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DIY Glitter Sensory Jar (And Resistance Tunnel)

Warning: this is not food related!  And if you just want to see how to make a sensory glitter jar, just scroll down to the bottom!

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I’ve been thinking about talking a little more about my job on here.

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Obviously not about the specific kids or family that I work with (hi, HIPPA!), but just some things that I think could translate to the homes of you guys or the people you know. ¬†For those of you who don’t know, I’m a pediatric physical therapist. ¬†I work mostly with kids in Early Intervention (from birth up to three years old) and preschool aged (three years to five years old). ¬†On a rare occasion, I’ll work with older kids, but that’s usually just during the summers if I happen to be covering for a PT in a school district who works with school-age kids.

One of the very best things about my job is that I see kids in their “natural environments”–their homes, their preschools, their daycares, the park, the Museum of Play, the mall, the playground. ¬†Wherever we decide to meet. ¬†This means that I get to know the family and the other therapists really well (I often work closely with occupational therapists, special educators, speech therapists, social workers, autism program managers, etc). ¬†It really helps up build a team approach to working with their kids, because kids get way better at rolling, sitting, running, jumping, riding bikes, climbing stairs, playing on the playground, and more when we also address listening, communication, attention to task, and sensory regulation.

Cats need sensory regulation, too.

Cats need sensory regulation, too.

The number one question I get when people ask what I do is “what do kids need a physical therapist for?” ¬†If you have or know a child who gets services, then this probably seems really obvious, but most people picture PT as that place you go after you have knee surgery, or where your grandmother went for rehab after she broke her hip. I see babies and kids when they have developmental delays for unknown reasons (i.e they don’t start rolling/sitting/walking when expected), if they have genetic disorders that effect their ability to physically function (like Down syndrome), or other diagnoses that result in motor delays (autism, cerebral palsy).

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Anyway, I absolutely love my job. ¬†It can be incredibly challenging, exhausting, exciting, and fun. ¬†Part of the “fun” part is being creative and helping to figure out solutions to what can be very expensive for parents–learning how to problem solve with their kids. ¬†This glitter jar (sometimes called a “mind jar”) was by no means invented by me, but can help kids who have difficulty communicating their feelings or kids who respond really well to a different sensory input (visual, in this case) to calm down.

Shaking the jar makes a crazy whirling vortex of glitter (feeling angry/frustrated/overwhelmed/disregulated) that slowly falls to the bottom (feeling calm/regulated/organized). ¬†The glitter is mesmerizing to watch and can simply provide an external focus for a child who may be feeling unable to calm down on their own. ¬†Plus, it’s fun to shake.

A child without special needs could benefit from this, too. ¬†All kids will at some point have difficulty negotiating that crazy jungle that is emotional development. ¬†I would typically use this for two-to-five year olds, but hey–try it out for whomever! ¬†I’d use it with older kids, too, if they were in my caseload and it was appropriate. ¬†Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fritz bringing out a glitter jar for me during my more, ahem, excitable moments.

DIY Glitter Sensory Jar

Supplies Needed: 

  • watertight jar or container (I used a tall, skinny, widemouth mason jar)
  • clear glue (Elmer’s works)–you can use white glue if that’s what you have, the water will just be slightly more opaque
  • glitter–I used three small containers of glitter: gold, red, and purple for my jar. ¬†I like to have at least 3-4 tablespoons of glitter
  • water

Just combine the ingredients!  I start with 1-2 tablespoons glue (approximate, no need to measure precisely), then add glitter and water.  The more glue you use, the slower the glitter will settle as you increase the viscosity of the water.  For a child who needs a longer time to calm down, add a lot of glue.

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For kids who are likely to throw or drop the jar, use a clear plastic water bottle so you don’t need to worry about it breaking. ¬†I like the heaviness of the mason jar as additional sensory input, but I am usually right on top of the kids using it.

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Play it cool, man. ¬†It’s just glitter.

I also have to remember not to leave it in my car overnight for fear of freezing and/or bursting. ¬†It’s also normal for the water in your jar to turn the color of your glitter. ¬†NBD.

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Definitely try this a few times–novel items can also be stimulating for a child, so introducing it at a calm time first might be a good idea if your child overstimulates easily.

Resistance Tunnel

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¬†A¬†coworker of mine made a brilliant suggestion for a resistance tunnel that I thought I’d share because it’s just so, so easy. ¬†A resistance tunnel is used to build up core and shoulder girdle strength, and provides sensory input that may be either calming or exciting (not always in a good way) for a child. ¬†Basically, this tunnel is a long tube of jersey knit material that they creep (PT term for crawl) through. ¬†All you have to do is buy a yard or two of “circular knit” or “tube knit” material (I happen to know it will be 60%–normally $9.99 a yard–off for Black Friday at Joann’s), and that’s it! ¬†Once the tunnel gets overstretched out, chuck it in the wash and dryer and it will shrink back down again. ¬†The tube knit means you don’t need to sew it, and that there’s no seam that might be irritating for a child with sensory issues.IMG_7361

For the resistance tunnel, only use it with supervision and with a child who has the strength to safely navigate the tunnel (you can help if needed).  It can be scary to feel trapped in a tube of fabric, so show them how to help pull it open, or how to bunch it up to get through easier if necessary.

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Cat approved, as usual.

More food posts coming up, I promise!  Have a great Thanksgiving!

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.fullmeasureofhappiness.com/2014/11/23/diy-glitter-sensory-jar-and-resistance-tunnel/

10 comments

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  1. Kristen

    I think talking about work is a great idea!

    1. Lauren Zietsman

      :)

  2. Christine

    Perfect timing. My daughter, a high school AP History teacher, has several fidgety students for which she has been searching for self-soothing manipulatives. She found a pin-art box that has worked wonders, and she’s looking for more ideas. I told her about your glitter jar, and she’s going to give it a try with her students. Like you said, “Try it out for whomever!” Also, all your posts are great. But even better when I get to see Emerson and Henry annotated with your comments. Funny, Funny, Funny!

    1. Lauren Zietsman

      Hope it helps someone out!! And I’m glad you like the cat comments/pics…I know there’s some folks out there who like their food blogs cat-free (the horror!!$

  3. Jen M.

    I need this glitter jar in my life! I’m a second year pharmacy resident, and I know many colleagues *myself included* who will benefit from a swirly sparkly break :)

    1. Lauren Zietsman

      :) kinda makes me want a lava lamp to watch to help me relax! :)

  4. Erika @ One Fool Pie

    OMG!! I didn’t know you were back!! I’m soooo happy! You’ve been such an inspiration to me that I decided to open my own blog and I actually cried reading your goodbye post last year! Super happy now! I need to catch up with all of your post! :)

    1. Lauren Zietsman

      this is the best message ever! welcome back! I definitely decreased the frequency of my posting (once a week, usually) so it’s not totally the same! Off to read your blog now :)

  5. Florence

    Good luck, it’s a great job but sometimes, it’s hard. I knew Emerson is a good student!

  6. Nuts about food

    Catching up on some old posts and really enjoyed this. Want to try making the jar! I think it could be good for both my 5-yr old and my 9-yr old, and even for me ;o)