Kid's Calm Down Jar for VBS




Introduction: Kid's Calm Down Jar for VBS

For VBS this year we are including a module on 'Mindfulness.' The curriculum called for each child to make a 'Calm Down Jar' and then teach them how to use it. This is really a water bottle with glitter in water, soap, vegetable oil or some combination to make the glitter swirl in patterns.

Being dubious about this - kids, glitter, wet slimy oily mess - I went on line and found many references to using Calm Down Jars with children. Some people reported using this as a 'time out' tool. I also found references to therapists and parents having great success using Calm Down Jars with autistic or other special needs children.

Still I was a bit wary about making these with a large number of kids. Last year we had 75 children attend VBS - mostly from the surrounding neighborhood from families that don't attend our church - which is fine. We don't require people to be members for us to serve them.

(One mother confessed she was using us as free babysitting to get a few evenings to herself. I told her I thought that was great - she works hard raising kids 24/7, we have a lot of parent volunteers as well as our minister, some Elders and other congregants here, so let us worry about the kids for a while, go home, relax, and have a 'mommy juice box' ;) She laughed and seemed relieved. It made me feel good knowing we gave some parents some time to themselves)

Anyway, I decided to make a few prototypes and figure out what works best and ended up with vegetable oil for the swirl. It gave the best effect and is non-toxic (in case it gets broken).

Given the potential mess, I decided I would make them ahead of time for the kids. I showed my prototypes to a few parents at church and they liked them and agreed it was best to make these for the kids (thanks Stephanie and Carol!).

But hey, if you're feeling adventurous, go ahead and have 75 kids ages 5 to 13 do this. Let me know how that works out for you! LOL

Since this was going home with the kids, I thought a note to the parents with a link to this Instructable would be a good idea.

After 10 years of using this website, this is my first Instructable - so be kind ;)

Step 1: First - Supplies

Many of the references for doing this called for using Voss water bottles because they look nice.

Yep, they do.

At my supermarket Voss water bottles go for $2 each. No matter where I looked I couldn't these cheap enough to buy for 75 kids.

Besides if this gets opened it will be a HUGE mess.

So I decided I wanted something smaller for the kids and I'll just make one big one for demoing during VBS class.

Step 2: Smaller Supplies

I went absolutely crazy for days trying to find a smaller bottle that wouldn't cost a fortune by the time I bought 75. I looked everywhere I could think of online and in stores.

I almost bought some pill bottles on Amazon, but decided to save that as a last resort. I'm glad I did because I found a better solution.

Since I knew what else I needed, I decided to get everything else and start experimenting.

I walked all over Michael's craft store. I found a lot of great ideas but they were glass and I really wanted something plastic.

After walking around the whole store twice, going back and forth comparing different things several times my mind was spinning with no clear answer. I finally gave up and decided to get the glitter and go home.

There in the glitter aisle I found exactly what I needed GLITTER MIXING TUBES !!! - (well, duh on me).

They were six for $2 and were as cost effective as anything else I'd seen.

These are plastic so they probably won't break and are small enough to not be a huge mess if the do break - perfect!

I grabbed a few and went home and started experimenting.

I was worried they may not be tight enough to hold liquid, but it turned out they are!

Step 3: Glitter

I ended up taking home 4 different sizes of glitter in various more or less calming colors.

...a few notes about the glitter. I managed to spill some of the largest size glitter and learned a little glitter will end up all over the house after the Neeto bot-vac does its thing. Oh well, everything is a bit fabulous looking and shiny for a while.

I'm not going to take pictures of the failed experiments but I noticed no matter what liquid I tried, in the small jars, the big glitter just clumped and sank to the bottom.

Eventually I settled on a bit of the other three sizes of glitter for the small jars - which is good since I didn't spill any of those!

When I made the large demo bottle, I tossed in some of the larger glitter and it worked nicely there.

If you try this at home you are just going to have to experiment...

Step 4: Liquid

I tried a lot of different liquids. In desperation, I had some vegetable oil in the pantry so I tried using that. Bingo! I ended up using all I had and ended up buying more.

...some notes on liquid. There are many, many different ways to make Calm Down Jars on-line. I choose vegetable oil since it seemed to work best in the smaller jars. Being non-toxic I felt good about sending it home with the kids.

Here are some of the things I experimented with after researching online:

First, I tried making a small one with water and the glitter fell too fast.

Then I tried liquid hand soap (eh)

Then liquid hand soap diluted with water (still eh).

Then dish soap (surprisingly better).

Then liquid dish soap diluted with water (more eh).

In desperation I tried hand sanitizer (which I thought was brilliant) and that turned out to be a clumped mess of shiny ick.!

In the end vegetable oil was the clear winner. You'll need to experiment and decide what works best for you. There seems to be no perfect answer because it depends on the size of the bottle and the glitter.

Step 5: Add a Bead

I still wasn't 100% happy with how slow the glitter fell.

I had a bunch of pony beads left over from another VBS project so I tried throwing one into my experiments.


Got the exact swirl effect I wanted. Fast enough to not bore the kids, slow enough to be calming.

I tossed a few extra beads in the big jar. Play around with beads and some different shapes of glitter until you find something you like (I had no idea glitter came so many ways...).

Step 6: Add Glitter

After I put one bead in, I put a smidgen of the largest glitter I was using, then a tad bit more of the medium, and finally some of the smallest fine glitter.

In the end the smaller the glitter, the more I used.

WARNING - I learned early on that LESS is MORE. It is easy to add more glitter later. A tiny amount goes a looooooooonnnnnnnggggg way!

Step 7: Add Liquid

Carefully add vegetable oil (or whatever liquid you decide on).

I made a bit of a mess with this one (figures it's the one I'm taking a picture of) but usually had no problems.

You may want to do this over a sink or sheet pan.

Step 8: Cap It!

Tighten the cap and you are done!

Don't worry if you get an air bubble. It actually helps keep the glitter from clumping.

Pretty much the same process for the bigger one, except the largest glitter that I didn't use in the small ones worked out pretty good in the big one.

That's all there is to it. Simple really, just need to experiment with some trial and error.

We decided to use super glue when we closed the caps to help prevent any accidents.

Good luck! I have got another 70 or so to make. Let me know how yours comes out :)

1 Person Made This Project!


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4 years ago

Great! I made something like this for myself. There are many variations. Since I'm an adult, I used a wide glass (pickle) jar. I used water, so stuff (I used several things besides glitter) settles to the bottom rather quickly, but that's okay -- I swirl it around like a snowglobe! In a small but tallish bottle, you can turn it over... and over... and over... watching the glitter cascade. Or hold it on its side and tip it to swish it back and forth, back and forth... you are getting very calm... your eyelids are getting heavy... zzzzzzZZZZzzzzzz

For a major project with lots of kids, you might get a lot of larger containers by having church members save the bottles of things they normally use, or maybe pick a product that everyone would like to try!

Clear mineral oil might work very well, not sure of the cost, but it is also non-toxic, although a laxative (there are Natural Health sites that warn against it but for this use such concerns don't apply).

It might be interesting to try water with food coloring and oil, getting a 2-tone effect. Experiment with different tiny objects (at least different kinds of beads) and different oils or mixes of oils, and you might get stuff that floats in the middle, stuck between the oil and water interface. This can be seen in some commercial wave art desk top decorations.

I wonder what difference a few drops of a liquid or dish soap might make in one of these?

It might be interesting to try a large bead with a large hole in a small container with an inside diameter just slightly larger than the bead's.

If you can buy some fine ferrous (iron-based, steel, etc.) powder, or find some (it can build up under grinding wheels when sharpening blades, old copy machines used it in toner) and use that, it doesn't look like much but it's fun to take a magnet to it!


4 years ago

Love it! Thanks for sharing :)


4 years ago

This is great! I'm glad the color of the glitter is more powerful than the oil. You should enter this into the Colors of the Rainbow contest!