Setting up an ELSA room - ELSA Support for emotional literacy

Setting up an ELSA room

WHAT TO BUY?

This question has been asked many times on the ELSA group and also the ELSA page. How do you set up a room for ELSA sessions? What resources do you need to buy? How can you make it a welcoming and relaxing place to be? If you are lucky you may have a classroom to work in. You may have a smaller room or you might have to work in a corridor or the corner of a classroom. You just need to make the most of what you have and hopefully when the value of your work is recognised you may get a dedicated area. It takes time to build up lots of resources but do check out the free section of the website for inspiration.

Setting up the room

If you have a classroom it is useful to section it as much as you can using screens, bookcases or any other bits of furniture you may have inherited. It is up to you which areas you have but consider the following:

  • A quiet area with a table and two chairs – useful if there is more than one ELSA in the room working with children. You can work one to one whilst your colleague works with a group.
  • A relaxing area with bean bags or cushions so those children who need a bit of quiet time can relax. You could make it a covered area but I would recommend that you have something you can see through so netting would be useful. Label this the ‘safe place’ do check the blog post on using this terminology rather than ‘calming down area’. I absolutely love this beany chair which is basically a storage area for cuddly toys. So you could pop all your cuddly toys into it to make it squishy to sit on and get one of them out if needed.
  • A circle time area with enough cushions for each child to have their own. (This could also be used for relaxation exercises towards the end of your sessions).
  • A crafting area near the sink which could double up as a snack area.
  • A reading area with appropriate books, cushions, beanbags and blankets.
  • A sensory area can be useful with lots of different textures, smells, things to listen to and look at. This can help feelings vocabulary and can be very relaxing. Consider buying some lighting lava or something like this   Fairy lights look lovely too.
  • Make sure that you are not hidden away in the room and that people can see you with the child if they look into the room. Safeguard yourself at all times.
  • Consider having a notice on the door so that people do not just barge in but know you are busy with a child and must knock first

Displays

Displays are so important and depending on space the ones I would recommend are:

  • Emotions
  • Motivational quotes (these are great to discuss)
  • Some form of reward system such as a kindness tree
  • Some form of display to show off children’s work and photographs
  • Circle-time rules
  • Rules for the ELSA room (you need to make your own rules or you might need to display the school rules)
  • Calming down or relaxation suggestions such as my ‘Counting down to calming down’ 
  • Calming down pack

We have a huge bundle of display resources which you can check out.

Resources

You will of course need certain resources and some things are essential whilst others are a bit of luxury. The following is a very long list so you need to decide yourself which things are most important in your setting.

The Brand New ELSA Starter pack is a great start for resources

  • Feeling fans (make sure you have lots of these and there are lots on the site. These are so useful for the beginning of sessions for children to be able to show you and begin to verbalise their feelings, Use at the beginning of every circle-time session and every one to one session. Start off with perhaps just happy and sad and build up from there, introducing more and more vocabulary.
  • Circle-time rules. Make sure these are up in your circle-time area and are easy to refer to. You need to remind children at every session so that it becomes second nature. Anytime anyone breaks a rule all you need to do is point at the poster. They soon get the message. There is also a circle-time pack which has lots of questions, warm up games and the rules.
  • Strength cards are a must! These handy little cards are ideal for lots of self-esteem activities.
  • A CD player or some form of docking system for playing music or for listening to stories/relaxation scripts.
  • Make a face for emotions
  • Emotions vocabulary and ‘talkabout cards’
  • Comic strips – this resource is worth its weight in gold. It can be used in so many ways.
  • Mirrors for emotion work
  • Plastic beakers and plates for snack time
  • Bean bags or cushions and fleecy blankets. Blankets are wonderful if a child feels like a hug. They can wrap themselves and make themselves feel more secure.
  • A sofa
  • Puppets are a must. You can use puppets in so many ways. It’s good if they have moving mouths. I like the ones on Amazon. This is the boy and this is the girl. 
  • Finger puppets are great too.
  • Cuddly toys are useful for a child who wants to hug something.
  • Microphones are great for circle-time for passing around the circle. Every child wants to speak into it. You can get cheap ones off Amazon.
  • Bubbles are great for demonstrating calming down techniques so have plenty on hand. Blowing steadily with pursed lips is really calming.
  • Things to pop – love these for the fact they can be reused over and over again. Also good for fidget toys.
  • Post it notes – great for jotting things down about children or for children to use – sit a child in the middle of the circle and give each child a post it note to write someone nice about that person. They can then stick it onto the person.
  • Split rings or key rings are so useful. Use them for your feeling fans or you might have little games you have made and they can all be kept together on a split ring.
  • A computer is very useful
  • A small oven is extremely useful because baking or cooking with children is a fantastic thing to do.
  • Clay or playdough for sensory work. Also this Therapy putty  is good with a variety of strengths in consistency.
  • Here is a book list of books recommended by ELSAs
  • A large craft box with pipe cleaners, wooden beads, scraps of material, glue sticks, card, wool, scissors, sequins, stickers, shiny card, paper, coloured pencils, coloured pens, skin tone pens and pencils, pony beads, split pins, staplers, feathers, felt, buttons, sewing needles and thread, paints and paintbrushes.
  • A selection of games – I would suggest my game pack as a starter. Look at at charity shops for games such as ‘Twister’, ‘connect 4’, ‘Snakes and ladders’, ‘Pass the bomb’ (the bomb is great fun in circle time games), Jigsaw puzzles, Also I would strongly recommend a charades type game. You could buy the Junior charades but so easy to make yourself. All you need is a pen and paper and a box to put the suggestions in.
  • Lego, barbies, or anything else you can get your hands on that allows a child a bit of time to focus and relax during free play times or when the child has finished their ‘work’
  • Fidget toys for those children who need to fiddle with something. You can buy them but you can also use things that you have around the school.
  • Planning and assessment sheets, please look at my post on ‘setting targets for pupils’
  • Leaflets for parents
  • A worry box, or a worry monster. If you don’t have the money a simple decorated box would do the same job.

Check out my page on Amazon for more ideas that I have added.

elsa-support AMAZON PAGE

Other Resources you will love!

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