Children Can Practice Calming Down By “Shakin’ It Up”

Stubborn Refusals and Temper Tantrums Wear Everyone Out

Sometimes children’s emotional storms and “cheerful to tearful” in 10 seconds flat can tire adults out.   A tantrum over putting on boots?  Wailing when a tower piece won’t fit or sobbing over who was “there first”?  It becomes exhausting and frustrating for everyone when children struggle with anger, disappointment, and other “big” feelings.

From an adult perspective, we think, “Really? All this drama over putting on boots?  Just put the boots ON!”

Some Children Need to Learn HOW to Calm Down

These struggles look a lot like  intentional defiance.  However, some children are more emotional by nature than others.  And some children need more help learning how to handle big feelings.  In the words of one sweet child, “Sometimes when I’m in the middle of a mad, I just can’t get out.”

Good news!  Adults can help children master this important life skill.  The fieriest four year old can learn to manage her feelings and think before acting.  The fiercest five year old can derail a rising temper and choose to stay calm.

Studies on brain development show that every time children successfully regain self-control after “losing it”, the neural pathways supporting this capability are  strengthened.  When caring adults teach children a “go-to” method that will help them calm down, children can learn over time to  maintain self-control when strong feelings build up.

 A Calm Down Process That Works for  Young Children

Adults can teach children three basic Calm Down  steps:

  1. Take 3 deep breaths
  2. Count to five slowly
  3. Say “calm down, calm down”

Tell children that everyone gets upset and has BIG feelings sometimes.  And everyone needs to learn ways to settle down.  Like any new skill, children will need to work at using the calm down steps.  Practice makes better.

Providing a focus point like this calm down jar can make practicing the Calm Down steps more engaging for children.  Shake up the jar and encourage children to take slow, deep breaths as they watch the glitter slowly float to the bottom of the jar.

calm down jelly jar
The Calm Down steps on the jar help children remember what to do…
jelly jar settling
…until thoughts and feelings on the inside settle down.


Practice Calming Down Together

Practice the steps together regularly – when getting ready for nap or bed-time or in the car, for example.  Use the steps yourself when needed – not only will it set a great example, but you will feel calmer too!   Over time, with gentle guidance, children will be able to use the steps on their own and successfully manage their big feelings. Life will be more pleasant for you and the children, as this important life skill paves the way for increasing self-discipline.

Steps To Make Your Own Calm Down Jar

While we would love to claim the idea of the glitter jar – we found many versions on Pinterest, created for a variety of uses. We think the glitter floating to the bottom of the jar serves as a useful visual reminder to help children settle their own strong feelings.  There were so  many recipes to choose from – it was hard to know which were easy and safe.  We did some  experimenting with the recipes so you don’t have to.

  • Clean a jar or bottle inside and out (glass is prettier, plastic is safer)
  • Add 3-4 ounces of glitter glue
  • Fill up 1/3 of the way with REALLY hot water
  • Shake until glue melts and glitter separates
  • Add water to the top
  • Super glue or hot glue the lid on

Use really hot tap water (but not boiling) or clumps will form.  Once formed, clumps don’t seem to dissolve.  Ever.  Add corn syrup to slow down glitter movement.

I Calm Down jar settling
I Calm Down Jar settled
“so you can calm down.”












Free Printable Calm Down Steps!

We pasted Calm Down steps on the jar.  Click here to print these for your jar.  The “I Calm Down”  and the “I Stop and Think” stickers are available in the AcornDreams store and can be a helpful reinforcement for children practicing calming down.

mini calm down jar
2″ bottle – travel size?
sports bottle calm down jar
Sports drink bottle.


I Stop and Think sticker
Stop and Think Sticker on the lid – helpful reminder.


How do you think your children would respond to a calm down jar?


4 Replies to “Children Can Practice Calming Down By “Shakin’ It Up””

  1. As the parent of an almost 4 year old who sometimes struggles with calming down, I think the strategies suggested here to help children control their emotions are very effective. We use some of these already and will try the others soon. Thanks very much for sharing them.

    1. Glad to hear that you are already having some success. Please keep us posted as you try new strategies. We look forward to hearing from you!

  2. I learned about this idea in an Al’s Pal refresher training. I plan to use this strategy in school next week to help my students to calm down when experiencing big feelings.

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