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Creating a Self Regulation Station in Your Classroom

Self-regulation station with a bean bag chair, pillows, blanket, and clock

At a Glance

Self-Regulation vs. Calm Down Corners: Emphasizing student autonomy and avoiding punishment associations.

Setting Up an Ideal Space: Criteria for choosing and maintaining an effective self-regulation station.

Tools & Techniques: Essential items for individualized self-regulation and best practices for introducing and routinely using the space.

About Calm Down Corners

If you have been teaching special education for any period of time, you may be familiar with the idea of “Calm Down Corners” or even created one in your own classroom. Or if you aren’t familiar with the name you may be familiar with the concept. 

Action for Healthy Kids describes calm down corners as: 

“... a designated space in a home or classroom with the sole intent of being a safe space for a child to go when their emotions are running too high and they need to regain their emotional and physical control.”

If you are a regular in our store, you may have even noticed a product of ours that uses the “Calm Down Corner” phrasing. It is true that it is a great idea to have a quiet designated place for your students or children to go when they are feeling emotionally overwhelmed and need time and/or space to process. 

Shifting to Self-Regulation Station

But one thing we have found can be harmful in an otherwise incredibly useful tool/practice is that it can be all too easy to treat such a corner as a designated place to send students who are being “too much.” 

While there may be times when you could find it helpful to suggest such a space as something that could help, it should ultimately be a space where students know they can go if their emotions are leaving them feeling not centered. It is a tool for de-escalation or preventing further escalation. 

If it is treated as a place to send students as a punishment it will eventually be viewed as such and if it is treated as a solution to a situation that has already escalated significantly then it may be seen as ineffective when it was never made for that purpose in the first place.

To hone in on the things that make such a space so helpful, we have adopted the “Self-Regulation Station” phrasing that emphasizes student autonomy and choice in using a potentially helpful tool when they find themselves to be overwhelmed by a particular feeling. We also thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share some of our thoughts on setting up a station that reflects this purpose and desired outcome. 

The following steps outline the broad process one can take to set up and implement a self-regulation station in one’s own context as well as some tips for what to include along the way. So let’s get started! 

✅ Identifying, designating, and arranging the physical space

One of the most crucial steps of establishing a self-regulation space is choosing a space that can consistently be used for that purpose. It’s not always easy to find an ideal space, and in some cases depending on the reality of your physical location you may have to compensate for some potential challenges. In an ideal world, a self regulation space would meet the following criteria:

Can be used exclusively for the purpose of self-regulation.
  • There’s no telling when the need for self-regulation might arise, so getting accustomed to using such a space for other purposes can lead to challenging situations!
Can be used consistently for the purpose of self-regulation.
  • Much like we don’t want to use this designated space for other purposes if possible, we also want to make sure that it consistently functions as a self-regulation space whenever it is used. 
  • For example, a self-regulation space in a hallway might not be a good idea because hallways can be very crowded and noisy several times a day even if it is quiet most of the time.
Away from the class where sound doesn’t carry.
  • This is often one of the most challenging practical components, and items like headphones can help when it’s not possible to have that much distance from the rest of the class.

The more we can establish our designated space as THE self-regulation station, the more likely students are to treat it as such!

✅ Including helpful self-regulation items

Self-regulation looks different for every person, and beyond having a space to self-regulate some students may find it incredibly helpful to have a particular item or tool to help with their self-regulations. 

Here are a few examples of items that you may want to consider including in your self-regulation space:

  • Sensory tools (Can include sensory items like fidget toys or items meant to help with sensory overload such as sunglasses or headphones.)
  • Signs
  • Break cards
  • Communication cards
  • Social stories
  • Deep breathing visuals
  • A visual timer (Make sure to find one with a gentle alarm sound or no alarm sound at all!)
  • Flexible seating (Can include beanbag chairs, floor cushions, or dots to designate seating.)
  • Blankets

No student will make use of every self-regulation tool, but ideally every student will have the opportunity to identify tools that work for them, and it is always possible to add more if a student needs something that isn’t currently available.

Even when a given tool isn’t helping a specific student at the moment, it’s still helping to establish your station as the space where students go to help themselves find their center again! 

✅ Introducing the space to students

Introducing this space to students is crucial both for putting forth the general concept of a self-regulation space and to begin a dialogue about why we might use such a space and how to use it. 

This is a great time to start introducing some of the tools that you have made available in the space and show how you might use them as well as solicit feedback about which items are most helpful and what things students might like to see as the space becomes more established. 

This is also a great time to establish your expectations around the station and each student’s responsibilities when they are making use of the space. Of course it is also important to revisit the topic from time to time as a helpful reminder to students of what is available and in keeping with establishing the space for its designated purpose! 

✅ Building a routine around the space

As mentioned above, part of building a routine around the space will be revisiting the topic and making sure students are on the same page, but it is also crucial to build a routine around the process of students indicating they need to use the space, what they do while there, and any responsibilities they may have when they are done using the space. 

One great example of a way to indicate needing to use the space is break cards: a card designed either by you or by your student that can easily be presented without requiring a complicated verbal explanation or needing to get the teacher’s attention. 

When a student is feeling de-centered due to an emotion or feeling and the entire purpose of our center is to help re-center with that feeling before it becomes unmanageable, then it should be as easy as possible for students to share that they need to use it and then go use it.

A little more complicated is establishing with each student what they will do to self-regulate while they are using the space, as that answer will vary with each student. 

You may go so far as to work with each student on a routine in the space that works for them with the understanding that such things can evolve over time but also that we want to try our best to focus on doing the things that will help us feel better. 

Likewise because this space is a self-regulation tool it can be important to incorporate cleaning up and putting away any items used as part of the routine so that the space is ready and available to the next student who needs it. 

Not only does establishing clear individualized procedure around the space help with setting clear expectations, it also helps with further establishing the importance and permanence of the space. 

✅ Checking in with students

Of course just because we have a designated space and an established routine around it doesn’t mean things will go perfectly every single time. 

The point of establishing routines for each student is not to punish or scold them when things go wrong, but to have a shared understanding of when things seem to be going right and an indicator of when it’s time to check in if things don’t seem to be going as planned. For some students it might help to plan on checking in any time the station is used when you have the chance (if the student finds it helpful). 

Other students may feel confident self-regulating on their own and the primary reason you might check in to make sure everything is OK is when something seems to be off from their usual routine or things just don’t seem to be working as planned. Crucially check-ins are an opportunity to adjust expectations or parts of the plan when things just aren’t working as intended and you and the student agree it’s time to try something a little different. 

As with many life skills, learning self-regulation can get more complicated as we navigate life and have new experiences, and the most important thing to establish is that however it might change we want to work on it as a team. 


We hope these steps will help guide some of decision making around incorporating a self-regulation station into your own space and that it offers some helpful tips regardless of what particular space may be available to you. 

If you would like to hear more about self-regulation stations, share your own experience, or hear more about other classroom strategies then we would love to hear from you! Just drop us a line at and in the meantime we wish you the best of luck on your path to building an effective self-regulation station! 

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