The toddler meltdown! We’ve all seen it in the library whether it is in storytime, in the stacks, or at the checkout stations. How can children’s librarians assist little patrons and their adult caregiver in a time of need like this but in a subtle and gentle way? Calming kits! Children’s librarian, Elizabeth Bartholomew and I explored different options of what could be included in calming kits and drew inspiration from elements that we’ve seen on social media, at other libraries, and of course on Pinterest. We wanted to come up with something simple and helpful that young children and adult caregivers could utilize anywhere, not just at the library.
The bookmark and flashcards give children a variety of creative ways to help self-soothe with breathing exercises and animal stretches. The bookmark shares breathing exercises like smelling flowers which encourages children to imagine that they are smelling a flower, to breathe in deeply through the nose and out through the mouth. Another favorite breathing exercise is to blow out the candles on a pretend birthday cake! Take a deep breath in through the mouth, and blow it out strong through the mouth.
Since physical activity may help everyone produce endorphins, we decided to include flashcards with animal stretches. They are easy to take along on the go and include stretches like starfish jumps which is to do jumping jacks with arms and legs spread wide and the crab crawl which is to sit and place your palms flat on the floor behind you near your hips then lift up off the ground and crawl.
The intent of including a handout with helpful phrases that caregivers can always refer back to is that it will eventually become a part of the vocabulary that can be used during difficult times like meltdowns and tantrums with their little ones. Examples of some of the phrases listed include “Sometimes we don’t know why we feel the way we do, but the feeling is still real” or “I see you’re struggling and having a hard time. I’m here to help.” As a mother, there are times when I struggle to find the right words to comfort my children during their meltdowns, especially while I am out doing errands, traveling, or at storytime. I truly feel like phrases that provide comfort and validate the big emotions that children are feeling will come in clutch for caregivers.
Although this may not be an innovative or original idea or even a kit at libraries, I believe it does promote a library environment that fosters compassion and empathy rather than judgment for children specifically during an emotional time of need. Calming kits are also a helpful resource that can be created to fit the needs of any library community and any budget.
Today’s guest blogger is Raina Tuakoi. Raina is the Children Supervising Librarian at Cupertino Library with the Santa Clara County Library District. She is a 2012 ALA Spectrum Scholar and 2018 ALA Emerging Leader. Currently she serves on the ALSC Programming Committee and as the California Library Association Begun Scholarship Chair. Raina is committed to creating diverse programming, inclusive spaces, and accessible collections that support children and their families in public libraries.
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.