In my science class for kids, we make “discovery bottles” when studying chemistry. These are clear plastic bottles filled with liquid and glitter – when shaken the glitter swirls up and is suspended throughout the liquid, then it gradually settles back out. In this video, the glitter settles very quickly – if you want to slow it down and keep the glitter suspended longer, you can add glycerin, corn syrup or dish detergent to make the liquid more viscous.
Mindfulness bottles can be used in several ways:
A visual metaphor for escalated emotions: you can talk with a child about sometimes our feelings and thoughts get all stirred up – maybe we’re running late, and we spill our milk, and we can’t find our favorite toy – everything feels so chaotic and upsetting. If we can slow down and breathe for just a moment that helps de-escalate those big feelings.
A calm-down tool: When they’re feeling overloaded or escalated (in the yellow zone), they can shake the bottle, and then as they watch it settle, take some deep breaths to let go of the too-big feelings and too-busy thoughts and settle down.
Learning about the Brain: Heart Mind Kids says “You can use a glitter jar as a tool to explain how the brain works, in conjunction with the hand model of the brain. When your emotions are rising up, the brain (the bottle) floods with cortisol (the glitter) and you flip your lid (shake the bottle), losing access to the prefrontal cortex, its flexibility and reasoning capabilities. As you breathe, the cortisol dissipates (the glitter settles to the bottom of the bottle) and you feel calmer and the prefrontal cortex comes back online, making it easier to feel calm and make better decisions.”
Transition Tool: give to a child when one activity is winding down and it’s time to move on to the next. Having a moment with the glitter bottle may help them shift their attention and be ready to move on. These bottles can work especially well with some autistic children, helping them to focus and to calm down as the swirling glitter settles.
Timer: If you have one that takes a long time to settle, you can use it as a timer. “Shake the bottle, and when it settles down, then it will be someone else’s turn with the toy.”
Take a Break from Conflict: If some people are caught in an argument, talking over each other, have someone shake the bottle and everyone has to be quiet and breathe and calm down while the glitter settles.
Managing a VERY Bad Day. In the book Moody Cow Meditates (Video), a grandfather helps a young cow calm down by having him share all the bad things that happened that day, and as he shares each one, sprinkle a little glitter in a jar. Then he shakes them all up to see how he’s feeling now, and lets them all settle down. Note: this book is really long for a children’s book, and the first half is all about miserable stuff happening to a kid. I would probably just start reading in the middle, when Grandpa enters, introducing it to a child as “once there was a cow who was having a super bad day, just like you’re having right now.”
Find It game: Include one special item – maybe a heart shaped sequin or a star shaped sequin. When they shake it up, they then search / I-spy for that one special item in the swirling glitter. Good for increasing focus.
Fidget: Some people keep a bottle on their desk so when they’re distracted and need a brief brain break, they can shake it, watch it settle, then get back to work.
If you don’t want to make your own bottle, you can find lovely ones on Etsy, such as the photo at the top of the post, which is from TheCalmMom shop.