How to Use Calm Books to Assist in De-Escalation

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

If you're a regular around here, you know how much I love a good calm corner in a classroom. Having a designated safe space to sort out big emotions is so crucial in school! But in reality, it's hard to actually encourage the de-escalation process - there's often little adults can do. Outside of setting up meaningful environmental supports and co-regulating with students, adults should be remember that one crucial piece they control is to give space and time for students to de-escalate. Barking directives or forcing verbal processing while a student is in crisis ("in their downstairs brain") will only likely agitate the child, and you won't get the results you're looking for. So - how CAN we encourage de-escalation?

Research also tells us that in order to de-escalate, we need to focus on the present moment and sloooowww down. While escalated, we can't complete "think sheets" or start sharing what's making us so overwhelmed with emotion. But what we can do, are simple calming tasks. Meeting kids in their downstairs brain (I keep saying that - read this quick and informative piece on this language and why it's not only important to know, but good words to use to explain our brains to kids!) is the best way to help turn brains from chaotic to calm.
I created two sets of "Calming Books" that can be used specifically for de-escalation times. Each set includes 6 books that feature photographs - four of the books have simple tasks to go along with them to help focus the mind on something easy and simple. Here's some pictures so you can see what I mean!

Photo Books

This book includes 15 pictures of animals. Yep, that's it! This book is a great distraction tool for kids as they aim to calm their bodies from chaos. Focusing on pictures of unique and familiar animals can be a simple way to switch the brain from obsessive thoughts to regulated thinking. Other photo books included between the two sets are landscapes, water scenes, and pets.

Finger Tracing Books

 This book includes simple shapes in dotted lines for students to trace with their fingers. These can be completed with dry erase markers or dry erase crayons, but I love the concept of a child needing no materials to access the book. Simple motor activities are a great way to calm the brain, as the child needs to focus on what they're doing in the present moment - bonus points that this activity is very simple for many students and won't require much skill, as that can be hard to access when the brain is overly stressed. The shapes and patterns included in the book are very streamlined, making these mature enough for a wide range of grade levels/age groups. There is a finger tracing book in both product sets!

Eye-Spy Color Books

More simple, brain-friendly activity books! These color books were designed to be used simply for pointing, but students could use a dry erase marker or crayon to circle the pictures they find. There are three color books added to each set, and this yellow book gives an idea of what they entail. The students will open the book and find the pictures that have the given color on each page. Photographs have been used to keep the books as age appropriate as possible. This simple book allows students to complete calming activity successfully to help their emotions to mellow and their brain to reorient to a calmer state.

Using the books

These are great books to have in a calm down kit or calm corner. Students can use them when they need to ground themselves in the present moment and feel successful at completing a simple task before they debrief with an adult about their feelings. I also love these books as a co-regulation tool. Adults can pick up a book and page through it next to or with a student so they can model a calm, grounded state.

If you're interested in these calming books for your classroom, office, or home - you can grab Set 1 here, and Set 2 here!


My favorite materials to prep these books for ease of use and longevity are below!

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