Easy DIY Calm Down Bottles

calm down bottle

Ever heard of a calm down bottle, calming bottle, sensory bottle or timeout bottle? Well, they’re all basically the same thing and shockingly easy to make. Buddy, Pap (my dad) and I decided to give it a shot and made two using corn syrup and the third using baby oil.

(Heads’ up! This post contains affiliate links.)

Calm Down Bottle Backstory

You know that feeling when you’re so upset that you just CAN’T EVEN? Your chest gets all constricted and even though stomping your feet and screaming won’t help anything, you just can’t help yourself? No? Yea, me either…

But I imagine this is what it’s like for Buddy when he is upset. It doesn’t happen often but when he’s unhappy, it can be hard to get him out of it. We’ve tried breathing, hugging Teddy Bear and squeezing hands but when he’s really mad he doesn’t want to do any of it. I was trying to come up with other ideas for calming down and came across the Preschool Inspirations blog. She had a TON of different bottles and they looked pretty cool so I decided to give it a shot.

I’ll be honest, I’m not totally convinced Buddy will be interested in these bottles when it’s time to calm down. But they were really fun to make! And since he did most of the work, I think that increases our chances.

Making the Calm Down Bottles

This project was done on a whim and I didn’t spend a lot of time looking for the best way to do things. I wanted Buddy to do it with me and thought it would be more fun to experiment with him than to have set instructions. (Yes, that is code for “I’m too lazy for thought” but you have to admit, it sounded pretty good.)

Materials calm down bottle

Materials we used:

Corn syrup
Baby oil
Super glue
Food coloring
Clear plastic bottles

NOTE: We found Sparkle Ice at The Dollar General for $1 each. I like them because the bottles are skinny and easy to hold. Preschool Inspirations recommended Voss water bottles because they have a wider opening. Next time I try this, I’ll probably go for Voss but I didn’t feel like going out of my way to look for them. The Sparkle Ice bottles worked just fine – we didn’t have beads big enough for the opening to be a problem.

Beads can get kind of expensive if you’re looking for something specific. But you can find cheap pony beads just about anywhere. I used alphabet beads because Buddy is learning his letters and has been really into picking them out. I thought it would be cool for him to find different letters in his bottles.

We did two types of bottles because I wanted Buddy to see how different ingredients created different mixes. The corn syrup mixes with the water and slows down the items in the bottle. After shaking the bottle, you can watch the glitter and beads slowly float to the top. It’s actually pretty calming. Hence the name.

The baby oil bottle is my personal favorite. I think it’s cool to watch the oil and water separate. The glitter stays with the water so you can make some glittery tornadoes if you spin the bottle just right. If you wanted to get really fancy, you could get oil-based food coloring to color the oil and make two-toned bottle. I didn’t have any on hand to try but I’ve used Wilton brand in the past for candy. It’s not too expensive and can be found in most grocery’s baking aisles.

Bottle Making Steps

Empty and clean the plastic bottle. Turtle and Buddy had the honor of dumping our four bottles of Sparkle Ice into a pitcher. Buddy dubbed it to be our “special activity drink” which we enjoyed while making the bottles. I rinsed them with soap and water so they didn’t smell or grow anything later.

  1. Remove the label from the bottle. Nothing brings my children greater joy than removing labels from bottles. They ripped the labels off and I used Goo-Gone to remove the stick.
  2. Tape down paper for easy cleaning. Especially if you have leaves in your kitchen table! It’s no secret glitter is a mess. If you’re doing this inside, take steps to make clean up easy. I wouldn’t judge you if you put paper down on the floor, too.
  3. Add stuff. We were flying by the seat of our pants and didn’t really think through the order in which stuff should be added. Here’s what I would recommend:
    • For corn syrup bottles, put some water in the bottle (maybe 1-2 inches) then add food coloring, beads and glitter. The more syrup you put in the bottle, the slower your items will be. We did 2 corn syrup bottles: the first was too watery and the second was too syrup-y. I think a good ratio would be about 80% syrup.
    • For baby oil bottles, put the water in first. We did 50/50 but you could do whatever ratio you want (just know the oil and water will separate). Add your stuff to the water and then top the bottle off with baby oil.
    • No matter what style bottle you do, make sure to leave about 2 inches at the top for room to shake.
  4. Super glue the lid. This is key. You don’t want dyed corn syrup all over your carpet or upholstery. The stuff looks nasty.
  5. Dance party to celebrate your awesomeness. This step is optional. Buddy thought our bottles were cool enough to deserve a dance party, so I figured I’d add it in here.
calm bottle beads

Adding the beads.

calm bottle add oil

Adding the baby oil.

calm bottle add syrup

Adding the corn syrup.

Lessons Learned

The number one thing I would have done differently is fill the bottles up less. Our prettiest bottle has too much corn syrup and is filled too high to really shake. I considered pouring some of the liquid out before super gluing the lid but decided not to because the kids wanted to play with it.

It’s worth noting the lighter you color the liquid, the better you will be able to see the beads in the bottle. Buddy really likes to mix colors and when he’s got the food coloring, everything ends up black. They’re his bottles and he likes it that way, so I didn’t push it. But if I had my druthers, I would go easy on the food coloring.

I might also recommend doing this outside if the weather is nice enough. But, surprisingly, the mess wasn’t too bad. I see specks of glitter here and there in the kitchen but we did a pretty good job of containing it.

Overall, I give this activity an A. It’s easy enough that Buddy could take the reigns on the creative part. But challenging enough to require some good teamwork. Plus any time we get Pap to play with glitter, it’s a win.


What do you think? Would you make a calm down bottle with your child(ren)? Do you think watching the glitter and beads settle will help your child calm down?