I am fortunate to be the mother of a sweet, happy, energetic little girl…but she is also two-years-old and they do not call this age “terrible” for nothin’. If I put myself in her tiny, little ballet slippers, I can imagine what it must be like to be her. The world is so big and amazing. Her brain is like a sponge and her heart is full of such varied, complex emotions. At the same time, she lacks the precise vocabulary to express what she sees, feels, and understands. Thus, frustration ensues and suddenly she is on the fast train for Meltdown City.
A typical visit to Tantrum Town (another stop on that speedy locomotive) involves my daughter witnessing something awe-inspiring. This could be watching how bubbles form upon boiling water or finding a mother rabbit nursing her baby bunnies in a parking lot.
She wants to describe to me every detail of what she sees. She wants to explain each and every emotion she is experiencing. Although her vocabulary is growing exponentially daily and although she has a wide knowledge of sign language, it is not enough. She does not have all the words she needs and so her face begins to scrunch and turn from rosy pink to deep red to eggplant purple. She starts to whimper, then cry, then full-on wail.
Sometimes I do not have the faintest idea of what she saw that was so miraculous. The toilet flushing? Something on t.v.? A noise outside? I would list every thing I could think of like some kind of game of toddler charades where, instead of her acting out phrases on a card, she just shakes her head and wails, “Noooooooooooooo…Mama!” What, I ask you, is more frustrating than feeling like you are not being understood?
I needed to take action. It is hard seeing your baby in emotional distress. It is also frustrating being a parent and not being a crystal ball wielding, mind reading fairy godmother. At a loss, I turned to Pinterest. I may have searched “crystal ball” and/or “toddler secret decoder ring”. It turns out that these inventions do not exist. But, sensory bottles do! Voila…just the magic potion for curing toddler tantrums that I was looking for!
Here is how to make your magic potion (no cauldron is necessary):
- Get VOSS Plastic Bottles Why Voss? The cylindrical shape is perfect for sensory bottles. Why plastic? Toddler plus glass? That is a recipe for disaster!
- Drink the water and clean out the bottle. Then, add glitter glue. I like this Variety Set of Glitter Glue
- Add glitter. I like this Variety Set of Glitter because it comes in a variety of colors and it is prepackaged into neat little satchels for no measuring and no clean up.
- Add any other sensory items of your choice. I chose this Snowflake Confetti to create Frozen themed bottles (of course).
- Fill the rest of the bottle with water and seal cap with superglue or wrap cap with duct tape.
- Shake it up
Here is how it works (no magic wand necessary):
- When your toddler takes that first step aboard the tantrum train, take their hand and bring them to a quiet, distraction free place. Distractions are like adding coal to fuel that train. This is not a punishment. It is time and space to decompress.
- Hand your toddler the magical sensory bottle.
- Allow your toddler to shake it up. It is beautiful to watch, but also stress relieving.
- Explain to your toddler that when all the floating pieces float to the bottom, they will feel settled down, too.
- Once your child has calmed, ask him/her to use their words (and signs) to tell you what they saw, did, or felt that was upsetting. We like to end with a hug.
It is like magic, the storm inside the bottle calms, and so does your toddler. This is not to say that you may have to repeat the process multiple times. My daughter and I will sit on the stairs and sometimes shake and calm several times before I get the whole story. We also both practice taking some deep breaths. The important thing is that my daughter knows that I am validating her feelings and I care about what she has to say. Laying the foundation for true communication is where the true magic lies, but the sensory bottles sure do help!