How can you teach kids mindfulness and help them learn to manage big emotions?
There are many ways to encourage kids to slow down and learn about their feelings. One of the most popular and effective ways is to make and use a glitter calm down jar.
Kids are constantly loud and noisy – this is normal. It’s nice to be able to help them calm down with things other than your voice from time to time.
I teach yoga and mindfulness to kids in a charter school, and…
We often have moments that are not so Zen.
How do we combat the craziness in a classroom?
Calm down glitter jars are one of my favorite ways to help kids find calm and to relax.
I made a few in my first year of teaching, 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.
It’s important to 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 feel 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 calmer.
- Watch until you can see through the jar again.
- We don’t want our feelings to disappear, but we don’t want them to block our view of what is really going on.
There are many different breathing techniques you can use with the calm down jar. We trace our fingers, blow out pretend candles, smell the “flower,” use a Hoberman Sphere, and more.
Check out this full list of breathing mindfulness techniques for kids here.
Here’s video of kiddos explaining mindfulness and how they use a calm down glitter jar to help them 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.
How do you make a mindfulness glitter jar?
- Get some chunky glitter
- Pour it into an empty bottle
- Add some fine glitter
- Pour in glycerin (or glitter glue)
- Add warm water
- Stir well with a few drops of soap
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 on one snow day this winter, and it was a huge success.
But you have to know a few key tricks to make them look really beautiful.
What do you need to make a calm down glitter jar for kids?
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 (although the cap may get a crack if it’s dropped, if you glue it shut, it won’t leak). 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.
Use a combination of fine and chunky pieces in every bottle for excellent results.
You can also use glitter glue, but it is not as pretty as these bright and differently shaped pieces.
This nail glitter works really well too and is also really chunky.
This is optional, but you can add a couple of drops to a few bottles. It depends on what colors you have and if you want to make some denser 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.
Glycerin (or Corn Syrup!)
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.
Corn syrup works really well too, and is a much cheaper and easier-to-find alternative. I like these options best because they are clear, which allows the glitter to show through better.After lots of comments and a few more trials, I have also had great success with Karo corn syrup! It is thick and clear, like glycerin, and a bit easier to find :). I get it at the grocery store in the baking aisle. The ratio is about the same as with the glycerin, maybe use just a bit more corn syrup.
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 runs down the edge of the bottle as it is drying!!
The free stuff is best, warm it up in the microwave in a glass bowl first or use hot water from the tap.
How to make a glitter jar for kids, step by step:
1. Prepare warm (not hot!) water.
You don’t want the water to be boiling when you pour it into 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.
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. It works well to 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 to 1/3 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. In 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, but it was 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 evenly 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. I just kept mine as is, but you can let the kids choose.
9. Close the cap again, shake it 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 the jar! (Also learned from experience 😬 )
This beautiful green and gold jar reminds me of St Patrick’s day and Ireland. I wrote a post on Celebrating Ireland with Yoga poses… check it out 🙂
And there you have it! How to make a mindfulness glitter jar for kids!
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:
Need more activities for a rainy (or snowy) day with kids?
- 10 Awesome Mindfulness Crafts for Kids
- Beautiful and Affirming Mindfulness Rocks for Kids
- DIY Zen Gardens for Kids
Also, check out my brand new Kids Yoga Games Bundle! Five different printable yoga games for kids with 24 pose images and descriptions.
(Post updated February 2023)