Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Mindfulness Bottles in the Classroom

For years, preschool teachers and homeschool families have used mindfulness bottles (also called 'sensory' and 'calming' bottles) with their students.  They use mindfulness bottles to help a child who is experiencing anxiety or other overwhelming feelings to calm their emotions.  What are mindfulness bottles and how are they made?  How are they used?  How can they be used in the classroom? Read on to learn the answers to these questions! 

How to Make a Mindfulness Bottle

What Is a Mindfulness Bottle?

A mindfulness bottle is a sealed water bottle or jar that is filled with liquids and small items to create a sensory experience for toddlers and school-aged children.  Mindfulness bottles use the senses... sight (watching the shapes and colors flowing together), sound (hearing the water sloshing and the glug-glug-glug sounds in the bottle, and touch (feeling the weight of the bottle and fidgeting with the bottle in your hands)... to promote grounding, self-soothing, and slow breathing when emotions run high.  They are good tools for children to use when they are 'feeling bad.'

Mindfulness Bottles in the Classroom

As teachers and parents, we work hard to create positive learning environments for the children we work with.  We utilize teaching strategies to meet their individual learning needs while knocking out curriculum objectives.  We often have 25+ children in our classes and are with our classes up to 8 hours per day.  Despite our best intentions and efforts, there will be times when the children feel overwhelmed and their emotions will run high.  Sometimes, they will misbehave because of it.  When this happens, we need to implement strategies to help the child reach a state of relaxation where he / she will be able to think and behave more effectively.

Sending children to time-out when they misbehave is a traditional... and controversial... punishment used by parents and teachers alike.  Children get sent to time-out because their behavior is disruptive and inappropriate.  Too often children go to time-out in an isolated part of the room and are left to stew in their emotions with no means to diffuse them.  Handing a mindfulness bottle to a child and sending him / her to time-out does next to nothing if you don't teach a child how to use it to feel better.  

(I don't want to get into the pros and cons of time-outs and whether or not they should be used.  That is a conversation for another day.)

Russel Barkley Quote

Some important things for you to remember:

  • Time-out for the sake of a time-out is punitive and only teaches children that they will be punished if they get caught.  If you use time-outs ask yourself how you can turn time-out into a meaningful learning experience.
  • In many instances, a child's misbehavior is the symptom of a deeper problem, not the problem itself.
  • Children need to know that their feelings are normal.  We can't control our feelings, but we can control how we behave when we feel a certain way.
  • Children need to know that they are still good children and worthy of love, even when their behavior is inappropriate.  Sometimes good children make bad choices.
  • We teach children to recognize numbers, letters, words, math facts, etc.  We also need to teach them how to recognize their emotions.  Recognizing emotions and having words to express how you feel are skills that needs to be taught.
  • Children need to be taught different strategies to self-soothe and ground themselves.
  • Children need to be taught how to handle a mindfulness bottle and how to use their senses to focus on it to calm their emotions.  This is a good time to introduce the importance of slow breathing.
  • If you decide to send someone to time-out, do NOT point to the time-out area and shout GET TO TIME-OUT NOW!  That is punitive, embarrassing to the child, and causes emotions to escalate.  Instead, validate the child's emotions calmly and sincerely... 'Sweetie, I know you are feeling overwhelmed and upset right now and that you didn't mean it when you said you hate me.  Grab a mindfulness bottle, go to the back of the room, take a break and breathe for a bit.  When you are feeling better, come on back and join us.  Then we can talk about your feelings when I'm done with this lesson.'
  • Children need to be reminded... You are still OK... even if your behavior was not. 💗

How to Make a Mindfulness Bottle

Making a mindfulness bottle is easy and requires very few materials.  If you choose to make these bottles with young children, stay close to them, and assist as needed.  Although these bottles are easy to make... they can become messy if anything spills!

You will need:

  • empty plastic bottle
  • bottle of baby oil (store brand is OK)
  • glitter
  • fun trinkets
  • food coloring
  • water
  • super glue

How to Make a Mindfulness Bottle

Step One

Fill the bottle to the halfway point with water.  (I like to use Karma water bottles for this because the caps make a soothing glug-glug-glug sound whenever they get tipped.)  Then fill the bottle almost to the top with baby oil.  Congrats!  You just made a mindfulness bottle in its simplest form!

How to Make a Mindfulness Bottle

Science time!  What do you see happening?  The baby oil and the water don't mix because one is denser than the other. Water has more density than baby oil, so it stays on the bottom.  Baby oil has less density than waterso it floats on top of the water.  Even when you tip the bottle, shake it, roll it on the table, etc. the water and baby oil will always separate from each other... one on top and one on the bottom.  

How to Make a Mindfulness Bottle

Step Two

You are now ready to add your glitter and trinkets.  There is no right or wrong way to embellish your mindfulness bottle.  If you like a lot of glitter, go for it.  If you like seashells, go for it.  For my mindfulness bottle, I chose silver glitter and heart-shaped buttons.  

How to Make a Mindfulness Bottle

There is something soothing and calming about the clear liquid, the hearts, the glitter, and the glug-glug-glug in this bottle.  Add embellishments that are aesthetically pleasing to you.

How to Make a Mindfulness Bottle

Step Three

Add one drop of food coloring if you'd like.  If you add food coloring, you will see the water turning colors while the color of the baby oil stays the same.  Caution!  Only use one drop of food coloring at a time!  You can always add more food coloring to make the water darker, but it will difficult to lighten the color of the water without having to start over. For example, I don't really like the purple color I created.  To me, it's too dark because I added too many drops of blue.  I wish I had left well enough alone and not added them.  This purple is not a bad color; it's just not what I wanted.  Oh well... live and learn. 

How to Make a Mindfulness Bottle

Step Four

Before handing your mindfulness bottle to a young child, use the super glue to secure the cap.  Use enough super glue to keep that cap from coming off and to keep the liquid from leaking out.  If this mindfulness bottle were to break open on the carpet, the glitter and food coloring would make a huge mess.  Do yourself a favor and glue this bottle up!

How to Make a Mindfulness Bottle

Do you use mindfulness or sensory bottles in your classroom? How do you use them with school-age children? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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  1. This is such a great way to help the kid calm down while in time out. I'll have to try this out.

    1. Hi Katie. Thank you for your comment. If you do try out using a mindfulness bottle like this, I'd love to hear how it worked for you! <3