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Managing Meltdowns With a Time-Out Mind Jar

Updated: Sep 12, 2019

Our mind jar is placed on top of one of our favorite parenting books, "Listen: Five Simple Tools to Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges" by Patti Wipfler.

Host, parent educator, and mom of twins Kris Geering shares one of her favorite DIY tools to help soothe a frustrated mind: a mind jar.

I've used this with kids as young as three, and it's been pretty popular. My own kids made one with me when they were around three, and five years later we still use them at times when they need a little breathing space. They're one of my favorite tools.

The best thing about mind jars is that they're the ultimate "time-out" timers when time-outs are being used in a connecting way. A time-out is when you remove yourself from a situation that is stressful or overwhelming, collect yourself and calm down, so that you can go back in. Adults use time-outs all the time, right? Think of a time when you got really mad at your partner or a colleague. Chances are good that you walked away, took a coffee break, or went for a walk. Later, you were able to go back to the person and (hopefully) reconnect. Those are the skills we need to be teaching our kids.

Instead, we often use time-outs with children as a punishment. What they learn is that when they get overwhelmed or have strong emotions, we don't want to be with them. That they deserve to be isolated. And isolation isn't the best tool to use with humans, given we're social creatures. What works better is to teach our kids that strong emotions are okay, but there are strategies for calming them down if they get overwhelming or cause problems. Then they know we're on their side, no matter what.

When you make your mind jar, you can adjust it so the sparkles settle at the rate you want. For younger kids you probably want that rate to be pretty fast, like maybe a couple of minutes at most. For older kids (or adults) you might want it to be longer, like maybe 5-10 minutes. When we do the mind jar together with our kids, we teach them that everyone has their thoughts scatter sometimes, and that there are ways to calm themselves down that can still feel connecting and supportive.

Why it works:

The mind jar helps to introduce a mindful practice into your family. If your child practices this on a regular basis, including the breathing, watching the sparkles, and imagining their thoughts settling, it will be easier to calm yourself down after the meltdown has come or even better, to prevent it from happening in the first place. That's why using a mind jar as a time-out is a positive alternative to sending your child to a corner or their room. While the mind jar is a great tool, it is definitely should not be introduced while a meltdown is happening . It can be introduced after the storm has passed or better still, used on a regular basis .


1 glass jar (with a lid, any size will do)

hot water (near boiling)

cold water

clear glue or glitter glue for better results


dish soap (one drop)

long stick or spoon (for stirring)


  1. Pour hot water into jar, filling it about halfway.

  2. Next, stir in the glue. The more glue you put in, the more time it will take for the sparkles to settle. The more water, the less time it will take.

  3. When you have the consistency you think you want, add a little more glitter (the more glitter, the more thoughts to settle!). Then put in enough cold water to fill the jar. Add one drop of dish soap (I use Dawn). Place the lid on tightly, shake, and see if you like the rate at which it settles. If it's too slow, no problem. Take the lid off, pour some out, and add a little more hot water. Too fast? Take the lid off, pour a little out and add more glue.

  4. Some people like to glue the lid on, but I like having the option of changing it later. I also recommend glass over plastic since it uses hot water. Mason jars tend to be very sturdy.

  5. Mix up the colors or stick with one theme, but no matter which way you go, have fun and change up the way you handle time-outs.

App Tip

If you liked the activity above, be sure to head back into your app to get more. We believe an important part of learning is doing. Therefore, inside of each kit are many activities that you can try on your own or with your family. Each block within a kit has two parts. Part A in each block is to learn by listening to an episode and/or reading the articles. We recommend doing both. Part B is to build your parenting skills with the relevant activities.

Ready to go, parents? Let’s go check out the app! Your journey toward more insightful parenting is just a hop, skip, and a jump away.

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