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A Zen Den. Do You Really Need One In Your First Grade Classroom?

Do I Need a Zen Den?

Are you looking to add a zen den or calm corner to your classroom?

If you’re wondering whether or not it will be a functional addition to your classroom, I’m here to tell you that yes, it will be! In this article I’m going to give you some reasons why it’s really important to add a calming corner to your classroom.
And if you still are having misgivings, I’ll help you see that making a zen den or calm down corner doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

Do I Need A Zen Den In My Classroom?

The decision of putting a calm corner or a zen den in your classroom is a personal choice. You’re probably pretty possessive about your limited space in your classroom. I had a really small classroom, so whatever areas I had were maximized so that my students could learn. I had to make sure there was no wasted space.
So an area for your students to self-regulate might not seem as important as an area for your students to have a math or a reading center. But let’s talk about why it is just as important to have this place in your classroom as it is to have a reading or math center.

Why Is A Zen Den Important?

Your students are probably coming to you not knowing how to self-regulate. And this means that when something happens that upsets them, they do not have techniques to help them process through their feelings and make sure they’re not reacting in an unsafe way.
I’m sure you can think of students you have had in the past that become upset throughout the day and it becomes a huge distraction in your classroom.
Having a space where your students can privately go to safely process through their emotions is going to diminish these distractions.
When you teach your students that it’s okay to have uncomfortable emotions and give them strategies to help them process through them with calming strategies, you’ll see less disruptions.
zen zone 3

A Calm Corner Is A Safe Place

And it’s important to have a safe place for your students to do this. Some students might be able to self-regulate at their desks, but many do not want the extra attention. A private area is important for your students who don’t need to be in the middle of your classroom feeling sad.
calming corner 4
Usually you’ll have some sensory items in your calming corner. I’ll cover which ones you might want to add in the next article. Its easier to keep all of these items in one place for your students to have access to them. 
Besides that, it’s just a comforting place for your students to be. School is hard for your students, so the more we can make them comfortable and relaxed, the more we are going to be able to teach them.

A Trip To A Calming Corner Means A Quick Return To Your Lessons

And that brings me to the next reason why it’s important to have a zen den or a calm corner. 
calming corner posters
I had two goals for my zen den. I wanted my students to have a safe area to regulate their emotions so they didn’t disrupt my class or hurt themselves or others. But I also wanted them to return to my class as soon as possible. I wanted them to be able to learn with their classmates, and I found that a quick visit to a private area where they could use a calming strategy or two helped them be ready to rejoin us.

Still Have Concerns About Your Zen Den?

Let’s go over some concerns you might have about setting up a calming corner. I had them too, so I can share some solutions to help you.

You Don’t Want Students To Waste Time At Your Zen Den

I didn’t either. I taught my students how to use these sand timers. When the sand was up, I wanted them back in their desks. I have three different times, 5 min, 3 min, and 2 min. At the beginning of the year, I put out the 5 minutes one because all of this is really new for them. But as they practice calming techniques, I can switch it out for a 3 or a 2 minute timer. 
calm down corner items
When you think about the amount of time a meltdown takes from your classroom 5 minutes is much better.
Calm Corner activities

What If Your Students Fight Over Your Zen Den?

zen zone 8
I thought this would happen too, but in all my years of having this space in my classroom, it never happened. I did a really thorough job of teaching my students about my zen den so I never had a problem with this.
Plus, believe it or not, many students do not need to, or even want to go to your zen den.
When you teach your students that this area has a JOB and that job is to help you feel better, your students will understand that if they feel okay, they don’t need to go.

I Don’t Have Space For A Calm Corner

I love looking at classroom pictures on pinterest or instagram, but for me, these beautiful (and clean) areas are unattainable.
This area does not even need to be a corner. It can be an area that is just a bit out of the way – but not out of sight, you’ll want to keep an upset child in view. If you can place a small chair or a small rug in an area with a small tub of sensory items, you have a calming area.
You’d like to have a wall nearby to post your expectations and maybe posters like these to help them identify their feelings and also posters like these so your kiddos can choose a calming strategy. But if you don’t have that, you can also have the same posters on keyrings in your tub of sensory items.
zen den corner

Here are some examples of posters and cards that would fit nicely in a small calming corner. Click the image to go to the product description and get these for your Zen Den.

Does The Name Of My Calm Corner Matter?

A little side note. I always called this space for self-soothing strategies a “zen den”. But it’s your classroom, you get to pick the name. Some ideas besides zen den are:
  • Zen Zone
  • Calm Corner
  • Calming Corner
  • Calm Down Corner
Pick what works for you.
zen den calm corner
calm corner rules
Zen Den Rules
>So think about your classroom. Do you have a spot in mind that will help your students regulate their emotions? I’d like to really encourage you to set up an area for your students to practice their calm strategies.  You’ll see how having a zen den in your classroom can eliminate a lot of disruptions so you can teach!
XoXo rach
calm corner classroom

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