Friday, November 7, 2014

Gimme a Break Box

     I am a special education teacher, so through the years I've come up with a few ideas that have helped my students and me navigate our days together. One idea, is a "Gimme a Break Box"!  The Gimme a Break Box is a tool that is helpful for students who need breaks when they become overwhelmed academically, socially, or from too much sensory stimuli. Sometimes kids just need a break!  The Gimme a Break Box is used as part of an honor system in my classroom. The students know that it used only when taking a break is truly necessary. In all honesty, the students rarely use the Gimme a Break Box. I think that part of the charm of the Gimme a Break Box, is that it provides emotional support simply by being a "thing" that they can go to if needed. This provides comfort in knowing that it is okay to need a break if they need to. This in turn, creates a sense of calm in the students. It's funny how that works! The students also understand that it is a break and not meant to be an all day avoidance of school work. The students respect the the freedom of having the ability to take a break when they need it and therefore they also respect the fact that they must return to the group as soon as possible. Usually, when students use the Gimme a Break Box, they are away from group from five to ten minutes.  When needed they take the box and go to a quiet part of the classroom to relax. Their peers continue to work. It's a mutual community of respect.   So, would you like to know how to make a "Gimme a Break Box"?  Great! I'll provide some general instructions:

Know your Students:

First, you need to know your students. You of course know what grade level you teach so will know what kids at that age group like. Since I teach special education, I read my students IEP's to see what type things might be soothing in a Gimme a Break Box. Also, colleagues such as occupational therapists, physical therapists and counselors are always full of great suggestions.

The Gimme A Break Box-Box!:

I use a $1.00 plastic pencil box that latches for our classroom Gimme a Break Box. It's much roomier than you'd think! The list could be endless with ideas on things to put inside but I tend to focus on the five senses, things for: seeing, hearing, tasting, touch, and smell, plus things that are for emotional support. I will categorize them below:


I tend to put brightly colored items with child appeal. Things they will be drawn too to take their mind off  what is bothering them. Also crayons to color with or perhaps a word search puzzle. I also include a small bottle of bubbles to blow because seeing the bubbles is soothing and blowing them helps the child to breathe deeply which is helpful in calming down anxiety.


A mini-ipod with head phones so that others are not distracted. Sometimes a quiet hand cranked music box may be helpful too. A small lock with keys that clicks when it is opened.   


I put a juice box and fruit gummies in the Gimme a Break Box. Sometimes kids are just hungry or thirsty and need a pick-me-up. When kids blood sugar is low they may have symptoms which include lack of focus, being fidgety, or irritable. A small nutritious snack may help. Since the Gimme a Break Box is not used often, I like to put non-perishable snacks inside the box. 

Touch/Tactile/Fine Motor  
I have things with a variety of textures into the Gimme a Break Box.  These things may include but ar Boxe not limited to: rubber band balls, koosh, balls, stress balls, wikki stix, Aaron's thinking putty, Bendeez, inside out balls with soft spikes, satin strips, small furry critters, feathers, ...etc.   Keep in mind that stress balls can be made by adding four or baby powder to uninflated balloons. This can double as a fun classroom activity!


The olfactory sense is not to be underrated! The sense of smell can insight feelings of joy, comfort, and even fear if the scent is not associated with a good memory. We are looking for positive memories so my classroom calm down box includes: play-doh, and since lavender is known to soothe, a homemade lavender fidget bag filled with beans! In fact my class will soon be sewing lavender scented rice into a felt bag in life skills class.


A Railroader Ticket
When a student is upset, it takes an emotional toll on them. I want them to always feel supported and valued. Taking a break should never leave the student feeling like he or she has done something wrong. So I always leave a railroader ticket (a school token) that can be turned into the school guidance office in a drawing for a weekly prize. Attached is a note letting the student know that I am proud of him/her for knowing that a break was needed and knowing that returning to class as soon as possible is a positive goal. It takes courage to take a break . It takes commitment and honesty to return to class after taking a break.

Educator Links:

Reduce Reuse, Recycle: Next Generation Lesson Planning

Four Keys to Developing Academic Vocabulary

Parent Links:

Calming Tips for Children with ADHD

ADHD in High School: Medication Treatment Tips

Mitt Aubin's Book Review:

The Napping House, by Audrey Wood is a beautifully illustrated book by her husband Don Wood.  The Napping House is a soothing, cummulative rhyming story that puts children in a dream-like, relaxed demeanor. It's a calming story about a house will a granny, a child, and a dozing dog! Children will delight in the predictable rhymes and the wacky surprise ending! My daughters adored this book when they were young!


  1. Wow, I love, love, love this! Thank you for sharing. Tweeting now! :-)

    1. Thank you! It really does help kids who simply need a break!