Bubbles can be fun for adults and children alike and be used to create a shared playful and joyful activity. They can spark curiosity, be exciting, motivate experimentation and exploration and create opportunities for interaction and anticipation. Bubbles provide a point of focus and can help to cultivate mindfulness. Blowing bubbles can have a calming impact on the nervous system and watching bubbles can also be calming. This guidance shows you how to facilitate emotionally nurturing activities both for people who are able and unable to blow bubbles themselves.
What you need
Bubble solution (store bought or homemade) and a bubble wand.
For homemade solution use washing-up liquid and water at a ratio of 1:6 parts.
For example, to make 350ml of bubble solution use:
50ml washing-up liquid
- Measure the washing-up liquid into a container, such as a jam jar or glass bottle.
- Slowly add in the water, being careful not to create too many bubbles at this stage.
- Gently stir the mixture together to combine.
- If possible, let the bubble mixture rest, preferably overnight before using it, as it will make your bubbles even better.
- Add 1 tbsp glycerine to the recipe above to make the bubbles stronger and last longer. Glycerine can be found in the baking section of most major supermarkets.
- To make bigger bubbles make a larger amount of the mixture in a washing-up bowl – then you can use bigger items, like colanders and slotted spoons, to make bubbles in the garden.
- A bubble machine
- A food processor
- Food colouring
If you don’t have a wand from a store-bought pot of bubbles, you can use various items from around the house such as:
- Biscuit cutters
- Pipe cleaners bent into shape
- Fly swatters
Guidance and instructions
If the person is able to blow bubbles themselves:
Blowing bubbles can help to manage anxiety. Exhaling slowly is calming and blowing bubbles is a way to slow down and lengthen the outbreath. Controlling our breath helps us regulate our nervous system and our emotions and can relieve stress and tension. When we blow into the bubble wand and watch bubbles coming out, we also learn first-hand about cause and effect, and crucially have a feeling of success and achievement.
- Show the person how to blow bubbles if they need some help. The better the bubble mixture is, the easier this will be for them to do. Try out different types of bubble wands to see what is best for them.
- Support the person as much as they need to be able to enjoy blowing bubbles, watching them, chasing them, blowing them around, catching and popping them.
- Play with the possibility of making a stream of bubbles (this requires a long, slow, steady exhalation which activates the parasympathetic nervous system and is calming).
- Bubbles can also be blown using a straw in a glass of water, if safe to do so.
- Remember to allow the person as much freedom to explore as they choose as possible. This activity will be most beneficial if approached in a playful way. Support the person as necessary, show them some ideas of things that they can do, such as catching the bubbles, and join in with them, but do so in a non-directive manner. There is no goal other than enjoyment and feeling in a better emotional state.
If the person is unable to blow bubbles themselves:
Bubbles provide a stimulus that motivates movement and supports development. Interacting with bubbles as they float by develops our sense of how close we are to the bubble, allows us to practice how to reach out and touch, and to learn how much effort it takes to pop it. These abilities can develop and contribute towards a sense of achievement and self-esteem. Even if the person cannot blow bubbles themselves, there are a number of ways they can be used:
- They may be able to blow bubbles that have been produced by you or a bubble machine when they are in the air.
- Watching you blow bubbles can be calming and soothing.
- You can support the person to explore bubbles by catching them and offering them the chance to touch or move them with their breath, hand or other body part.
- Guide their hand, as appropriate and as far as the person is able, to support them to reach for and move or pop the bubble.
- Take your time, pause and give opportunities for the person to signal for more.
- Make foamy bubbles in a bowl or sink with bubble bath. The foam can be picked up, played with and blown or thrown around.
- Or to make even foamier foam – Squirt washing up liquid in a food processor and add one-quarter as much water. Blend to make sensory foam. The longer you blend, the thicker and foamier the soap gets. To make coloured foam, you can add food colouring.
What to observe, assess and record
- What effect does bubble blowing have on the person’s breathing and how calm they appear?
- What does the person’s emotional state and mood appear to be like before, during and after the activity?
- Is the person able to improve their ability to blow bubbles over time? Does this have a positive effect on their breathing in general?
© Dr Julie Calveley, BSc(Hons) Psychology, BSc(Hons) Nursing, Registered Learning Disabilities Nurse, NAC Director
Email: [email protected]
Created October 2020