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In this post: You’ll find tips for teaching kids about mindfulness, how to deal with big emotions, and how to make a calming glitter jar with your kids.
Calm down! Be quiet! Relax!
Kids are constantly loud and noisy this is normal. It’s nice to able to help them calm down with things other than your voice from time to time too.
I teach yoga and mindfulness to kids in a charter school, and…
we often have moments that are not so Zen.
How do I combat the craziness in a classroom?
Many ways. Calming glitter jars are one of my favorites.
I made a few my first year, and finally this year I remade them with a new recipe. I’m so glad I did because my new ones are so pretty!
Mindfulness glitter jars are so enticing and relaxing.
They are one of the very first things I tried when I started to teach mindfulness to my students.
I actually use plastic bottles, because yes, jars can break. Especially with over 550 kids at my school using them every week, the likelihood of breakage is high.
How to start using a Glitter Jar with kids
- Tell your kids that sometimes we have really big feelings.
- Your mind may be feeling all swirly and mixed up because you are mad, angry, confused, sad, or something else.
- When you have these feelings, you can take a mindfulness break, watch your feelings, and then let them settle.
- Breathe with whatever is going on, be still and watch your big emotions as they gently float down.
- Just like your big feelings, shake up a glitter jar and watch it swirl all over, crazy like.
- Then set the jar down, watch it swirl and breathe.
- As you breathe and are still, the glitter starts to slowly settle and become more calm.
- Watch until you can see through the jar again.
- We don’t want our feelings to disappear, we just don’t want them to block our view of what is really going on.
I have also taught many breathing techniques to my students to use with the calm down jar. We trace our fingers, blow out pretend candles, smell the “flower,” use a Hoberman Sphere, and more.
My full post of breathing mindfulness techniques for kids is here.
Check out this video of some kiddos explaining mindfulness and how they use a glitter jar to help notice and let go of their big feelings. (Courtesy of Mindful Schools)
We sometimes shake a calm down jar and place it in the middle of the circle to watch while I ring a singing bowl.
My favorite singing bowl is here.
They then have to decide which one took longer to be “complete”. (They vote silently by holding up a 1 for the jar or a 2 for the bell).
I also read lots of books on mindfulness to my students, our favorites are found here.
While we read, or while they read on their own they can hold a calm down jar to just look at and keep their hands busy while their mind is working. I actually feel like it really does help them listen better.
Calm down jars can also be reserved for “Take a Break” zones where kids can go to calm down from having really big emotions or feeling too anxious to learn.
You can have a calm down jar, a water timer, a beanie baby to snuggle, a fidget spinner, a breathing ball, and some breathing techniques cards for the kids to use until they are ready to talk about what they are feeling or rejoin the group.
Finally, as a teacher, I have used the calm down jar as a sort of “timer” to let kids know how much time they have left to clean up and get to their spot in the circle. It’s a motivator because they want to clean up quickly to get back and watch the swirling wonder before it completely settles.
So, if you know you want a mindfulness glitter
jar, how do you make one?
I had tried several recipes over the years and I finally came up with one that works really well and is super simple.
This recipe took less than an hour to make 12 jars one snow day this winter and it was a huge success.
Get a printable version of the recipe here!
What do you need to make a calm down glitter jar?
I use these Voss plastic water bottles because they are just large enough and the cap comes down far enough to cover where there will be a small amount of air.
Plus, they are very durable. I got the 500 ml size, which is perfect. Make sure you check the size before you buy on Amazon because they come in several options!
Drink the water (hydrate!) and peel off the two stickers. They should come off easily, but you can use a blow dryer to help if you are having trouble.
This pack of glitter is perfect because it has lots of beautiful colors and a variety of sizes of glitter.
I used a combination of the fine and chunky pieces in every bottle and it was excellent.
You can also use glitter glue, but I found it is not as pretty as these bright and differently shaped pieces.
This nail glitter works really well too and is also really chunky (I ran out of the big pieces in the above example)
This is optional, but you can add a couple of drops to a few bottles. It depends what colors you have and if you want to make some more dense looking than the others. I don’t usually use it in my recipe because I have found that the combination of fine and chunky glitter is colorful enough.
I have found, after attempting with glue, glitter glue, and various oils, that using Glycerin is the perfect additive. It helps to slow the glitter without making the water cloudy and give the calming bottles the effect they need.
When you add the right amount of Glycerin to each bottle you allow the glitter to be shaken up, swirl around, and then slowly settle back down to the bottom.
I got a half gallon bottle since I was making 12 at once, but I probably could have gotten the gallon since the pack of glitter I got lasted a lot longer than I expected.
A crucial ingredient, a few drops of any standard dish soap helps keep the glitter from sticking together and clumping all at the top. Any kind will do, and just a few drops are generally enough.
This super glue is the best to seal the lids shut once you know you have the right combination of glitter and glycerin! You need the strong stuff, I promise.
Don’t use a lot because it expands and run down the edge of the bottle as it is drying!!
The free stuff is best, I warm it up in the microwave in a glass bowl first or if my pipes are working well I use the hot water from the tap.
How to mix the calming jar ingredients just right
1. Prepare warm (not hot!) water.
You don’t want the water to be boiling when you pour it in the bottles or it will warp the plastic. Believe me, that’s happened to me! Just warm water from the faucet works well.
2. Select and add glitter to the bottle.
I put in about a level half inch of glitter to start. Put the glitter in first, before anything else.
Don’t add too much because it may clump and be stuck at the top after you add everything else. I chose 3-5 types for each bottle, usually two of the fine, and one or two of the larger variety.
3. Add a little bit of water and shake gently
Swirl up the glitter to help prevent clumps!
4. Add glycerin until the bottle is 1/4 full (approximately)
I did less and more with each bottle since I made a lot and wanted the “speed” of the glitter to be different. This one you can see the glycerin is about as high as the glitter containers and I really liked the outcome.
5. Add water until the jar is almost full
Leave some space at the top still to add more glycerin if needed and to properly stir it later.
6. Add 2-3 drops of dish soap
Not too many, because you can always add more! It tends to get bubbly if you add a lot, but the soap helps disperse the glitter.
7. Close the jar and turn it a few times to mix everything up
Gently shake to see the consistency of everything.
Then carefully open it again and take a look.
See how the glitter is stuck at the top? That’s ok, I found a solution to that! Keep reading!
8. Stick your finger in and give it a good swirl around
Gently stir and mix it up, wiping your finger on the inside to keep as much glitter in as you want. In a few instances I removed some glitter and foam manually, no big deal.
This gentle stirring works best with your finger and not a utensil because the natural oils of your hand help separate more than a metal fork would. Fancy!
Notice how the glitter is more even spread out as I stirred? Messy but fun and effective 🙂
Hopefully now the glitter is nicely dispersed!
At this point you can choose to add food coloring or some small, light toys like a Lego person or a tiny animal.
9. Close the cap again, shake a little more, and check out how slow or fast the glitter settles
10. Top it off and glue it shut
Once you are happy with the combination of glitter and glycerin you can add more warm water or glycerin and close the bottle for good!
Make sure to use SMALL AMOUNTS of gorilla glue because it expands and can leak down the edges of jar! (Also learnt from experience 😬 )
And there you have it!
Beautiful and calming mindfulness glitter jars.
I made a whole rainbow and my students love them. Enjoy 🙂
Don’t forget to grab the recipe and the Mindfulness teaching tips here:
(Post updated January 2020)
Need more activities for a rainy (or snowy) day with kids?