A calm down kit is a set of tools that help calm a child’s sensory system. If you have a child with sensory processing difficulties like autism or sensory processing disorder then you are in the right place.
My son has autism, and the first time he had a meltdown in public I also melted down. Nobody prepared me for his extreme reaction to sensory overload.
Nobody told me what to have on hand that may help and nobody offered us a helping hand the first time we experienced a public meltdown. I felt hopeless and angry-and entirely out of control. I had nothing to use to help him calm down, stop crying, stop flailing about on the floor-I was useless. My 50 pound purse was full of garbage and for the first time in forever, Not One Single Toy. Just thinking about the experience is almost enough to give me a panic attack. If you’re the parent or caregiver of a child with autism, you may have experienced the same kind of gut-wrenching experience. And now you’d like to know how to avoid it like the plague.
Have you heard of a calm down kit? I’m not very fond of the name, but the idea behind the concept is something I support 100%.
What Is A Calm Down Kit?
Calm down kits are also known as sensory integration boxes or toolkits. Here’s the deal: a calm down kit is just a collection of items like toys or food that will calm your child’s sensory system in a meltdown. You can use these items once the sensory meltdown has begun to either distract your child or lessen the magnitude of the meltdown after it starts.
What Should It Include?
You decide what goes in your child’s calm down kit. There are no rules! Focus on what works for your child.
If he is sensitive to sound, then noise-canceling headphones may be a good idea.
Some children with sensory processing disorders need oral proprioceptive input to relax. Crunchy snacks or chewable jewelry would be appropriate calm down kit items for them.
Stumped for ideas? I know I always draw a big fat blank every time I need to make a call on buying something for Nathan. I think all autism moms go through that. Here are a few questions to help you get inspired to create your kit.
What typically calms him down?
What soothes him when he is restless?
What types of activities does she love to do?
Here’s a list of 50 Tools Every Autism Mom Should Have in Her Calm Down Kit.
I’ve attached links to the ones we use and recommend. These are my affiliate links so I may receive a commission if you make a purchase. (At no extra cost to you!)
There’s an explanation at the bottom for those less traditional items!
Also, if your child is experiencing frequent sensory meltdowns, then you absolutely must read about sensory diets. Seriously. I’ll add another link at the end too!
This post contains affiliate links.
50 Tools Every Autism Mom Should Have In Her Calm Down Kit
Favorite Stuffed Animal
- Scooter Board
- Balance Ball
- Rescue Remedy Stress Spray
- Stretchy String
- Fidget Chair Stretch Bands
- Chill Sack Bean Bag Chair
- Calm Down Bottle
- Hugo Warmkins Sensory Monkey
- Freddy’s Fidget Toys for Classroom
- Puzzle Fidget Cube Toys
- Chewy Tube
Bubbles will help your child relax by taking deep breaths to blow the bubbles. (You can do all kinds of awesome things with bubbles-even encourage speech…read about that here & then buy a bunch of them!)
Soothing sounds have been reported to help people on the spectrum relax. I just read an article that said Somewhere Over the Rainbow or You Are My Sunshine are soothing songs. I think I’d go nuts if I had to listen to Judy 24/7, but that would still be preferable to a meltdown.
Small self-regulation tool that will keep fingers busy by promoting movement & tactile input. (DIY them with a balloon & Sensory balls/Orbeeze. It’s a fun sensory activity that’s easy on your pocketbook.)
Weighted blankets & vests mimic deep pressure touch stimulation. Research has shown that deep pressure touch releases serotonin, a chemical in the brain that works as a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep, and sensory perception. I’ve recently found that Nathan is calmed SIGNIFICANTLY by deep pressure. He can be mid-meltdown & if I roll him in a blanket (like a burrito) and gently massage his legs & back-he stops crying. His breathing becomes regulated. He calms down. Often he goes to sleep.
Chewing provides oral sensory and proprioceptive input. Your child’s oral sensory system is another avenue to explore for calming and self-regulation. You could also try chewing gum or crunchy snacks.
Use these if your child is overwhelmed by the noises of a large crowd or any sound that you have identified as a trigger for him. You may want to get two, so you can keep a pair in the car just in case.
Color Spinners (Pinwheels) help with breathing & distracting. Fidget toys can also help distract from the meltdown & help with self-regulation & focus.
I’m recommending this visual sensory toy for your calm down kit because we have one and it not only holds my son’s attention but it’s also durable and portable. Visual sensory toys have a calming effect on kids with autism. You can make your own with a water bottle, oil, and food coloring.
Here’s a photo because this is something I think you need to see to understand. The best way I can describe it is like a cocoon for your child. These often have instant calming effects.
Of course, you won’t be carrying this around in the trunk of your car (but technically you could since this one folds), but a trampoline at home is an excellent idea if you have the room.
Jumping on a trampoline may bring comfort to a sensory overloaded child and may be enough to de-escalate a meltdown. Trampolines are also fabulous for heavy work and other activities too! I know a trampoline may not be in your budget-If you want to save money on a big one, check Facebook to see if anyone is selling a used one. You can get a great deal & save a ton!
Sometimes a quiet, calm place to settle down is all a child needs to calm down. If your child likes to hide in small spaces or climb into laundry baskets or washing machines (like mine does), this may be the way to go at home.
Really? Every autism mom should have this in her calm down kit? Yes, it’s not a typo! Along with whistles, flutes, and maybe even a saxophone later if you can stand it:) The idea here is to regulate your child’s breathing to get her to take deep calming breaths in and out. Playing the harmonica or blowing a whistle makes it fun.
One of my favorites. This ball is perfect for high energy overloaded kids. It stays in place so it can be used as a seat in the classroom or at home.
Can I Buy A Calm Down Kit?
I get it. With so many options it’s tempting to look for a one and done solution. Trust me, I looked!
You can buy calm down or sensory kits from stores online, but you usually don’t get the option of individualizing them.
On top of that, they aren’t cheap-the ones I found started at $150 and went up to $499 with no option to customize.
Here’s the thing. You know your child’s needs better than anyone. No store knows your child better than you! It’s a process of elimination-some things work fabulously, and others fail. It all depends on the child! I’m not going to lie to you and say all of these items will work, but they are worth trying!
What To Read Next:
Parenting a child with autism and sensory processing disorder is
challenging and stressful like climbing Mt Everest when you’re 9 months pregnant without a guide. Finding resources and help can often feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. I hope this has helped you find at least one thing to try to help calm your child’s meltdowns.
If there’s something I left out & you think I should add-please let me know. I’m continually updating & editing and if there’s another resource that will help I want to know about it!
Also, remember that you are not alone. Reach out if you need help! You can’t do it all by yourself. Nobody can! Nobody does!
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