Benefits of a “Quiet Space” in your classroom

Classrooms can quickly become noisy and overwhelming, leading to inappropriate and challenging behaviour by children.  Understanding the impact of sensory input from the environment is important in helping a teacher make the necessary changes to create a stress-free classroom for focused learning.  There are many aspects to consider when looking at creating a sensory smart classroom, but today I want to focus on the benefit of having a quiet space for children to escape to when it all gets too much to cope with.

A quiet space is a designated space that children can retreat to when they feel overwhelmed and overloaded by the sensory input from the immediate environment.  It gives them time and space to calm their sensory systems and take control of their emotions again.  An effective quiet space should always be used exclusively for calming down. It needs to be away from the desks, in a quiet corner if possible. It can be as simple as a very large box with one side cut out to allow the child to get in and out, it can be a small tent or even a desk that stands to one side, covered with a large blanket or sheet.

There must be a clear way for a child to indicate that he or she needs to “chill out”. There must also be a set of rules around the use of the quiet space and all children should show the necessary understanding and respect for the users of this space.

Setting up your quiet space:

  • Choose calming colours, like shades of blue and/or green.
  • Use comfortable “furniture” like large fluffy cushions and soft blankets to create a calming and cosy atmosphere.
  • Have a variety of soft toys – hugging a bear can go a long way to calming a distressed child.
  • Books can help a child distract him- or herself from the emotional state that he or she is experiencing.
  • Art and colouring can be very therapeutic in helping one to calm down and express feelings.
  • Have a CD player/iPod with a set of headphones nearby, loaded with classical or other calming music.
  • Make a Fidget Tools Box with some of the following calming tools in:
    • Stress balls – squeezing stress balls help channel negative emotions
    • Calming bottles – looking at water-filled plastic bottles with glitter or jelly beads will help children settle their breathing and emotions
    • Small puzzles to help them refocus
    • Elastic bands or Thera-bands of different colours and strengths so that they can pull and stretch
    • Pipe cleaners to bend, stretch, twist and turn
    • Noise-cancelling headphones to block out overwhelming noise, and to help the child self-regulate
    • Sunglasses/eye covers to escape from bright light

At some or other point, most of the children in the classroom will need some time out from the overwhelming environment. Having a safe and peaceful place to go to, helps the child take ownership of his or her ability to self-regulate emotions and sensory systems, which are crucial for focused learning.

Discover more sensory strategies to address your sensory needs, by completing your Sensory Matrix™.

Lunchtime is holy time

We’re all guilty on this one.  We’ve all done it.  The quick desk-snacking, the in-between-meeting munching, the one-finger-on-the-email, one-hand-on-the-toasted-sandwich typing.  Lunchtime has become a myth in the modern workplace.  With deadlines looming, workloads expanding and performance appraisals around the corner, we all know the feeling … there just isn’t time to take lunch!

Today I want to bring you in on a little secret – one that progressive companies already know and implement.  Lunchtime is holy time.  I want this to be written in every office manual and preached at every staff meeting.  Like the refrain of a lunchtime revolution. Lunchtime is holy time.  Not only because I want everyone to be well-fed and nourished, but because I want you to:

  • boost your productivity,
  • build your resilience, and
  • decrease your stress.

Most people fall into the trap of thinking that eating lunch at their desk or, the horror, skipping lunch altogether will lead to higher levels of productivity.  The opposite is actually true.  Skipping lunch costs you.  Stress is cumulative during the day and if we don’t do small things throughout the day like taking lunch away from our desks, our stress never gets the chance to ‘reset’ and decrease.  High stress in turn affects our concentration, decision-making abilities, judgement and executive functioning. I’m guessing your job requires all of the above. Research has shown that taking the time to eat lunch away from your desk, actually improves your productivity and work speed afterward.

Another benefit is that we can limit the sneaky calorie intakes and weight gain from eating at our desks.  Various studies have shown that people who eat at their desks gain more weight, and are less aware of what they are eating than people who eat away from their desks.  You will also become a more mindful eater, enjoy your food more and feel more satisfied afterward.

So stop working through lunch, mulling over the complicated problem with your just dunked rusk dripping over your keyboard.  It doesn’t help staring at the screen.  Rather, take a walk, get away from your desk and eat your lunch somewhere else.  On a sensory level, you are then using your movement and visual systems to reboot your brain.  Hopefully, you engage in some social connection which helps even further.  Not everyone has the luxury of a full-hour lunch, so even 30 or 15  minutes (though not ideal) is better than nothing at all.

If you try this for a full week, you will see that your ability to work post-lunch improves.  You will experience less of that dreaded post-lunch slump.  To make even better use of your lunch, make sure you pack something crunchy and healthy like nuts or carrots and limit refined carbs and sugary drinks in your lunchbox.

Progressive workplaces and even some countries are getting on the “lunchtime is holy time” bandwagon.  In Canada there is a “desks are for working, not eating” policy spreading like wildfire. Studies also show that companies with policies around no eating at your desk have better relationships among workers and improved teamwork.

Convinced but still scared to try it? Just remind yourself, and your co-workers, that the world will not end if you are away from your desk for 30 minutes. Try it, I dare you…

Do our free Sensory Quiz™ for an introduction to your sensory style.