Camas Ridge Counseling Corner

Weekly Update: May 4, 2020

Included this week:

  • Routines, Brain Breaks and Calm Corners
  • Parent Info & Collaboration Night
  • OT Corner: Sensory-motor activities
  • Community Resources (parenting, counseling, food, utilities, etc.)

Routines, Brain Breaks & Calm Corners

Routines: The Healthy Mind Platter & Setting Up For Success

Some days, my family has glorious moments, positive attitudes, and flexibility to respond well to our own emotions and support each other. Some days, it feels like we are fighting an uphill battle all day with negotiation and frustrations. The biggest difference between the two: following a routine that is proactive in including all essential activities in our day.

  • Routines have far-reaching psychological benefits, reducing depression, anxiety, stress, ADHD, and more.
  • Routines help ensure you do things well. Routines are things you can do well and boost your confidence to tackle other tasks.
  • Routines help ensure we make time for what is important to us.
  • Routines help orient our body and mind to the activity, increasing focus, engagement, and efficiency.
  • Routines are typically done more than once and typically followed each time you engage in the same sequence of activities (routines for self-calming need to be practiced and familiar, but might not be used daily)

When setting up routines with your family, think about routines you follow within your day (i.e., getting ready for the day, what you do before leaving the house, etc.).

When developing a routine, think about the following questions:

  • What steps are needed to complete the activity? Do they need completed in a specific order?
  • What prompts or steps may be helpful in completing the routine successfully with a positive end result?

The Healthy Mind Platter includes 7 mental activities (focus time, play time, connecting time, physical time, time in, down time, sleep time) that are essential to optimal brain development. When these activities are included within daily routines and schedules, we are typically more flexible, more able to regulate our attention, and better at noticing and regulating emotions.

When scheduling for the entire day, think about varying between the essential mental activities from the Healthy Mind Platter, alternating between focused and play time, physical and down times. Our brain needs the less structured and focused time to organize and make sense of the focused times; our brain is doing some great work during this essential 'down-time'. Schedules can be arranged by doing certain activities at set times; schedules can also be a sequence of activities or tasks to complete during the day with some choice within the schedule.

All of our children are different. We all need routine and structure, but some allow for more flexibility with the routines, while others need more rigid adherence. Do what works best for you and your family. For me, I use a collaborative problem-solving approach with my children. I lay out our "must-do's" (expectation) and we collaborate to problem-solve and create a plan that works for both of us.

Brain Breaks

As noted above, mental "down-time" is essential to our brain functioning. As education and learning has moved from the school building to the home setting, it is helpful to remember that your student was not fully focused, attentive, and engaged in academic time for sustained periods of time for the entire school day. Our elementary students are expected to sustain engagement for about 10-15 minutes at a time. Even within a 30-minute lesson in the classroom, students are allowed and expected to have time when their focus and mind drifts and is not specifically oriented and focused on instruction. At home, our students still need these brain breaks.

Brain breaks are short breaks or changes in mental activity and focus. Brain breaks help break monotonous or sustained tasks which deplete our attention and alertness over time. Brain breaks help re-energize our minds, making our thinking more efficient and focus more sustained.

Brain breaks should be provided for 3-5 minutes for every 10-15 minutes of concentrated attention. They may include standing up to talk a short walk, stretching, singing a song, or sharing jokes. See the links posted below for ideas and brain break activities.

Calm Corners

Feeling blindsided or overwhelmed by emotion is not the time to learn a calming strategy or calming routine. Learning and practicing calming strategies and calming routines when in a calm and content mood makes access and use of the strategies easier when needed.

Sensory boxes and calm corners were created in all of our classrooms at Camas Ridge last school year. While some items were specific to some students and some classrooms, each sensory box and calm corner had essential items that could address multiple sensory modalities, methods of expression, and visual prompts. At Camas Ridge, our calm corner boxes included playdough, glitter jars, paper and colored pencils, calming fidgets (chenille stems, scented bean bag, etc.), and visual calm book including calming/breathing strategies, positive statements, and mood rating. We had additional items in a sensory library that could be accessed for particular classrooms or students based on needs.

Essential elements of a calm corner:

  • space considered calming or soothing: may include pillow, beanbag, weighted blanket, lap-pad
  • Feelings check-in and strategy menu and/or prompts
  • Materials to use for calming tools/strategies (i.e., stuffed animals, yoga poses, breathing boards, stress balls, music, etc.)

How to use:

  • Talk with your child(ren)/family about what calms you when stressed and what you notice in your body when you need to use calming strategies.
  • As you talk about what calms you, ask your child what calms them.
  • Create space that is comfortable, can be accessed, and allows for some privacy and includes items you identified together.
  • Practice using the calm corner and materials when in a calm and content mood.
  • When entering the calm corner, use feeling check-in to note current emotion and what you are feeling
  • Identify possible strategies to help you return to a calmer mood
  • Engage in the strategy
  • Check in with feelings and determine if ready to return or if need continued calming time.

See below for print and digital calm corner tools. Feel free to 'make a copy' of the digital materials to use through Google Slides.

Calm Corner Tools & Brain Break Resources

Parent Info & Collaboration Night

Wednesday, May 6th, 6:30pm

This is an online event.

You're invited to join an open zoom meeting to include a short presentation on a parenting-related topic relevant to the current times, followed by a period for questions and answers.

This weeks topic:

  • calm corners and brain breaks
  • creating schedules and routines for distance learning
  • supporting self-regulation in our children

See e-mail and SeeSaw announcement for weekly invite.

Please complete this survey to aid scheduling and agenda creation for future Parent Info nights:

Community-Based Parenting and Counseling Resources

Family Check-Up & Parenting Support

The UO Child and Family Center (group who provided parent nights at Camas this past winter) is providing Family Check-up free to families. They help address common parenting and childhood behavioral and emotional challenges. See link for more information:

Big picture

Want and able to provide support?

While we brace for a larger economic crisis to come, many of our 4J families are experiencing an immediate financial crisis right now. 4J has formed wraparound support teams at each school that are connecting with families in need and helping them access services and supports. In many cases, the families we're helping have never needed support before. If you are able to give, thank you.

There are many ways to give, from providing gift cards for groceries, gas, data or donating items, such as pet food, cleaning supplies, food, hygiene items. Donations can be made to Camas Ridge or the Eugene 4J School District.

A fund has been set up through the Eugene Education Foundation specifically to help us help address families needs during this time. You can donate to the general fund or indicate the funds to go directly to the Camas Ridge community. For more information, please visit:

I'm here: Parent Supports, Office Hours, How to Connect

Please contact me for:

  • referral and connection with community resources (i.e., food, rent assistance, community-based mental health counseling, etc.)
  • problem-solving and strategy development to address emotional regulation, home-school routines, behavior management, etc.
  • schedule individual student check-ins to provide support, problem-solving, emotional support/check-in, etc.

Contact Information:

work cell: (541)760-6199 (call or text)


"When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions,

it's our job to share our calm,

not to join their chaos."

~L. R. Knost~

OT Corner ~ Sensory Motor Activities For You