These funky little relaxation jars are so easy to make and are wonderful visual aid for helping kids calm themselves when they're feeling anxious or overwhelmed.
They're a popular aid for parents but we have also included the instructions in our primary/elementary school curriculum to encourage teachers to use them in the classroom.
You will need
- a medium size jar with a tight-fitting lid or plastic drink bottle
- a jug (if using a bottle)
- glitter glue (about 20%)
- extra glitter (different colours and sizes)
- water hot enough to dissolve the glue (about 80%)
- food colouring and glue (optional)
- a whisk or stirrer
Fill your jar with water until it's about 3/4 full. Squeeze in your glitter glue (the more glue, the slower the glitter falls but be careful not to add too much or it won’t move), extra glitter and a few drops of food colouring if you're using it. Whisk or stir until the glue has dissolved and screw the lid on tightly. Give it a good shake to see the effect and add more glitter if needed. Once you're happy with the result and how long the glitter takes to settle, top up the jar with water. Once it's cool, screw the lid on tightly. You might like to glue it shut if you’re concerned about little hands being able to undo it.
If using a drink bottle, mix your ingredients in a jug and pour in when the water is cool enough not to melt the plastic.
How to use with younger children
Shake the jar and explain to your children that their minds are sometimes full of thoughts that spin around madly inside their head just like the glitter in the jar. Sometimes these thoughts create strong feelings like anger, sadness or anxiety, and that’s okay, but it’s best to calm down before they take control. Explain that during such times, most people also tend to breathe a lot faster than normal which isn’t good for their bodies.
Use the jar when the class is unsettled or individually with children who are upset. Have them sit quietly concentrating on the swirling glitter and being aware of their breath, breathing in slowly and deeply while they watch. If they’re still unsettled when the glitter stops, shake the jar again to give them a little more time to relax.
You can also use the jar as a timer when you practice mindful breathing with your children asking them to focus on their slow steady breath until the glitter settles.
Mind jars can also be a wonderful alternative to time out.
How to use with older children
Show students the jar with the glitter settled at the bottom. Explain that the jar represents their head, the water their mind and the glitter their thoughts, worries, memories etc. While their thoughts (glitter) are calm and quiet at the bottom of the jar, their mind (water) is clear and they are able to focus. Shaking the jar and creating a clouded, swirl of thoughts and emotions (glitter) is representative of their mind during times of stress and anxiety. They may have noticed when in such a state that it’s difficult to see things clearly and their breathing becomes shallow and rapid which causes distress to the body.
Explain that the simple act of paying attention to their breath and slowing it down while they watch the glitter slow down in the jar can be a very powerful exercise. When their mind is focussed on the jar and taking slow, deep breaths it takes the focus off their thoughts and emotions and the brain chatter reduces.
We recommend keeping your jar in a corner of the classroom where students can quietly slip away to calm themselves when they need to.