A calm down kit is a set of tools that help calm a child’s sensory system. If you have a child with sensory processing difficulties like autism or sensory processing disorder then you are in the right place.
My son has autism, and the first time he had a meltdown in public I also melted down. Nobody prepared me for my son’s vicious reaction to sensory overload.
Nobody told me what to have on hand that may help and nobody offered us a helping hand the first time we experienced a public meltdown.
Can I say for sure that a calm down kit would have soothed my son? No. But had I known at the time that there was such a thing I would have had one in every car, one at home and a to-go kit in my purse like I do today!
What Is A Calm Down Kit?
Calm down kits are also known as sensory integration boxes or toolkits. A calm down kit is a collection of items that calm your child’s sensory system in a meltdown. You’ll use these tools once the sensory meltdown has begun to either distract your child or lessen the magnitude of the meltdown after it starts.
What Should It Include?
You decide what goes in your child’s calm down kit. There are no rules! The most important things to focus on is what works for your child and his or her needs. If your child is sensitive to sound then noise-canceling headphones may be a good idea. Some children with sensory processing disorders need oral proprioceptive input to relax. In such cases, a crunchy snack or chewable jewelry would make excellent choices. Ask yourself the following questions when collecting items for your child’s calm down kit.
What typically calms him down?
What soothes him when he is restless?
What types of activities does she love to do?
Here’s a list of 50 Tools Every Autism Mom Should Have in Her Calm Down Kit.
I’ve attached links to the quality ones I use and recommend. These are my affiliate links so I may receive a commission if you make a purchase. (At no extra cost to you!)
Now, a few of these suggestions may be confusing, so there’s an explanation at the bottom for those less traditional items! Also, if your child is experiencing frequent sensory meltdowns then you absolutely must read about sensory diets. Seriously. I’ll add another link at the end too!
This post contains affiliate links.
50 Tools Every Autism Mom Should Have In Her Calm Down Kit
- Bottles of Bubbles
- Calming Music
- Liquid Motion Timer
- Stress Ball
- Light Up Fidget Stress Toy
- Calm Down Strategies Cards
- Weighted Blanket
- Sensory Chew Necklace
- Noise Cancelling Headphones
- Color Spinners
- Glitter Wand
- Light Up Rail Twirler
- Coloring Book
- Favorite Stuffed Animal
- Fidget Cubes
- Pressure Vest
- Soothing Night Light
- Vibrating Roll Pillow
- Silly Putty
- Massage Ball
- Lavender Essential Oil
- Sensory Sox
- Mini Trampoline
- Tent Tunnel
- Slow Rising Squishies
- Balance Ball
- Rescue Remedy Stress Spray
- Stretchy String
- Fidget Chair Stretch Bands
- Pipe Cleaners & Popsicle Sticks
- Calm Down Bottle
- Hugo Warmkins Sensory Monkey
- Freddy’s Fidget Toys for Classroom
- Puzzle Fidget Cube Toys
- Chewy Tube
- Crawl & Calm Resistance Tunnel
- Sensory Scarves
- Tickles the Turtle Pet Massager
- Texture Squares
- Emotions Putty
- TwiddleClassic Fidget & Comfort Muff
Bubbles Bubbles will help your child relax by taking deep breaths to blow the bubbles. (You can do all kinds of awesome things with bubbles-even encourage speech…read about that here & then go buy a bunch of them!)
Calming Music Soothing sounds have been reported to help people on the spectrum relax. Try Somewhere Over the Rainbow or You Are My Sunshine on your smartphone.
Stress Balls Small self-regulation tool that will keep fingers busy by promoting movement & tactile input. (DIY them with a balloon & Sensory balls-it’s a fun activity!)
Weighted Blankets & Pressure Vests Weighted blankets & vests mimic deep pressure touch stimulation. Research has shown that deep pressure touch releases serotonin, a chemical in the brain that works as a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep, and sensory perception.
Chew Necklaces & Tube Chewing can provide oral sensory and proprioceptive input. Your child’s oral sensory system is another avenue to explore for calming and self-regulation. You could also try chewing gum or crunchy snacks.
Noise Cancelling Headphones Use these if your child if overwhelmed by the noises of a large crowd or any sound that you have identified as a trigger for him. You may want to get two so you can keep a pair in the car just in case.
Light Up Rail Twirler I’m recommending this visual sensory toy for your calm down kit because we have one and it not only holds my son’s attention but it’s also durable and portable. Visual sensory toys usually have a calming effect on kids with autism. Keep this in mind when selecting items for your calm down kit.
Sensory Sox Here’s a photo because this is something I think you need to see to understand. The best way I can describe it is like a cocoon for your child. I can say from experiencethat for sensory seeking kids it’s one of the better products out there. And no, it’s not just a blanket…I had to explain this to my husband who thinks he knows it all:)
Mini-Trampoline Of course, you won’t be carrying this around in the trunk of your car in case of emergency meltdowns (but technically you could since this one folds), but a trampoline at home is a grand idea. Jumping on a mini-trampoline may bring comfort to a sensory overloaded child and may be enough to de-escalate a meltdown. Trampolines are all wonderful for heavy work and other activities, so I highly recommend investing in one. If you want to get a large sized trampoline for outdoors, check Facebook to see if anyone is selling a used one. You can get a great deal that way-I know we did!
Tent & Tunnel Sometimes a quiet, calm place to settle down is all you need to calm an autism meltdown. A pop-up tent or tent tunnel is an economical and logical choice. Check the camping aisle too-remember to think outside the box.
Harmonica Really? Every autism mom should have this in her calm down kit? Yes! Along with whistles, flutes, and maybe even a saxophone on down the line! The idea here is to regulate your child’s breathing to get her to take deep calming breaths in and out. Playing the harmonica or blowing a whistle makes it fun.
Stay-N-Play Balance Ball One of my favorites. This ball is ideal for high energy overloaded kids. It stays in place so it can be used as a seat in the classroom or at home. Check out how it stays in place!
Can I Buy A Calm Down Kit?
I get it. You’re busy and confused. With so many options it’s tempting to look for a one and done solution. Trust me, I looked!
You can buy calm down or sensory kits from stores online, but you usually don’t get the option of individualizing them.
On top of that, they aren’t cheap-the ones I found started at $150 and went up to $499 with no option to customize. And might I note that every one I saw was stuffed with cheap fidgets! (YUCK!)
Here’s the thing. You know your child’s needs better than anyone. No store knows your child better than you! It’s a process of elimination-some things work fabulously and others fail miserably. It all depends on the child! I’m not going to lie to you and say all of these items will work for your child, but they are worth trying!
Parenting a child with autism and sensory processing disorder is challenging and stressful, to put it mildly. Finding resources and help can often feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. As a result, moms and other caregivers get overwhelmed and stressed.
Remember that you are not alone. Reach out if you need help!
I know this was a ton of information to take in. I also understand that we all lose our senses a little during a meltdown.
So…I wrote the Ten Commandments of Parenting During A Meltdown to make it easy to remember what to do! Sign up & get it in minutes!