Discovery Bottles for Sensory Play

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Our local library has a sensory play day every month, and my little guy always has a blast exploring! I love how stimulating the activities are for his growing mind, and I always come away with good ideas for items we should have for playtime at home.

One of his favorite sensory stations at the library is the discovery bottles. With how much he enjoys playing with half-full water bottles and shaking things that make noise, of course he would love an amped-up version! These bottles are engaging and fascinating to children, creating fun sensory play experiences for learning and discovery. He enjoys getting to see the small objects up close that would normally be off-limits to babies.

What’s even greater about these is that they’re so easy to make yourself. You can use a variety of objects you already have to create many different types of sensory exposure. It’s as simple as taking clean, dry plastic bottles and filling them up! Isn’t it funny how sometimes the simplest things can keep a baby entertained the longest? :)

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I used POM juice bottles because they’re a good size for babies (12 oz.) and easy to handle. They have a more interesting shape compared to a standard plastic water bottle and the indention in the middle makes it easy for little hands to grasp. Although Baby C does love the crinkling sound plastic water bottles make, these use a much thicker plastic that sharp baby teeth won’t be able to pierce through! And the fact that the label peels right off of the bottle leaving behind no sticky residue is a huge plus for me. I hate trying to get sticky stuff off of anything! Oh, and it gives me a good excuse to drink up because they’re sooo good.

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But any transparent bottle or container with a lid will do! Here are a few ideas to get you started, though you can pretty much fill them with whatever you want using everyday items around your home. From left to right as pictured above, here’s what I used:

  1. uncooked rice + colorful sprinkles
  2. cotton balls + buttons + glitter
  3. water + food coloring + dish soap + beads
  4. small pieces of crinkled foil + pipe cleaners

After you fill the bottles to your desire, you’ll want to use a hot glue gun to seal the lids in place to ensure they don’t get opened. If you’re making some for your baby, keep the weight of the bottles in mind. I only filled up the ones with heavier substances (liquid, rice) about 1/3 of the way, which kept them light enough for my 9-month-old to lift and shake repeatedly. If you have toddlers, this would be a great interactive activity by allowing them to fill up their own discovery bottles.

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And voilà! That’s it. Some other ideas for your discovery bottles are beans, almonds, popcorn kernels, leaves, pebbles, sand, shells, vegetable oil, sequins, yarn, marbles—really anything colorful of varying sizes, shapes, weights and textures will work great. The possibilities are endless!

My sweet babe is thrilled every time he gets to play with these—he loves shaking them and rolling them around. I hope your little one does too!

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