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  • Gina

The Ultimate Guide to Calm Down Bottles

In this blog post I will explain what a calm down bottle is, who it can benefit & what is needed to make one.

Head to our Instagram page to see more ways to practice self-regulation strategies at home or in the classroom! We love to see you play & share the joy of hands-on crafts & activities at home. Be sure to tag @aplayfilledlife on Instagram or Facebook if you try any of our ideas!!

XO Gina


What is a Calm Down Bottle?

A calm down bottle is my favorite tool to keep in my teacher & mama toolbox! It is a sealed, plastic bottle filled with glitter, glue & water that promotes mindfulness in children and adults. They can help bring you from a state of dysregulation to a state of regulation.


Mindfulness is when we pay attention to how we are feeling, in regard to our senses. Being mindful means, you are recognizing how you are feeling or how your body is reacting to things around you. Is your heart beating fast? Are your palms sweaty? Does your belly feel funny? Are your teeth clenched or are your cheeks red? Each of our bodies are going to react differently to our emotions.


Mindfulness is understanding what is going on in your brain. Are your thoughts racing? Are you thinking happy thoughts or sad thoughts? Mindfulness can help you process and handle big emotions.


When you practice mindfulness with tools like a calm down bottle, you learn to put space between yourself and emotions such as sadness, anger & disappointment. This doesn't mean you ignore or escape those emotions! It brings you to a place of calm where you can do just that!!! We can't properly process our emotions or brainstorm strategies/solutions when we are in a heightened sense of emotion.


How do they work for self-regulation?

The general gist is that when you focus in on the calm down bottle, you are shifting focus away from the big emotions that you are feeling. You are putting that space between yourself and the emotion you are feeling. Again, you are not ignoring them! It means that you are calming your body & breathing to a point where you are able to be receptive & present so that you can label, identify & process your emotions.


The glitter drifting down can be calming or exciting or a welcome distraction for a few moments.


What are the benefits of using a calm down bottle?

Using a calm down bottle promotes healthy social-emotional health. They can be used as a calming tool to teach self-regulation. They can help a child (or adult!) to identify & manage their feelings, focus on deep breathing & release big emotions. Using a calm down bottle can be an effective tool when modeled, taught & reinforced properly!


Calm down bottles support those with sensory sensitivities; they provide both visual & tactile stimulation. It is a mess-free way of engaging with colors, textures, shapes & reflections.


Calm down bottles can also be used as a timer. "Shake your calm down bottle! When the glitter reaches the bottom, it will be time to leave for school!"


Using a calm down bottle as a mindfulness tool has also been known to decrease stress, increase focus & improve academic success.


Who do they best support?

Research has shown that engaging in all types of sensory play has both educational and therapeutic benefits for both neurotypical and neurodivergent kids. They are all inclusive; they benefit everyone & there is NO wrong way to play with them!


What are the educational benefits?

While children explore calm down bottles, there are so many skills hard at work! As they twist, turn & shake the bottles, they are strengthening their fine & gross motor skills. The bottles are also so engaging! Watching the glitter slowly drift down can increase focus & attention, leading to enhanced cognitive development & academic achievement.


Depending on the glitter that you choose, children will also be exposed to a variety of colors, shapes & textures; this leads to incredible opportunities to learn & practice language & vocabulary words.


Don't forget the Science benefits. What is causing the glitter to float down slowly? Why does this glitter float to the ground faster? How can we make this bottle change colors? What happens when we add more or less glue?


Want to extend your learning?

  • Use letters, numbers or shapes inside of the calm down bottle!

  • Make an I-Spy bottle! (see post here!)

  • Make a glow-in-the-dark bottle

  • Make a set of rainbow jars & use them to introduce colors!

  • Small size bottles are a great way to introduce sensory play to babies, encourage tummy time or sitting.


How to introduce a calm down bottle:

  1. If your child is able, create the calm down bottle together. Not only does this give you something to do together that is special, but it allows them to have ownership over it. Let them pick their glitter, pour the glue/water & shake it up!!

  2. Once the jar is made, have the child shake it up & watch together as the glitter swirls & twirls around. Explain to them that the glitter is like our emotions, swirling around our bodies. Sometimes we feel happy, sad, mad or excited. It is OK to feel all of these things. Sometimes we feel lots of feelings at the same time!

  3. Spend some time identifying & labeling emotions. "Let's talk about times we feel happy. What about times when we feel angry? Download our FREE emotions poster here!

  4. Continue further, telling them that while it is OK to feel these emotions, certain things are not OK. Explain to them behaviors that are not acceptable in your home, these will be different for everyone, but some examples are:

  • It is OK to be mad. It is not OK to kick your brother.

  • It is OK to be excited. It is not OK to scream in the classroom.

  • It is OK to be sad. It is not OK to scratch me.

  • It is OK to be disappointed. it is not OK to throw things at people.

4. Take the calm down bottle & swirl it around, then place it on the floor or table in front of you. Watch as the glitter swirls around & floats to the ground. Comment how you are feeling as you watch it, what you notice & any changes you feel in your body.

5. Model using the calm down bottle yourself when you are feeling big emotions. Its OK to let children see us working through feelings as well!


Troubleshooting:

So you went through the steps when everyone was happy & calm & your child loved the bottle. Then, they had a big emotion & you handed it to them & they tossed it back at you...


Great news! You figured out that throwing is how they like to release BIG emotions. This tells us that using a calm down bottle at the beginning on a big emotion is not the appropriate tool.

What can you do instead? Give them a safe alternative to release that emotion. Let them throw a pillow at the couch, throw Pom Poms across the room or toss a ball outside. After the big burst, when they have calmed slightly, try introducing the calm down bottle again.


Remember, it takes consistency for any strategy to work!














Materials:

  • Plastic bottle with lid

  • Warm water

  • Clear glue

  • Glitter

  • Hot glue gun (optional)


How-to create the bottle:

  1. Using clear glue, or glitter glue if you have it, fill the bottle 1/4 of the way.

  2. If you used clear glue, add in your glitter now! You can use themed glitter or glue in your little one’s favorite color! 

  3. Fill the rest of the bottle with warm water. 

  4. Seal your bottle back up and shake well! If your bottle is not self-sealing or leaks once you put the top on it, add a little bit of hot glue to the rim of the bottle & twist shut.



Calm Down Bottle filler options:

  • Glitter (the finer the glitter, the slower it will fall)

  • Glow in the dark glitter

  • Small buttons

  • Pom Poms

  • Beads

  • Gems

  • Plastic letters or numbers

  • Sequins













APFL Tip for making a slow-moving calm down bottle:

  • Use a fine glitter. The finer the glitter, the slower it will fall.

  • Add more glue: try a 50/50 ratio to slow down the glitter.

Calm Down Bottle Considerations:

  • You get to decide what is safe & manageable in your home. Always monitor young children during use.

  • Always use a plastic jar to prevent it breaking.

  • This mixture cannot be ingested. Secure the lid by putting hot glue around the rim.

  • Check the bottle frequently for cracks or leaks.


Other ways to practice mindfulness at home or in the classroom:





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