important note for adults:
- There are no “good” or “bad” feelings, all feelings are important signals to us about what we are experiencing.
- Regulation is important so our emotions don’t overtake us, and our behaviour does not cause harm to ourselves or others.
- A chill zone or calming area should never be used as a threat, punishment, or rejection of a child.
- The zone is intended to provide a calm, quiet space for a child to seek support and develop emotional self-regulation skills.
Suggestions & Ideas for Calming Centres
Sensory items. Children (and many adults) have often not yet learned what works best for them (us), it is helpful to have a variety of options available for them to try. It may be mort helpful to offer a variety of sensory and fidget items.
Stuffies & weighted blankets. Stuffed toys are comforting, even for “big” kids. If the children or students are old enough to be self-conscious about snuggling a stuffy, you can try to include older-themed stuffed toys and weighted blankets based on current popular trends.
Books & puzzles. Some children regulate well through engaging their mind in something else entirely. Calm, quiet activities such as reading, doing a puzzle, colouring, or playing with play-dough can be highly beneficial.
Ear protection & privacy screens. If you’re setting up a chill zone in your classroom, you may consider some form of privacy screen for students who become visually distracted or over-stimulated, or who may feel embarrassed by their big emotions. Keeping a basket of ear protectors can also help for those who become overwhelmed by loud environments. At home, you can set up a tent or make one out of a light blanket for kids who like to hide.
Colouring books & notebooks. Appropriate for the child’s developmental stage and interests: Colouring items or a notebook to write out one’s thoughts can help children process, or they can draw and allow their mind to focus on something else while their body calms down.
Music, mindfulness, or meditation. Depending on the environment, soft music might be helpful. Some kids might prefer happy, energetic music to move their body and shake out their tension. A mindfulness or meditation recording might be helpful as well, there are many excellent guided meditation and mindfulness exercises available for free on various apps.
Set the example. Children will be more likely to use their self-regulation strategies if they see the adults in their lives using theirs. Parents can work alongside children to make their own calming kits to demonstrate to their children that everyone experiences big feelings and needs tools to regulate themselves.