One of the most common questions I have from parents during conferences is the topic of guidance. Often times, I share with families various techniques and ways for families to adopt these new techniques at home. I not only use these techniques with families and in my classroom, but I also use these same techniques at home. I have the pleasure of being a mom to a one and a half-year old. As my daughter started nearing her first birthday I knew I wanted to use all of the techniques I had learned over my teaching career with her. One of the most important ideas I knew I wanted to recreate at home was a cozy area.
When a child is older we encourage the child to be a part of setting this whole process up as much as possible. I began to reflect about how could my daughter be a part of this process at such a young age. I completely believe that I am building her a foundation for self-regulation and understanding of her own feelings, but also knew that I would have to present the materials and techniques in a different manner than I would with older children. I began the process of creating a cozy area at home by purchasing frames that she could paint on that wood. She decorated four frames. Two frames have sign language (we are teaching her sign language) stop and help. The other two have two house rules we made. We then added soft items to the area including a large stuffed animal, a small pillow, and a large pillow covered in a soft blanket. Beside the pictures are emotion faces. When an incident occurs, we point out the emotion and sign the emotion word as well. Under all of this is a basket with feelings books , two stuffed animals, and my daughters “blankie”.
As we began to set up the area we added a few items at a time so that our daughter could explore each of the items before it was all ready. We then did a lot of teaching about the items as they were added. We also did some role-playing as well. Once it was officially set up we began to use it. Any time our daughter was upset we would offer the opportunity to go into that area to as we call it “calm your body”. We continued this for several weeks and she would start to use it even when she was scared of loud sounds. We have now had our area up for about four months. She uses it often and also encourages her stuffed animals and me and my husband to use it as well. When she comes out from calming her body we ask her if she is ready sometimes she will say no and returning by herself to her cozy area. When she is ready she returns and we talk about whatever the reason that sent her to the cozy area. We might be talking about scary noises, feeling over excited, feeling mad, and/or sad. Below are pictures of ours cozy area.
If you have created a cozy area at home, tell us about it. What worked? Didn’t work? What questions do you have?
One of the options to help children who are feeling over stimulated, sad, angry, or just need some quiet time is a cozy area. In our classroom, the cozy area is tucked under the stairs of our classroom loft. The children can bring a blanket or stuffed animal here if they need that to help calm their bodies. The area is in an area which is in a spot that does not have a lot of traffic. The area is protected by staff and other children for children to have the opportunity to have this time. Often times, when I am having a long day/week, I set time aside for myself to relax. This may be taking time for me by reading a book, taking a warm shower/bath, or going to bed early. This space is designed for children to be able to take time for themselves as an adult would and relax and/or calm before returning to their room and peers.
In my classroom (a three, four, and five-year old room), we use a tool called ECERS-R which stands for the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale-Revised. The rating scale is composed of 43 parts and two of the 43 parts is a discussion about space and private areas for children. The section labeled “space for privacy” reads that a “high quality program would have more than one space” available for children. Spaces for privacy include areas where children have the opportunity to work alone or with one other person. In our classroom, we have spaces like this around the room including the computer, the provocation (a table designed to spark children’s interest about an item and sketching, scientific inquiry, and conversations can occur) table, the reading area, and a large adult sized chair by the children’s cubbies. These are all spaces our children can gravitate to if they need some time to themselves or with only one other friend. According to ECERS-R, “the soft furnishings in the cozy area must allow a child to completely escape the hardness of a typical early childhood classroom.” Our cozy area is equipped with a bean bag, stuffed animals that are nearby, a chart developed by Dr. Becky Bailey which offers children an opportunity to identify their emotions and which technique they will use to calm their bodies, and books nearby if a child needs those to calm their body.
As new children come to our room, we model and teach about the areas available to the children. Children who have been in our program before also teach the new children how to use the areas as well as checking on them as they begin to feel better.
Do you have one in your classroom? If so, what is in this area and how do the children use it?
Stay tuned as I will share how to make a cozy area at home next time I blog!
Until next time,
Our routine in our classroom has always been to eat lunch, read a book, and do an I Love You Ritual (click here to learn more about these!). We feel this routine is important for so many different reasons. We can build relationships with the children at this time, we begin to calm our bodies for nap, and bond with the children.
At this point of the year, the children are becoming more competent and capable with everyday as we prepare for kindergarten or just getting a year older. After lunch on Thursday, the children gathered their items for their cots and brought books to the area we always read at. The children asked if I would read a book and I shared I’d be right over. When I came over, a few minutes later, the children were split up in to three groups. Each child leading the group was reading a book from memory or word for word to their peers! I asked if I could read to them and the children dismissed me. They finished reading and followed this same process the next day!
As I read the first chapter, entitled Composure, I thought it was most beneficial in my note taking and in my head to organize the principles and the skills together in order to better understand the overview of the chapter and the expectations I needed for myself and for the children.
- Principle One: Composure is self-control in action it is a prerequisite skill adults need before disciplining children
- Principle Two: Healthy Secure relationships require that we control our own upset. No one can make us angry without our permission.
- Principle Three: Start the day with the brain smart way and implement stress reduction.
- Principle Four: Your job is to keep the classroom safe so can children learn. The child’s job is to help keep it safe.
- Skill One: Changing trigger thoughts to calming thoughts.
- Skill Two: Reduce Stress
I felt it was important for me to reflect on what each of these looked like when I was teaching in the classroom on a daily basis. I felt like if I could see what I was modeling for the children and what I needed to work on then I could help focus my attention on my staff and my students. I began by looking at each child and finding strength and a weakness in the child. It is important to know and support the child’s success which can then help support the weakness. For example, if a child loves to write and needs extra guidance when it comes to their feelings. The child could sketch and write words based on the feelings they are having.
As part of this chapter, Dr. Bailey shares it is important to have an activity in the routine that unites the children, disengages the children from the last activity or stress level from a previous problem, connect the children to the new scenario, and prepare to learn! We spent time disengaging from our play time and preparing for group by streching and taking deep breaths. The children have not let me forget this routine at every group since we have started in September!