Calm Down Boxes

Why do children express challenging behavior, and what can early learning facilities do to help children with these emotions?

Taken from Zero to Threes “Toddlers and Challenging Behavior: Why They Do It and How to Respond,”

When you see challenging behavior, it usually means that your child can’t figure out how to express her feelings in an acceptable way or doesn’t know how to get a need met. What helps your child learn is when your response shows her a different, more constructive way to handle these feelings.

At Little Nest, we may not always be the best equipped to help a child with challenging behavior because we don’t have the resources of a behavioral specialist onsite, or additional staff to handle extreme behaviors. We are still committed to training our staff (exceeding the state requirement), and always looking for additional resources to help all children in our care!

This month we implemented calm down boxes to address and redirect several challenging behaviors. We hope you’ll take a look at each item, and even consider using some of them at home!


For kids who are overwhelmed by high volume in the classroom:

Noise cancelling headphones

Offer noise cancelling headphones to students who say it’s too loud in the classroom or if you see them putting their hands over their ears (although folloow up with possible ear pain for each infection). Another option is a book on cd at a listening center, allowing them to listen to music with headphones while coloring or using dry sensory items, or a keyboard with a set of headphones.

For kids who won’t hold still during circle time/storytime/naptime/transitions:

Weighted lap blanket

Offer students the “snuggle blanket” at circle time or for kids who may be tossing and turning on their cot during naptime.

Signs Your Student May Respond to a Weighted Blanket:

Loves sleeping or laying under piles of blankets or heavy comforters.

Enjoys crawling into tight spaces or behind furniture

Has difficulty (even after a lot of physical activity) relaxing and sitting still

Likes wearing heavy sweatshirts and sweaters


Sensory Fidget Items


  • Liquid Motion Timer: Perfect Fidget Toy for Calming The Brain Down. The Descending Bubbles and The Mix Of Two Soft Colored Bubbles Have A Soothing And Mesmerizing Effect That Will Keep Kids Entertained For Hours and Helps Improve Visual Tracking Skills. It’s Great For Kids With ADHD, Autism, Emotional Disturbances, And Any Kid Who Has A Meltdown.
  • Mesh And Marble Toys: Squeeze Or Slide The Marble Forth And Back, Bend It, Fold It, Squeeze The Sleeve Together And Roll The Marble Like Shaking Bell
  • Grape Ball: Made of soft rubber and liquid filler, can be randomly squeeze to any shape. Perfect stress relief toy for kids, very comfortable hand feeling.
  • Squeeze Soybean Fidget Toys: Squeeze The Bean Out Over And Over Again
  • Stretch String: Elastic and easy to stretch to 9 feet, You can stretch it at will, squeeze it, bend it, it can still be in good shape.
  • Flippy Chain: Smooth Rolling & Twisting Movement For Quiet & Discrete Fidgeting,
  • Mochi Squishy Toy: These squishies toys are amazing soft, funny to squeeze, and can relieve stress, great for both adults and kids. These can be washed after use
  • Slime: Easy to save, add water to moisturize, can recover again

For kids who are biting:

Biting bracelets

Redirect biters to bite the bracelet, not their friends or teachers

For Kids Who Try to Hide/Squirm/Run Away in the Classroom:

Allow wiggle worms a safe place to squirm at the side of the classroom where you can see them but they won’t interrupt class time for the rest of the students

Body sock

Body socks can help calm a child and can also help them to feel in control and organized. The Body Sock’s lycra material provides deep touch as it covers the whole body, which is comforting to many children

Resistance tunnel

CRAWL & EXPLORE – Uniquely designed to encourage crawling, pulling, and pushing with resistance and spatial exploration, perfect for imaginative play while calming those with ADHD, autism, and other sensory needs.

PLAY & EXERCISE – Build muscle and joint strength while your student improves their coordination and gross motor skills through fun and interactive play in this tunnel sensory toy.

VERSATILE FEATURES – Perfect for all types of playful activities, our resistance tunnel for kids allows your student to lie down inside the tunnel, stretch out like a starfish, or crawl through like a snake while holding balls or other objects for an extra challenge. For children with sensory needs, our special needs therapy tools and toys will help your child feel safe, calm, and secure in all types of environments both in and out of the classroom.

SOFT & COMFORTABLE – Made with a smooth and stretchy blend of polyester fabric, this sensory compression tunnel is durable and easy to maintain by machine washing in cold water and air drying.

SAFETY FIRST – Stretch fabric products are designed to support children with various sensory needs.

Kids who throw chairs/rip posters off the wall/hit friends:

Allow children who are experiencing difficulty controlling physical behavior to use the following. Try to redirect extreme physical behavior to these items

Resistance bands

Allow students to stretch the bands. Monitor to make sure they don’t wrap them around their limbs /neck or the limbs/neck of another child

Paper ripping box

Refill this box with scrap paper as often as necessary (use old scholastics, magazines, scrap paper)

Redirect angry children to rip paper from the box until the calm down or tire out. Offer an alternative to draw a picture of how mad/sad they feel. Please don’t use expensive paper for this activity, there’s plenty of other paper to help get out frustration!


Throw giant puffballs at a target on the wall

For those have a need to throw, have them redirect it to an activity that won’t hurt anyone or anything


Even children without challenging behaviors can find these items to be calming in a space where they may experience sensory overload. We’re so glad that we have the opportunity to begin using these in our classrooms!

For more information on Challenging Behaviors click below: