Happy Cinco de mayo! When I think of Cinco de mayo, I think first, fiesta and then, siesta! And the perfect place to take a little siesta is a quiet break area. Today I’m going to share five things to consider when setting up a quiet break area, perfect for student siestas!

1. Type

It is important to figure out what type of sensory area you want to set up for your classroom. A “sensory area” is a term that gets thrown around, so it’s important to establish an area the serves a purpose, rather than just an area with a lot of sensory toys. Determine the purpose of the area-do you want sleepy students to wake up or do you want your active friends to take it down a notch?

I wanted a quiet break area for my classroom because I have students that can get overexcited and overwhelmed (and I’m sure you do too!). A quiet break area paired with an active break area is great for giving kids options and presents opportunities to teach students to regulate their behavior. I have sent overactive students to the quiet break area in order to calm down. I have also sent students who are sensitive to loud noises to the quiet break area, while calming a student who was having a tantrum.

If you are not quite sure what type of sensory area would be most beneficial for your students, ask your OT! I collaborated with the OT at my school to help work out some of the kinks I was having with my quiet break area and I’m glad I did! More about that later…

2. Space

Find a space or potential space in your classroom for your sensory break/quiet break area. I had my potential space in mind at the end of last school year, but I needed to do some major Konmari-ing to clear the space (Hint, hint-start planning now!). I am lucky enough to have a large closet area in my classroom (it’s essentially another room), so I just used a book shelf, a file cabinet and some storage crates to separate it from the rest of the closet.

3. Light

Lighting can impact a student’s behavior. I turn off the light in order to create a more clam environment in my quiet break area. I also had curtain on a tension rod in the doorway to make it darker (sadly, the tension rod did not make it until the end of the school year…). You can also add small Christmas lights, or other light sources that could have a calming effect on your students. If you have limited control over the lighting in your room, another way to make a darker space is to put a sheet or blanket over a table for a makeshift tent.

4. Rules

When I first set up the area, I let my students help…The problem was one student kept taking toys  into the area and would try to get other students to play with him. The quiet break area wasn’t so quiet anymore! To this student, it was another play area. The OT suggested that I make rules so students could understand the purpose of the quiet break area. I created visual rules to help students understand that it was a place to relax. Once those rules were in place, the quiet break area became way more chill…

Here are the rules I use:

Quiet-No talking

Shoes off– Having your shoes off is something you do at home, so I think it makes you more relaxed. Bonus-you have to vacuum the rug less.

Lights off-This is to help students relax and create a calm environment.

Shade down– There is a window in my quiet break area and some friends liked playing with the shade…not exactly helpful for creating a quiet environment…

Three (3) students at a time-This is to keep it quiet…less kids. more chance of quiet!


5. Extras

Some extras that are in my classroom sensory area are a rug, a fabric curtain and garland, a large stuffed fish pillow, a blanket, a sleeping mat and fabric samples in a variety of textures. I have discovered that it’s quality over quantity (hence why you don’t see Christmas lights or small stuffed animals anywhere in the pictures…), so you might have to learn through a little trial and error. Add whatever extras you think would help your students regulate or ask your OT what she recommends.

The quiet break area has worked really well for the students in my classroom this year…I hope this inspires you to set up a quiet break area in your classroom…Good luck and have fun!

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