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Calming Corner

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the calm corner. My name is Sinéad. I am one of the teachers in Outreach and I am studying play therapy part-time. Over the next few weeks I will share some information I have picked up along the way. Each week I will share a new sensory activity and a quick tip.

Sensory input is hugely powerful in regulating (calming) us all. When you think about it, even as adults most things we do to relax or treat ourselves are in fact sensory. For example, going for a meal, a massage, getting our hair done, going for a walk, a run, a bubble bath, listening to music, having a beverage. It’s all sensory!

So when we are highly overwhelmed (or dysregulated) words are no longer understood or expressed in the same way and sensory input is how we can calm ourselves again. Like everything we are all wonderfully different and unique. So what is regulating for one person may not be for the next! That is completely normal and to be expected. Listen to yourself and notice what works for you and what doesn’t. I hope you may find something useful here for your family.   

Kindest regards,

Sinéad.

Stress Ball/Squidgy

These can be made quite easily at home. They can be very calming when we are feeling worried, frustrated, angry, anxious, afraid and many other feelings we may experience especially in these strange times. They can be good fun to make too!  

What you need:                                                                     

  • Balloons (preferably large high-quality ones as they would be more durable e.g. the slightly more expensive ones in Tesco! But that is not essential.)
  • A funnel (you could cut the top of a bottle off)
  • Fillings: some examples are;
  • Rice, flour, sand, coffee, lentils, cornflour, cornflour with a little water. Whatever you think yourself!
  • A spoon

How to make them:

  1. Pick a balloon and a filling.
  2. Attach the balloon to the funnel.
  3. Slowly pour a filling into the funnel.
  4. You may need to use a spoon handle to push the filling into the balloon.
  5. When it is near the top remove the funnel.
  6. Tie a knot in the balloon.

Ta-dah!! Your very own home-made squidgy 

  You can repeat steps 1-6 using different fillings!

The balloon I had was not a high quality one and it was also very small. This made the process a little bit trickier. It was harder to get the rice in and also the rim of the balloon broke when I was removing it from the bottle. I threw out some of the rice and tied it. The end result helped ease my frustration! 

Quick tip!

The Regulation Breath

This is something you can do anywhere if you are feeling in any way dysregulated (worried, anxious, afraid, angry etc.)

  • For adults: breathe in through your nose for a count of 4 and then out through your mouth for a count of 8.
  • Depending on the age of your child you could try:
  • In through the nose for a count of 3 and out through the mouth for 6.

or

  • In through the nose for 2 and out through the mouth for 4.

It doesn’t matter which one you do. The important part is that the exhalation is twice the length of the inhalation

Pink Playdough

Playdough can be made quite easily at home using 4 or 5 ingredients.  Play dough has many sensory benefits. It can be very calming (regulating) when we are feeling worried, frustrated, angry, anxious, afraid and many other feelings. I added a few drops of lavender which is known for its relaxing qualities. Making playdough can be an enjoyable sensory experience which leaves you with a nice regulation tool/play material!

What you need:                                                                     

  • 1 cup of flour
  • ½ a cup of salt
  • ½ a cup of water with food colouring in it
  • A drop of lavender essential oil (Or lemon, vanilla essence can be used.)
  • A spoon, a bowl, a cup

How to make it:

  1. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl.
  2. Add a few drops of the food colouring and the scent to the water.
  3. Slowly mix the water to the flour and salt using the spoon.
  4. Then knead the mixture.
  5. Flour the countertop and put the mixture on the countertop.
  6. Fold and knead the mixture some more.
  7. Keep doing this until it’s a consistency your happy with.
  • If it’s too dry add a little more water.
  • If it’s too wet add a little more flour.
  • If the colour or scent are too weak.

Ta-dah!! Your very own home-made playdough.

When I took my play dough out of the bowl it was a little dry and I didn’t put in enough of the food colouring. I thought I had normal food colouring but when I went to my press I only had a gel food colouring which I hadn’t used before. I used a small amount of red to try make a pink. I later added too much water which resulted in a way too sticky playdough so then I added more flour. I thought it wasn’t going to work on many occasions. All part of the process! It was a dance of a little flour, a little water and it came together. It smelled nice and I was happy with the consistency. I put my playdough in an air tight reused soup container.

Quick tip!

Legs Up the Wall

This is a lovely quick anti-stress yoga posture. All you need is a floor and a wall! It is something you can do if you are feeling tired or in any way dysregulated (worried, afraid, confused, angry etc.)

  1. Pick a spot (perhaps put a towel or blanket on tiles/wooden floors)
  2. Sit on the ground.
  3. Put one of your hips touching the wall.
  4. Lie back
  5. Then lift your legs and swivel your body around and lean your legs against the wall.
  6. Breathe deeply.
  7. Stay as long as feels right for you. (2-10 minutes perhaps)

Glitter Jars

Glitter Jars can be made easily at home. They can be very grounding and regulating when we are feeling worried, angry, anxious or afraid. Again making glitter jars can be an enjoyable experience which leaves you with a lovely regulation tool! If you would like to see a professional in action check out this video of Emer McDonagh making a glitter jar. Emer is a child and adolescent play therapist and psychotherapist who works for the Children’s Therapy Centre. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjSgEhkSAI4

What you need:                                                                     

  • A bottle (I used a Vit-Hit bottle)
  • Glitter
  • Plastic stars or items
  • Glue
  • Warm water in a jug
  • Sellotape or a glue gun

How to make it:

  1. Pour in glue into the bottle. (About a quarter of the way up)
  2. Pick a glitter and discuss what worries your child has at the moment.
  3. Pour in the glitter. (worries)
  4. If you have different coloured glitter each colour could represent a different worry. You could choose to put more or less in depending on the size of the worry.
  5. Then discuss supports, so people or things that help us or make us feel better. These are the plastic stars or other items you have. Pop them in.
  6. Then add warm water up to the neck of the bottle.
  7. Secure the lid. (Perhaps with a glue gun or sellotape)
  8. Shake, shake, shake. (The first shakes needs to be a big one!)
  9. Tell the child to watch the glitter settle.

Ta-dah!! Your very own home-made glitter jar 

  • The glitter can be like the thoughts and worries we have swirling around our heads.
  • The stars (supports) can be hard to see when our heads are very busy but they are always there.
  • The glitter settles and watching this calms our nervous system and regulates us. A lovely grounding technique 

What you need:

The only issue I had this week was that the glue I used was PVA glue. The PVA gave a cloudy effect reducing visibility. It still worked and is very enjoyable to watch. If using PVA perhaps add in extra ‘support/stars’ as they are a little hard to see due to PVA. Happy making!   

Quick tip!

Barefoot walking on grass

This is a lovely grounding activity. All you need is grass, if you don’t have access to grass any floor surface can be used! It is something you can do if you are feeling in any way dysregulated (worried, afraid, confused, angry etc.)

Marshmallow Slime

This is a messy one! I laughed a lot making it. It is extremely sticky until you get past that phase! Slime is wonderful it can be very regulating. Making slime can be an enjoyable experience, although some children don’t like how the slime feels during the mixing phase, when it’s very sticky. This recipe is handy as there are not too many ingredients and they are easily sourced. It also has the massive benefit of being edible!

What you need:                                                                     

  • Two handfuls of marshmallows
  • 1 teaspoon of oil(coconut/vegetable/sunflower)
  • ½ cup of cornflour
  • Food colouring (optional)
  • Bowl, spoon, chopping board.

How to make it:

  1. Put two handfuls of marshmallow in a microwavable dish.
  2. Put it in the microwave for 30 seconds.
  3. Take it out and mix it with a spoon.
  4. Add in 1 teaspoon of oil and mix.
  5. Add in some of the cornflour and mix.
  6. Add in the rest of the cornflour gradually.
  7. Flour the chopping board.
  8. Take out the mixture and knead with your hands for a good while!
  • If the mixture is very sticky it needs more cornflour. Continue to knead the mixture, add more flour if needed. Pull and fold the slime repeatedly.

Ta-dah!! Your very own home-made edible marshmallow slime  

What you need:      

I tried plain flour the first time but it didn’t work very well. I used cornflour on my second attempt and the result was much better!

Quick tip!

Pick one…