Here’s a fun activity I learned from my early childhood education professor in college for those times when you need something engaging, yet calming for the kiddos to do. We tried it out a couple of weeks ago with Spud.
You’ll need a LARGE jar (preferably glass), food coloring, a flat surface, and calm classical or other instrumental music (optional).
Fill the jar with cool to room temperature water and place on a flat surface—a table or the floor where everyone will be able to relax while they watch the jar. I prefer the floor, as it allows everyone to lay down, and a table has a tendency to get bumped by excited feet and hands. If possible, let the jar sit for several minutes before continuing to the next step.
Gather everyone around the jar, disturbing the water as little as possible. When everyone is settled, turn on the music and slowly drop a drop of each shade of food coloring into the water. You can do all of the colors at once or allow one color to settle a bit before adding the next.
Lay back, relax,
and watch the colors mix and move.
In all honesty, this only held my then-two-year-olds attention for about 5 minutes, but Cowboy and I enjoyed watching it for much longer. Spud probably would have focused on it longer, had I set it up right before his nap, rather than just after he got up.
I love that this activity is cheap, easy, has very little set-up time, and can be repeated numerous times. As children lose interest in the jar, you can extend the calm by leaving the music playing and providing paper and crayons, chalk, etc. for some drawing/coloring time inspired by the colors in the jar.