Getting your kids to calm their thoughts

This is a great tool I use in my mindfulness sessions with kids as it enables me to explain mindfulness in a clear and easy-to-understand way – the calming thoughts jar.

I’ll outline at the end how to make one as it’s super easy to do – glue, glitter, water, jar essentially. But I wanted to explain further why it’s useful as a calming tool for your kids.

How to explain it

So in my classes I get the kids in a circle, hold up the jar and swirl it around. The viscosity of the water means it swirls for longer and settles down slower so creates a good analogy for me to use. I ask the kids what’s happening in the jar – they tell me the glitter and stars are whirling around. I then set the jar down in the middle of the circle and ask them what’s happening. They sit watching it for a few seconds and tell me that the glitter is slowing down.

So I tell them that, like the calming thoughts jar, our minds can become very busy, our thoughts swirling around too quickly and this sometimes means we can not think clearly. However, if we settle down, just be quiet and still for a bit then, like the glitter in the jar, our minds will start to settle down and be calmer too.

Why it’s useful

This helps us listen to our feelings more easily so we can work out problems and talk about whatever is causing us to feel this way. It also helps us to be more focussed as our minds are clearer to listen and pay more attention – which is really useful for learning in school.

At this point I normally lift up the jar to the light where we can see the clear water and all the glitter contents settling on the bottom and ask the kids to tell me what they see. The penny has normally dropped at this point and they are able to explain to me that the water is a metaphor for our clear minds (well maybe not using the word metaphor but you never know!).

Using it in the home

I like the calming thoughts jar as I not only use it as a tool in my mindfulness classes but it’s a great point of focus to calm your child in any situation. If your child is feeling anxious or upset, focussing on the movement in the jar turns the thoughts away from the mind’s chatter. If your child is bouncing off the walls from too many M&M’s, can’t ever sit still and you want to give him or her a practical way to ‘meditate’, the calming jar is a great way to focus their minds. The act of having to slow down and watch the jar is a way of getting your child to sit quietly and calm down.

It’s always useful if you can get your child to reflect on how the calming thoughts jar made them feel. Using this as an illustration of how they self-regulated shows them they have the tools to help themselves with their own emotions when they need to.

How to make one

Jar – obviously take care if you use glass and you decide to let your kids play with it. You can always use plastic bottles as an alternative (and a good way to reuse our plastics).

Clear glue – to give the water viscosity.
Glitter glue – I got a couple of different coloured tubes.
Extra glitter.
Larger glitter shapes.
Food colouring.
Warm water.
Something to whisk it up with (I used a barbecue stick!).

8 Easy steps…

  1. Pour glue and warm water into the jar and whisk.
  2. Add the glitter glue – I just kept adding and whisking until I got the right consistency
  3. Add glitter shapes and more glitter (a different colour for interest) to give the contents more texture
  4. Add a couple of drops of food colouring.
  5. Lid on and give it all the good shake
  6. See if you like how it swirls – just keep adding until you’re happy
  7. Let it cool
  8. Secure lid on top otherwise you’ll have yourself a big glittery mess!

Making time together

I made mine with the kids as doing it together gave me a chance to explain why we were making it and get their buy in. It also got them to sit down and pay attention – the act of making something, slowing them down, getting them to chat, use their creative skills and focus on the task in hand – a mindful exercise in itself.

So, happy making

Please post any pictures of your calming thoughts jars on my FB page or instagram and any reflections you had about the exercise.

I’d love to hear how it went.