How to create a Christmas Calm Down Kit
Christmas can be a tough time for kiddos. Especially for our more sensitive little people – toddlers and preschoolers, the kids who experience anxiety, the ones who struggle with emotion regulation, the kids with sensory processing difficulties and special needs. Christmas can be hugely overwhelming for many of our little ones.
And of course, I created the Mindful Little Calm Down Kit to help you set up a calming, quiet space for your kids and to teach them how to self regulate when they experience big emotions. But Christmas, with its often over the top sensory experiences, and extra social expectations and obligations can bring its own unique set of challenges. And I’m frequently asked – what can I do when we’re not in the house and we can’t use our calm down space? How do I help my child then?
So I’ve put together something a bit special to help your kids (and you!) manage some of those BIG feelings that come up more often at Christmas time. The Mindful Little CHRISTMAS Calm Down Kit. This kit is designed to support your child to process their big emotions during the holiday season. It contains Christmas themed activities and resources that your child will love to use AND, it’s a bit smaller than the original calm down kit, because it’s designed to be more portable.
What to include in a Christmas Calm Down Kit
Inside of your Mindful Little Christmas Calm Down Kit, you’ll find a range of printable resources designed to help your child understand and manage their feelings. All printables listed below are included in your kit, as well as full instructions and recipes needed for making the sensory tools. Below is the list of items I recommend you keep in your kit (this is what we currently have in our own kit too!). You’ll also find this list inside of your kit along with a few more ideas that you and your child might find useful.
- Gingerbread man feeling cards
- Christmas themed calm down cards
- Christmas themed mindful breathing exercises
- Christmas mindful colouring pages
Items to eat and drink:
- Candy canes or peppermints to suck on
- Hot chocolate sachets
- Peppermint gum
Items from around your house:
- Christmas teddy to cuddle
- Christmas book
- Christmas music
- Coloured pencils, crayons or markers
- Gingerbread playdough
- Christmas stress ball
- Christmas calm down jar
How to use your Calm Down Kit
This calm down kit is designed to go along with you wherever you go! Simply print off your feelings cards and calm down cards, cut them out (laminate them if you’d like), and pop them on a binder ring. You might also like to keep a small box or bag in your car or handbag to pop your breathing boards, play dough, stress ball and/or calm down jar into. Then, when your child is feeling overwhelmed or needs a bit of a break, you have some tools on hand to help them out.
To introduce your Christmas Calm Down Kit to your child, explain that the tools can be used when they are feeling a bit worried, scared, anxious or overwhelmed. I recommend talking to them about how they might feel when this happens. What will they notice in their body? How will they behave when they start to feel anxious or nervous? What might other people notice? This will help them develop self awareness so they can recognise the need to use their tools. In the meantime, it will be your job to recognise that they are becoming dysregulated and suggest they use their calm down kit, so it will be helpful for you to have a think about what their early warning signs might be.
Remember, a dysregulated child has no access to the thinking part of their brain. Once they are in fight or flight mode, they are simply trying to remain safe, so this is not the time to be introducing new tools or trying to talk logic to them. Be sure to introduce the tools to them when they are calm, and practice them over and over until they feel comfortable and understand how to use them!
Helping your child to use their Calm Down Kit
You’ve noticed your child starting to become dysregulated. Now what do you do?
- Acknowledge how they’re feeling and help them label their emotions. You can use the feelings cards here if they are not too distressed: “I hear your voice getting louder. Are you feeling angry? Can you show me which card matches how you’re feeling?” If your child is already quite dysregulated, go straight to validation.
- Validate their emotions: “Your cousin knocked down your block tower after you spent so long building it. Ugh, that’s so frustrating!”
- Offer comfort and containment so they can feel safe “Do you need a hug? Let’s find a quiet place to sit together so I can help you”
- Use your calm down cards and tools to help your child regulate. “Would you like to squeeze your play dough or do some gingerbread man breathing?” Stay with them while they put their strategies into action.
- Once your child is feeling calm again, you might like to problem solve with them. If your child was too distressed to use their feelings card earlier, you might like to use them now: “Can you use your cards to show me how you were feeling earlier? Next time you’re feeling angry/frustrated/disappointed, what can you do?”
Above all else, it’s important to remember that self regulation is a developmental skill that needs to be learned over time. We cannot teach kids to regulate before they are developmentally ready, any more than we can teach them how to walk when they are 3 months old. All kids will reach this milestone in their own time. Our job is simply to support them, and to support their nervous system as they learn. We do this by providing them wth the tools and resources they need, AND by providing them with the connection they need from us. Kids learn to self regulate by experiencing co-regulation over and over again. When we repeatedly lend our children our own calm, we help them find their own.
Want to support our child to develop self regulation skills this Christmas so you can help them feel calm and in control of their responses (and your own)? You can find the Mindful Little Christmas Calm Down Kit here. Don’t need the whole kit? Grab just the Mindful Little Christmas Breathing Activities here. Want the original Mindful Little Calm Down Kit so you can set up a calm down corner in your home or classroom? You can grab the kit here, and you’ll find more information about setting up a calm down space here.
Have you created a Christmas Calm Down Kit for your child? I’d love to hear more about it – let me know how it’s going in the comments below, or tag me in your pics on Instagram. You can find me @mindfullittleminds.
Sarah is a psychologist, mama of 4 and the creator of Mindful Little Minds. She has over 10 years of experience working with children, adolescents and families experiencing mental health problems and has a special interest in anxiety disorders in children. In her spare time she enjoys hugging her kids, drinking coffee, and telling anyone who’ll listen how tired she is.