Our apartment is an exercise in creative use of space. The moment that I realized that Ella had not used her potty for several weeks (having switched to the toilet), I immediately began thinking of how I would put that small nook of hallway space to use.
It struck me that it might be a good idea to establish a peace corner for Ella as we start nearing the more difficult developmental years. Ella is really good for giving herself a break and removing herself to the couch if she feels like she needs to calm down or be physically removed from a situation (something she taught herself, as I never removed her from situations or encouraged the couch as a spot for calming down) but I wanted to provide her with an option that might provide a little bit more of a recluse for her.
Montessori classrooms often have small peace tables or peace corners which are often used for conflict mediation. Although we don’t have other children (other than playdates), I felt like Ella might appreciate a place to help resolve inner conflicts or even conflicts with authority (me). Its important to note that Peace Corners are not time-out spots; they are self-initiated and contain no element of discipline. They are a safe space for children to retreat to if they need to recollect or reconnect with themselves. In a house with more than one child, it also serves as a space for safe conflict resolution.
I wanted to keep the space clean and uncluttered, with a few helpful tools for helping Ella in dealing with emotionally difficult situations. After a few trial and errors, this is what we have settled on.
A oversized teddy bear (luckily, not as oversized as the one in our Literacy Corner) and throw blanket make the space a bit more comfortable. We have experimented with a throw pillow and a small couch in this space and I think the bear is best as it “hugs” Ella and allows her to face “into” her peace corner to focus on her calming activities.
Beside the bear, I have placed a rainstick which has a calming effect. I encouraged Ella to breathe in for the duration of the tinkling noise, and then out again. I also have a small pinwheel which is also a breathing exercise that she is familiar with, but gets used more often in other settings than the peace corner (we currently have one in the playroom and another in the Literary Corner of our living room). Beside the rainstick is a two-handed (or two-person) labyrinth, which provides a soothing sensory experience while also stimulating the brain and readying Ella for clear thinking (which is necessary for conflict resolution).
Far enough away from the swing of the closet door, I have set up a small desk which holds Ella’s Buddha Board. This was the first item added to our evolving peace corner and it has proven the most popular, perhaps based on its appeal as an artistic mode of expression.
I love that as Ella experiences emotional upsets, she can come to this board and fill up the page with big, sweeping strokes and see black fill up the page (control over her environment) and then also see the black lighten and fade, giving way to light in a peaceful and reassuring way. As she gets older, she can draw symbols or words that upset her, and watch them slowly fade aware to nothingness. She can use the board to set limits on how long to dwell on something, and then move on as the Board clears itself.
Underneath the desk is our basket of Kimochi Emotions which has been a really age-appropriate tool for handling and discussing emotions. This is the only material that is allowed to leave the Peace Corner, as Ella can select an emotion and bring it to me to facilitate conversation, or simply place an emotion in her pocket to comfort her in its reminder that the emotion is safe and has a form/name.
We have a scroll reminding her of a Buddhist interpretation of Love and a temporary corn husk “cross” decorating the area. The only art in the hallway was there before we changed it to a Peace Corner, it relates to Ella’s family heritage, but I would ideally like to change it out for some soothing but open-ended art.
I still feel like our peace corner needs some work, what would you add or change?