Setting Up A Safe Space In Your Classroom

Cozy Corner

We all know that look little kids get just before they lose it.  Two seconds ago, they were fine, playing with a friend so nicely, and now they’re hulking out.  They have big emotions for such little humans!  

Just like adults, children often need a break.  Their sensory systems are easily overloaded for all different kinds of reasons.  Just think about it, how many times do you find yourself saying “you’re okay” to a child who is frustrated, angry, or overwhelmed?  The thing is, they’re not okay in that moment, and pushing aside their feelings may just intensify them. Instead, wouldn’t it be better to say, “I can see that you’re frustrated right now.  If you feel like you need a break, you can have a minute in the cozy corner.”  With this type of modeling, children will learn that when they are overcome with emotions, they can ask for a break. For this reason, a cozy corner is a very important part of any preschool classroom.

So how, you may ask, do you go about setting it up?  Easy, peasy, my friend!

Materials:

  • You need to designate a physical space in a quiet corner of the classroom and make it feel, well, cozy!  To do that, you can use a large cardboard box, tent, or even a child sized swimming pool.  One year, I made a “cozy can” out of a plastic garbage can.  I cut a large hole in the front and painted it like a tree.  Children could go inside and sit on a pillow.  I painted an owl inside, and my assistant used to ask the kids if they “need to talk to the owl” when they looked like they could use a break. There are also mesh tents that you can buy that suspend from the ceiling (like the one pictured above), or you can make your own out of a hoola hoop like the one to the right.  I would advise against using traditional tents as it is too difficult to maintain visual supervision.
  • Pillow, cozy blanket, stuffed animals
  • Soft rug
  • CD player or cassette player
  • Headphones (either noise canceling or to play music)
  • Quiet familiar recorded music, favorite familiar recorded stories

Things to consider:

  • This center is designed to provide children with a place to be if they choose to be alone and away from the noise and activity of the classroom. IT SHOULD NEVER BE USED AS A TIME-OUT OR AS A MEANS OF PUNISHMENT!
  • The quiet area helps to eliminate visual and auditory stimulation.
  • It also can be a safe environment for children who are emotionally distressed or feeling overwhelmed.
  • Familiar calming music or favorite stories are often comforting and help a child to return to the classroom refreshed and ready to participate in classroom activities.
  • Music, stories, or earphones should not be required to use the quiet area. It is perfectly acceptable for the child to choose the space for solitary quiet time.
  • Even though the area is to be in a quiet area, the child must be visible at all times for adult supervision.
  • The cozy corner should be for one child at a time.

Teaching social and emotional skills:

An important component of any center in the classroom is teaching children how to use it.  Kids need to know when the cozy corner is to be used and what they should do once they’re in there. Part of this training has to start with helping children learn to recognize their own emotions.

Role play using puppets.  Have the puppets act out scenarios and talk about how that makes them feel.  My assistant and I used to have a lot of fun with this!

Show children pictures of real children with different emotions.  Ask them to identify the emotion and talk about why the child in the picture might be feeling that way.  Ask the children in your class to tell you examples of when they have felt that way.

Give children techniques for dealing with big emotions.  One way you can do this is through breathing techniques.  You can find these on the Conscious Discipline Website.  Posting this visual in your cozy corner can be helpful to remind children to utilize the techniques.

In addition to the breathing techniques, you can provide children with other ways to deal with their emotions.  And you aren’t limited to just what is shown here.  If you have a child who needs something different, you can make your own visuals!

Here are some great examples of cozy corners, but you can make one to suit the needs of your students and your space!

I bet you all have some great ideas for setting up a cozy corner in your classroom!  I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

About

Hi Friends! I have a master's degree in child and family studies, and I have worked for the last seven years as a special education preschool teacher in a public school system and also for a non-profit private school. I also have two children of my own, one of whom has autism. I love the Read It Once Again curriculum, but more importantly, I believe in it! I hope that this community will be one of collaboration through the sharing of stories, challenges, and successes. Let's talk about what's going on in your classrooms! We're here for you!

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Read It Once Again

Read It Once Again preschool curriculums incorporate traditional, familiar children's literature into thematic units to promote early literacy. The curriculums include objectives, activities, and assessments necessary to provide young children with a language rich educational program to meet the basic needs in each of the five domains commonly addressed in the prekindergarten classroom. While the curriculum is appropriate for all young children, Read It Once Again uniquely uses rhyme, rhythm and repetition as the foundational approach to teaching, making this curriculum especially effective for children with autism, language delays, or developmental delays.