Our Toolbox Program was developed by our Preventative Support Specialist Dr. Christie Sosnowski. The program is designed to help our preschoolers cope with stress. We encourage our preschool students to dig into their "toolbox" when they’re feeling angry or anxious. These emotional tools help children deal with negative emotions, which can lay the foundation for success in later years.
We hope that by sharing the words and visual tools we use in the Toolbox Program, parents and families will be able to use the same techniques at home.
We begin by reminding children of their "toolbox":
We teach them that one way to calm down when they’re angry is to take 3 deep breaths:
We also teach them a tension/release exercise that we call “squeezing juice.” Tension release can help when our children are feeling anxious or angry. We lead them through it by saying:
We remind them that when they are feeling mad or sad they can:
A few things to remember:
The best time to learn a new skill is when your child is calm and regulated. Practice these tools/coping skills during these times so that when your child is upset they will be better able to use them.
Bedtime/bathtime might be a good time to practice. Help them to get relaxed, especially with nature cards...describe the five sense (sight, smell, touch, hear, taste) for each card so that when child is looking at them on their own they can remember and use these scripts you have modeled for them to relax themselves by drifting off to a happy and calming place.
When your child is first learning these coping skills you will need to model them until they develop more independence. The long term goal is that will be able to use these tools without any support, but at first they will need your help.
Personalizing the calming box: add pictures of family members, favorite stuffed animal, textures child may like (scarf that smells like caregiver, Barbie (hair), piece of material from a blanky, crayons and paper, bubbles (preferably one that are spill proof). Try not to add anything that is a play activity or toy. If the child is playing with the items in the box, continue to model for them how to use the tools in a way that is calming.
If your child is resisting using the tools or being in the designated area with the calming box, do not force them. These coping skills are meant to calm your child, not escalate their behaviors. Feel free to include other things that calm your child like music, lotion, tissues, drink of cold water, etc.
With that said, these tools take time to learn so this doesn't mean the second the tools don't work in calming your child down, you should stop using them. Continue to implement and model these coping skills for your child so that they become more natural and easier for them to use as time goes on.
Feel free to visit this page with your child when he or she is having a difficult time. You can acknowledge their feelings of sadness or anger and ask, “what tool can you use?” Sometimes it helps if you do it with them!