Creating a Cool Down Space in Your Home or Classroom


  • To help children understand their brains don’t function well when they are upset. They learn the value of taking time to calm down until their brains are functioning in a way that is helpful instead of hurtful.
  • To teach children how to self-regulate and to have a safe place to practice self-regulation skills.


  • Just knowing there is a place to take a breath and get calm can reduce a child’s stress.
  • After using the space children are able to engage in problem solving, or are able to return to class ready to engage in learning.
  • The process is respectful because children are involved participants in creating the space and using it to help themselves feel better, so they can do better.

Getting ready

  • Begin by discussing using a “time out” that helps our brains. Ask child/children:
    • “Is it easier to behave well when you feel bad or good?” Lead them in a discussion about why they might not feel like doing ‘good’ when they are feeling bad? Are they angry, mad, upset, or can’t think straight?
    • “Have you noticed that often something seems better after you’ve had time to calm down?”
    • If you have taught Brain in the Hand you can connect this to how we can regulate after we flip our lids.
  • Share the picture book Jared’s Cool Out Space by Jane Nelsen and Ashlee Wilkin as an example of one child creating a space to help him calm down.
  • Let them know you will work together to create a place where they can go when they feel bad or are upset that will help them to feel
  • Let them know that they can decide when they feel good enough to be helpful to themselves and others or are ready to come back to the activity or learning.

Involve children in creation of the Cool Down Space

  • Invite children to create a name (Hawaii, Cool Out, Mars, Happy Place, Alaska etc.)
  • Let children help design the area
    • Where will it be? (child’s room, playroom, corner of family room, in a reading nook, or table or private space in the classroom)
    • Decorate or make a poster to identify the space.
    • Add visuals to support student understanding feelings and ways to self-regulate.
  • Let children help design a Cool Down Space Kit. 
    • What are things we could put there that would help you feel better? (Books, stuffed toys, pillows, quiet music, headphones, squishy ball, fidgets, coloring, noise canceling headphones, glitter jar, a sand timer, )


At a calm time, practice what it will be like to go to the Cool Down Space to feel better. If you are in a classroom, allow each student to practice so they have the experience and understand it is not punitive.


  • Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen
  • Positive Discipline in the Classroom by Jane Nelsen, Lynn Lott and Stephen Glenn
  • Positive Discipline in the School and Classroom Teachers Guide Activities for Students by Teresa LaSala, Jody McVittie, Suzanne Smitha
  • Jared’s Cool-Out Space by Jane Nelsen and Ashlee Wilkin