Sensory bottles are a really great home-made toy for kids of any age – infants up through elementary school. Infants can enjoy looking at and eventually rolling, shaking, etc. with the bottles. Older kids can help out with actually making the bottles, which is a great fine-motor activity. When I was working with 2-3 year olds this was an activity that we did periodically. We usually used water with beads or sequins/confetti with my class but any small item that fits through the neck of the bottle works well! During our beach them one year the kids filled them with sand and small sea shells. The more variety the better for infants, since seeing all the different materials will stimulate their sight and exploration. You can also have older kids help fill the bottles with water using a funnel, which would be a great way to learn about pouring and the properties of water. Once we had made the bottles I usually sent one home with each child and also kept a few for the classroom. These often got pulled into pretend play, especially in combination with the play food in the classroom.
Lewis obviously can’t help putting tiny objects into bottles yet, but I made several for him using different materials to fill each and he has enjoyed exploring them. He already seems to have certain “favorites.”
The bottles have:
2) Green rice w/ green wooden beads
3) Red rice w/ yellow and orange beads
4) Water, red food coloring, shiny confetti
5) Small pieces of pipe cleaner
7) Pieces from a puzzle
8) A little water with a squirt of dish soap
9) Water with cut pieces of straws
I chose to use mini water bottles as I thought this would be easier for him to manipulate. Even with the small bottles the ones that are completely full of liquid are a little too heavy for him to really handle well, and he tends not to play with these as much. He seems to enjoy the dry ingredients (the rice, beads, and puzzle pieces) that he can shake to make noise or just look at the movement of them. He also likes the bubbles and likes watching the movement of the water.
These are so easy to make, and really can use just about anything you have on hand. The rice I dyed by mixing it with a small squirt of food coloring and allowing it to dry. For older kids you could use colored (or plain) rice to make an “I spy” bottle with a variety of small items hiding in the rice. This could include tiny toy animals, buttons in different shapes, shaped erasers, or any other little ‘treasures’ you can think of. There are some great ideas in this post by The Imagination Tree. I got some of my inspiration from there, but mostly just went with whatever materials I had on hand and what I found at the dollar store. (Looking back at that post reminds me that I was planning to do one with ripped foil pieces though!).
This is another easy homemade toy that has definitely been a success for us. Since I made so many I plan on only keeping about half of them out at a time, and then switching them out when he seems to get bored with them.