Discovery bottles - made by & with a 2 year old!

Following on from our super easy and much loved little blue shaker bottle and our first 'batch' of more elaborate sensory shaker bottles, I was so excited to involve my curious and enthusiastic little kitchen helper in the actual making of some new water based discovery bottles. He and I were both cooped up at home getting over a bad run of sickness, and a fun, super easy sensory activity to take our minds off it all was just what the doctor ordered! Combining several of B's favourite past times: water play, kitchen and cooking utensil play, and sensory exploration we were on a winner!
Here's how our morning panned out:
Firstly, I positioned B on a chair beside me at the kitchen sink. Then we filled a bunch of empty bottles with water; and taking my little helper's lead, I dropped a little food colouring, slowly, into whichever bottle I was instructed to... and we had many awe-filled moments - enjoying the effects. Quite relaxing actually! (Well, it was relaxing until I clumsily bumped over a practically full bottle of bright blue colouring on the window sill! oops!)

...And when the colours finally settled, and we'd finished practising identifying them ...

...we added a few random extra bits which might look interesting when shaken about inside the water bottles. So, out came the funnel and spoon for some careful tap, tap, tapping of the sand from our outdoor (sensory) sandpit into the green bottle.

It involved working on bilateral coordination and upper limb stability, trying hard not to push the bottle over, and being gentle with the tapping so we didn't lose all the sand to the bench top! This took some practise and a bit of patience too!

For a touch of bling - out came some chunky glitter bits! This glitter didn't quite fit through our funnel, and needed to be transferred carefully into the bottle top with some hard working finger tips! I was loving the spontaneous tripod grasping and finger rubbing action!!

... Enter "Elfa" the elephant to splash about in the glitter 'puddle'... 

How beautiful and relaxing is it to watch glittery pieces float through the water?

Incorporating a variety of different shaped and textured elements created many different grasping and manipulation opportunities, and we all know there is nothing better than kids unknowingly getting stuck into a kind of aerobics session for the small muscles in the hand!! 

Of course, we love adding in natural elements to both indoor and outdoor play whenever possible, so we simply had to poke through the bottle top a little collection of sticks, twigs, tree bark, and fallen leaves... 

Since the dish wash liquid was sitting right in front of us, it was a perfect choice for the next element to add into a bottle! Squeezing it into the funnel required all hands on deck (hence no action photo) and was an instant hit, with the bottle being shaken about like crazy to see the bubbles taking over and moving around inside.

Zig zagged pipe cleaners were poked through into the deep blue water, and we noticed their white and yellow colour change quickly as they absorbed the blue colouring. The bottle lids were either glued or taped on for safety.

What a pretty line up on the window sill, in amongst our coloured glass bottles! I loved how the light shone through them. The bubble bottle was a definite favourite!

It was a clear and bright Winter's day, so we collected up all of our bottles and took them outside to count, shake, roll, admire and explore a little longer :-) Later on, I randomly placed them around our outdoor area, in and around pot plants, etc... to see if they spark some interest next time... but honestly, it doesn't matter, as it was as much about the process as the product (probably more!)

Known also as sensory bottles, shakers, water bottles, or even "bottle babies" (a name which opens up another world of imaginative play!)... discovery bottles have been around for ages and are in no way 'original' as such, but I love the idea of being able to quickly and easily make your own new toys, and I believe, the more recycled bits and bobs that can be incorporated the better!    

Whether they are used for fine motor and bilateral coordination fun (in the filling of the bottles), sensory exploration, or relaxation; shaking about to music, spicing up a party, learning about magnets/ letters/ colours/ words, or celebrating different seasons or themes, discovery bottles are quite simply among the most versatile and essential loose parts to add to your children's play spaces! 

Have you made your own sensory or discovery bottles yet?

Here are some links to some other fabulous discovery bottle inspiration...
* from Mom of 2 Posh Lil Divas: ... Halloween Discovery Bottles ; Sight Word Discovery Bottles and the Pinterest board of Discovery Bottle Ideas which is a definite 'must follow'!!
* from Chasing the Firefly : ... a relaxing Calm Down Jar 
* from Fun-a-day: ... Sunken Treasure Discovery Bottles and Coconut bowling with Water Bottles
* from Twodaloo : ... taking discovery bottles to a whole other level... Giant Lava Lamp

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like to check these out from Kids' Play Space:
A Wild Jungle Sensory Play Invitation 
Sensory City
The Value of Water Play

Thanks for visiting Kids' Play Space!
'til soon,
Anna :-) 

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  1. These are great! I love making discovery bottles too. Here is a link to the ones i have made

  2. Http://

  3. Thanks for stopping by to comment and for leaving your links Debra! Your discovery bottles are so awesome - and wow- you've made so many!! Love it! Anna :-)

  4. These are great. One thing I like to do is use gatorade/powerade/sobe bottles instead of water and soda bottles. They are a bit thicker and withstand rougher play.

  5. Thanks Nikki - what a good idea:-) I must admit, the discovery bottles which we've made using slightly smaller and thicker plastic bottles do last well with vigorous play!! Anna :-)

  6. Hiya, love these!!!!! Was wondering if I could use a couple of your inspirational photos in the local NCT branch newsletter that I edit. It's an A5 booklet sent out to our members here in Peterborough and contains birth stories, bfeeding advice etc and I'm writing a piece on discovery bottles. If you don't mind then I could email you a pdf of the newsletter and of course give you a mention!!!

    1. Hi Lu, Thanks so much for your lovely comment:-) I'd be happy to be included in your newsletter! - Feel free to use 2 photos (including the kids play space website) and link to the post. I'd love to see a copy too! My email is: Best wishes, Anna


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