Monday, May 20, 2024

Pawsitive transformation

Staff Reporter | November 1, 2023 1:00 AM

With over 20 years of experience working in childhood development and five years experience as a parent educator, Jeana Kinne began to notice something missing from her classes. 

“There’s calm down boxes that have been around for a long time, but there was nothing teaching children to use them,” Kinne said. 

With her trusty golden retriever by her side, Kinne decided to create a fun method for kids to learn self-calming when feeling overwhelmed and to guide parents in assisting their children.

Enter Sammy the Golden Dog in “Soothing Sammy,” a children’s book and tool kit for parents to teach their children to self-regulate emotional breakdowns, and to interrupt tantrums before they start. 

“This is kind of a guidebook,” Kinne said.  She's a preschool program director in Coeur d'Alene and lives in Rathdrum. “This is the thing that was missing in the classrooms where I taught.”

Since its publication, the book has grown from a tool kit for parents to a classroom kit and curriculum for preschool and head start teachers. It’s a “Favorite Character” learning set at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library, where kids can check out the Soothing Sammy book with the Sammy stuffed animal accompaniment. 

“Soothing Sammy” is a fun and interactive story that follows children into Sammy’s house, where the golden dog has several things that calm it down, like a rubber ball, things to smell, water to drink or crunchy snacks. 

The book comes with instructions to make a small Soothing Sammy house at home. The box includes things that are scientifically proven and designed to redirect kids’ attention from a tantrum to things that will calm them down, and one small stuffed animal Sammy. 

“It speaks to the child so that they can understand how to do things independently,” Kinne said. “And they can go say, ‘hey I need Sammy time, can I go to Sammy time now?’ They know when they need it. It doesn’t always need teacher intervention.”

The book and emotional learning kit is also a tool to prevent tantrums before they start. It provides kids with the tools and fun activities to regulate their own emotions if they’re upset. 

Once kids' emotions are regulated, parents, teachers, or caregivers can reason with them again, and help to problem solve. 

“A lot of times you want kids to learn how to communicate,” Kinne said. “When you go to the punishment side you miss that step. If we teach them how to calm down and how to talk to you, then you’re going to prevent these other problems in the future.”

The book is formatted in four steps: to help calm, to identify feelings, to communicate the problem and to problem solve. 

Teachers have training on the steps and emotional regulation, but a Soothing Sammy emotional program is a tool that gives kids the autonomy and skills to regulate their own emotions, in a fun way, Kinne said. 

That provides teachers support in the classroom, without requiring extra staff. 

Kinne designed the books to be fun and incorporate learning into play and activities. “Soothing Sammy,” and all six books in the Sammy the Golden Dog series have activities and tips in the back of each book. The colorful illustrations also include photos of the characters, all inspired by Kinne’s dog and neighborhood animals. 

The teacher’s edition also includes a curriculum book and access to videos to incorporate “Soothing Sammy” into the classroom. Kinne hopes to see the emotional program in local Head Start or preschool programs. The curriculum has already been adopted in school districts across the country, and she’d like to see it adopted close to her home.

The other books in the series have specific goals, like “Sammy Chases the Alphabet.”

In Sammy Chases the Alphabet, Sammy plays fetch with all the letters of the alphabet on a farm. At the end of that book are games for kids to play that don’t involve worksheets, like shaping letters out of clay or spelling their name with sticks. 

The “Soothing Sammy” book also teaches parents how to deal with kids' need for attention, like when parents are trying to do chores. Kids can help with chores to feel valued and heard while parents create healthy boundaries to be productive. 

The “Soothing Sammy” emotions program also talks about how parents can make their own emotional regulation box based on the same science, and model healthy habits for their children. 

Kinne hopes to connect her Sammy series with other local authors. Her dream is to one day meet the creator of Mudgy the Moose so Sammy can meet the local community. 

    A "Soothing Sammy" emotional program kit comes with an educational guidebook, a Sammy plush dog, stickers, activity guides and tips to make a box of soothing objects to help regulate big emotions.