First let me say that I had so much fun making these calm down bottles. It was truly a trial and error work of love. You will get sticky, there will be a mess. But you will also have so much fun! Honestly, the best part was shopping for all the materials. Who knew there were so many glitter options? Okay, let's get to it. Below are a few simple steps to make your own, water-based, calm down / sensory bottle. The first three steps help you gather what you need. Step five tells you how to make it.
Step 1: You can find really cool bottles online or at craft/hobby stores. Just make sure they are shatter proof, kid friendly, and have a lid you can glue closed.
Step 2: If you use glitter you will need another slow moving agent (see step 4). If you use glitter glue you should only need to add water.
Step 3: Choose what you want in your bottle. I personally like gems, sequins, light plastic floaty objects, etc. I wouldn't do anything that can rust. Find objects that weight different that way they fall at different times.
Step 4: If you use glitter you will need another slow moving agent like: Clear glue, clear hand soap, molasses, corn syrup, or even hair gel. If you use glitter glue just add water (put the water in first)! Ratio of the glue/slow moving content varies by preference and the size of your bottle. I like a 4:1ratio of slow moving agent to water (that way you can have room to adjust later). Leave a tiny bit of space on the top so you can add what you need later.
Step 5: Making the calm down bottle is easy. In a clean bottle, pour a little water then the slowing agent in carefully. Then the glitter (if you aren't using glitter glue). Add any other fun objects (e.g. sequins, plastic letters, extra glitter, etc.). Close the bottle (but don't glue it shut yet). SHAKE IT UP! How does it look? Too slow? Add water. Not slow enough? Add extra slowing agents. Needs more glitter, objects? Add it!
Tip: Each slowing agent you choose is different so you may have to add more or less. The easiest I have found to work with was clear hand soap and corn syrup.
If items clump together but it is still falling at the speed you like just know it may take a day or so for the items to mix thoroughly and not clump. You can always add a bit of water too. Once the items are falling at the preferred speed, secure the lid (now is a good time to glue it shut).
So that was fun right? But what is the purpose of a calm down / sensory bottle? Who can benefit from it and when is the optimal time to use it? I'm glad you asked!
The purpose is to help with self-regulation. To go from dysregulated to a more ready-state for learning/playing/communicating or whatever it is you are trying to do. If you (because let's be honest, we could ALL benefit from it too) or your child is feeling overwhelmed, find a quiet space and shake it. Focus on the falling glitter/objects. Focus on your breath. Repeat. One of my favorite games to do with the bottle is to find the dinosaur. I put one object that is different than the rest in my calm down bottle (the dinosaur) and the child shakes it until they can see it. Then they have to make it swim from one side of the bottle to the next.
But wait, I can hear you saying, "I tried these calm down bottles before and it doesn't work?" With anything it takes practice. While it's true that some people just don't respond to this calm down strategy, it can indeed work. Make sure your child knows the purpose of the bottle, why we use it, how to use it, how long to use it, where to use it, and what to do after we use it. It may seem like a lot of processing going on but with practice it will be automatic and you will reap the true benefits of the calm down bottle.
I hope you have a great time making them and an even better time using them.
Slowing agent (see above for some great examples)
Empty bottle with lid
Glue to secure the lid when you are finished
Floating objects (see above)
Food coloring (optional)