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.
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.
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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!