The holidays are upon us and with all of the festivities come mixed up routines and travel. For kids with autism that may mean extra anxiety and stress!
Our youngsters depend upon predictability and stability. When they are put in an unfamiliar environment it may not always be merry and bright for them. Thanks to the calming kit though, you and your child will be equipped to cope with any situation that pops up this season.
What is a Calming Kit? It’s a great little tool I’ve used with many of my clients. It’s perfect to use when you knowingly are going to a new event or are traveling to a different place.
Keep reading to learn how you can put together a calming kit to help you and your child survive the holidays.
What Is A Calming Kit?
A calming kit essentially is a collection of small items that your child can use to calm down or cope when put in situations or environments that may be upsetting, overwhelming, or stressful.
Typically there is an object that relates to each of the 5 senses that kids can use to help with self-regulation and sensory input. Depending on the situation, children can pull out the appropriate item to use or play with as a way to calm down.
Creating A Calming Kit
If your child is old enough, they definitely can help you put it together. First, start with getting a little tote to keep all of the items. A small drawstring backpack or purse is perfect.
I will provide ideas of calming trinkets, as they correspond with each sense, to help you get an idea of what to put in your child’s kit. Before we get into that though here are some tips to help you personalize your calming kit.
- Take inventory of your child’s preferences. Select items that are either a favorite or you know your child finds calming.
- You don’t have to include an item for all 5 senses. For example, if you have a child that is very tactile you may select a variety of tactile toys instead.
- Have your child help pick out items so they know what is in the calming kit.
- If it’s easier for you to select items, show your child what you picked out.
Here are some ideas of toys to use for the Calming Kit:
- Liquid motion toys
- Spinning toys
- Small puzzle or maze
- Favorite book
- Noise cancelling headphones
- Small instrument like a shaker or maraca
- Headphones and device to stream calming music
- Sound fidget
- Small playdough
- Fidget toy
- Stress ball
- Stuffed animal
Oral Sensory Toys
- Chew toy
- Small bubbles
- Pinwheel to blow
- Bubble Gum
- Scratch and sniff stickers
- Scented anything like chew toys, putty, bubbles, crayons
- Diffuser necklace or bracelet
- Coloring or activity books
- Card games
- Little toys like cars or balls
Using The Calming Kit
Before heading out review the items in the calming kit with your child. Help them see what their options are in the event they need to use it. When you get to your destination your child can either keep the calming kit in their possession or find a safe spot to store it.
You might want to roleplay with your child how to use the kit ahead of time. Help them come up with a dialogue so they know what to say to you if they need the calming kit. Something simple like, “Mom/Dad, I need my kit.”
Let them know what cues you will use to instruct them to play with the calming kit at the event. You could say, “If I see you getting upset I will hand you your backpack.”
Depending on the situation, you might want to pick a spot away from the action for your child to go to if they need a spot to calm down and play with the toys in the calming kit.
Look for signs of stress or anxiety in your child and implement the calming kit as needed.The calming kit is also a great tool to simply keep kids entertained.
While the holidays are typically a time for fun and excitement it can also be a time of stress with all of the extra activities and changes to routine. With the calming kit you and your kiddo will be equipped to survive the holidays!
Elizabeth Purpero is a licensed school counselor and licensed professional counselor-in-training. She has her master’s in counseling psychology. Elizabeth has worked as an autism therapist with children and teens. During her career, she has worked in intensive at-home therapy programs utilizing ABA and play therapy along with OT and speech therapy techniques. She has also worked as a mental health therapist helping clients address their mental health issues as it relates to autism. Elizabeth’s background working with the autism community has greatly helped her work with students in schools too. She has helped teachers implement effective strategies, create goals for IEP’s and make classrooms more sensory-friendly. Mark Twain once said, “Write what you know about,” and Elizabeth enjoys writing about autism-related topics and providing additional resources to help those impacted by autism.