Longfellow Elementary School teachers get ‘calming boxes’ to help struggling students

SPOKANE, Wash. — A counselor at Longfellow Elementary School says this school year, in some ways, has been harder than the last.

Students are still adjusting to being in the classroom, staying focused and dealing with their emotions.

But teachers now have some new tools to help them.

These tools are actually toys — all part of something called calming boxes.

Every classroom at Longfellow Elementary now has one and each item is intentionally chosen to help students who are having trouble staying focused or dealing with a big emotion during class.

School counselor Brittney Diaz is the one who brought this idea to the school.

It all started with the creation of regulation stations in every classroom this school year — a spot for students who are having a hard time to stop and take a break to identify their feelings before getting back into a learning mindset.

“Sometimes it’s ‘Math is really frustrating and I’m having a hard time, so I’m starting to get escalated or get upset’,” said Diaz. “And we teach them directly ‘How do you notice when you’re starting to have a big feeling and then what’s a strategy that helps.”

One of those strategies utilizes the calming box, filled with sensory items and hands-on activities for students to use at the regulation station.

Diaz says some teachers have paid out of pocket to supply their own.

But after pitching the idea to the school’s community partner, Douglass Properties, the company generously donated supplies so every teacher could have a calming box.

Each one has things like pop-its, squishy toys, silly putty, timers and other toys so students can self-regulate while remaining in the classroom.

“They’re not toys in a box, you know, there’s an intention behind it and the more that we have that consistency throughout the school, the more the kids will understand that,” said Diaz.

She says families can reinforce this at home as well. Model calming skills with your kids, practice talking with them through their big feelings.

You can even set up a calming area at home and put together items for a personal calming box.

Some item suggestions are: headphones, squish balls, pin wheels, glitter jars, bubbles, stuffed animals, coloring pages, etc.

RELATED: A local teen hopes sharing her mental health struggle can help others ask for help

RELATED: Worried about your child’s mental health? Here’s what experts say you should look out for.