(Scroll to the bottom to get a free calm down cheat sheet to keep as a reference!)
When a child with sensory processing disorder throws a tantrum, it can be a doozy. When their brains don't know what to do with the sensory input coming at them, it will often trigger a fight or flight response. While the child often crosses the line behaviorally, it is practically impossible to address the state of their heart until they have been calmed from the sensory meltdown. We have found a calm down bin to be an excellent tool to bring our son the sensory input he craves when he feels out of control. Then and only then, to we discuss the aspects of his behavior that were unacceptable.
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My son if overly sensitive in his inner ear (vestibular) which effects his balance among other things. He's under sensitive when it comes to body awareness (proprioceptive). So he seeks out "heavy" work and and all things weighted. He loves firm pressure. He craves it.
And here's the good news, even if your child isn't deficient in proprioceptive input, ALL people find it calming.
Here's what we stock in our calm down basket.
Lots of sensory balls like these and these. Loopy can squish, squeeze, pull and throw his anger out. Working his hands so hard is great proprioceptive input. (He also likes his Stretchy Frog. )
Bubble Wrap (Large Bubbles) Here's another way to get those fingers working. We had to buy the larger bubbles for him to be able to do them. Loopy loves to focus all his energy on a singular bubble. SO helpful when he's flying off the handle.
Play Dough. Yet one more avenue for proprioceptive input through the hands. We usually do store bought because the small tubs are convenient for the basket. But we also like to make our own.
Essential Oil Blend One of the top two most effective things in our calm down bin. Filled up a spray bottle with water and added a couple drops of this Essential Oil Blend. It has really surprised me. Even though I'm crazy about E.O.s, I was quite skeptical this would work. Loopy loves to spray it. I'm not sure if he just associates the smell with calming down or if it actually effects his nervous system. Either way, it works wonders!
My son has a very bad habit of chewing his fingers to get the sensory input he needs. His finger are often bloody from the biting. We have many chewy necklaces for him to focus his energy on.
Noise Reduction Headphones Often we've found that a meltdown is caused by fear of certain loud booming noises. Loopy's disposition completely changes when we put these on him. Great tool to have on hand!
The last thing in our sensory bin is a Sensory Brush. (See how to you it here.) Many people use these brushes in the midst of a tantrum. That doesn't work well for Loopy, but it is a nice activity once the panic has subsided to bring him back to his happy self.
Wanting to turn your home into a sensory haven? Check out our massive list of favorite sensory tools on the planet!
Do you have a calm down basket for your child? What helps them the most? Let me know in the comments!
SENSORY mOM says
I’m so curious to know how this has helped your child during a meltdown. Our daughter when it meltdown mode would throw all these items. I think that is part of what can be challenging an SPD parent no two kids are alike!
Most of the tools are good for proprioceptive input. Any kind of squeezing, pulling, chewing, joint pressure, whole body weight, it’s all proprioceptive and regulatory to ALL kinds of kids. Some kids crave vestibular, and some kids avoid, like my son. But proprioceptive is a safe go-to. It’s true, if my son is in all out freak-out mode, the small fidget toys don’t interest him until he WANTS to calm down. (He’s four and has matured a lot in his understanding of what’s going on with his own body.) When he’s really losing it, I tend to just place him in a proprioceptive situation, like our swing (also vestibular input but I keep it calm.) or place a heavy blanket on him, or hug him very tight. The spray works really well, also, because it helps him slow his breathing down. Hope that helps. Sorry for not explaining better in the post!
I’m going to try one of these, especially with those squeezy balls and maybe some fidgets. My 6 year old has been having tantrums and I think it’s sensory related. Everything we’ve tried so far (sensory bottles, play dough, etc) has been a fail so I’ll keep trying until we find something that helps her!
I love your attitude!
Good morning 🙂 I am the Gen Ed Teacher in our Preschool Inclusion Classroom. I love the idea of the noise reduction headphones. We have a mixed classroom of students who fall asleep when we put on our calming CD during rest time and some who I think it bothers. We are trying out new solutions every week to try to get our students to calm their bodies and rest their minds during nap so I am def going to bring this idea up. Thank you.
They’re really nice! I like to use them sometimes to block out the onslaught of noise! Hope you find something that will help! Keep up the good work!
Thaleia from Something2Offer says
I would love to see pictures of these items in your hands or your child’s hands to get a feel for how this works. I have an older child who needs something like this and we use stress balls but definitely need more options.
That’s a good idea Thaleia! In fact, I need to update this post to reflect my son’s new needs as he’s much older now and prefers different things.
WOW! A calm down bin. Never thought of that.
I would like to find out more about selling the oils & which oils work best with sensory my son is 13 was diagnosed when he was 3 ,he went through occupational thearphy and it was great . He’s going through a lot of health problems right now and this is causing alot of pain and this is making his sensory imput very Overwhelming & very high I’m hoping mabey this oil will help him be able to calm down some I can’t imagine how hard this is for him. Any information would be helpful thanks.
I wouldn’t know much about selling EO’s but I’ve found many EO’s to be beneficial to SPD, with Vetiver being the top choice. It can be applied topically if diluted with coconut oil or something similar. Also, have you joined either (or both) our private Sensory Parent Facebook Group or our Sensory Specific Newsletter? Those would be a tremendous help to you on this journey! I hope his pain and your stress lessen soon. Hang in there!