Sensory Bottles

As a toddler teacher, one of my favorite inexpensive toys to make is the sensory bottle: a plastic bottle (usually from water, Voss is my favorite brand, based on bottle shapes) filled an interesting material.

Here’s all of them! colored with liquid watercolor (other dyes/colorings also work), filled with, variously, corn syrup, glitter, soap, beads, baby oil, and a bouncy ball.

They come in two varieties: shakers, which are full loud materials.   These are great for safely playing with choking hazards like rubber bouncy balls, paper clips, and beads.

The second, my favorite, is the fluid-filled kind, which I’ll discuss here.

Safety note: you will need to seal these carefully.  Some people use hot glue, which is probably best.  I use crazy glue, which also works.   Clear nail polish does NOT work, at least on the fluid-filled ones (over a week later, it never dried).

This one actually has vegetable oil in it–it’s a little murkier, but readily available.

The bottles were made over the course of a week.  I collected a range of different water bottles to see what worked best. We used some materials we had, and some we bought, but the beautiful thing about sensory bottles is you do NOT have to go out and buy new materials. You can always make an  inexpensive substitution.

What we learn from sensory bottles:

  • development of large and small motor skills
  • language (lots of opportunities to talk about colors)
  • Cause and effect (“look! You shook it and now it is full of bubbles!”)
  • Properties of materials (varies by curriculum, but includes stuff like weight, color, bigger/smaller)
  • Measurement and pouring (in the making of the bottles)




About tinyhandsbigideas

Speech and Language Pathologist, former toddler teacher, messy play enthusiast, and unapologetic type B.
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9 Responses to Sensory Bottles

  1. I used to work with middle and high school students with developmental disabilities. These are great with that group as well.

  2. Melannie says:

    Is there a recipe for the corn syrup bottle?

    • The corn syrup bottle has about a teaspoon of liquid watercolor and a few tablespoons of corn syrup. (I don’t know the exact amount because I just kind of experimented with it.) I used liquid watercolor because I had it on hand, but food coloring would work just as well.
      I like the very fine glitter because it almost looks like the water is a different color when it starts to move around.
      The beads, foil stars, and blue glitter were just items I had around–one of my favorite things about sensory bottles is how adaptable they are to almost anything you want to put in them!

      I’d recommend starting with a bottle that’s 3/4 full of water, a few pieces of glitter, and adding the corn syrup bit by bit, like a tablespoon at a time, until the glitter moves the way you want, and then adding the rest of the ingredients.

      There was a lot of trial and error in making these, and I think the biggest thing was that I seriously overestimated how much corn syrup it would take. Even when it’s only half corn syrup, lightweight objects like glitter don’t move at all. (Rocks and seashells work great in the heavier mix, though!)

      I hope that helps, thanks for commenting!

  3. Katherine says:

    Thank you for that!

  4. Ashlee Thompson says:

    Can I use food coloring ?

  5. Kmeritsmom says:

    I tried making a sensory bottle with water, baby oil, silver confetti stars, and gold glitter. The glitter all stuck so thickly to the side you can barely see the stars! Any idea what I did wrong or how I could possibly fix it next time? This one is super glued, so I’m afraid my daughter is out of luck😔

    • Oh no! A mistake I made a LOT early on was trying to put too many things into the bottle (too much variety and too many individual items). Glitter works best in very, very small amounts. The other thing to keep in mind is what you want each item to do. If you want swirling glitter to be the focus, rather than color mixing, you might want to just stick with one liquid–baby oil or water. The other thing that can be a problem is glitter that’s too light or too heavy to mix with the liquid. And it looks like we both learned the hard way to wait a while before supergluing! Experimenting is totally key to this process, and if your daughter is old enough she might love to participate!
      Good luck!!!

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