Bottle Babies – Loose Parts for Play

Bottle Babies: inexpensive, open-ended loose parts make a great addition to an indoor or outdoor play space.

I first learned about Bottle Babies over at  Takoma Park Cooperative Nursery School.  Inexpensive, easy and fun to make, bottle babies are similar to discovery bottles or I Spy Jars.  They make a wonderful, open-ended addition to any play-area, providing countless opportunities for creative and imaginative play.

bottle babies - open-ended, loose parts for your indoor or outdoor play space

What are loose parts?

If you’ve never heard of “loose parts” in a play space, I highly recommend reading Lesley’s post titled MOVEABLE FEAST: The Beauty of Loose Parts.  In it, Lesley describes the benefits of providing open-ended, moveable, and somewhat random materials for children to play with, and how these loose parts spark a child’s imagination in ways that factory-manufactured toys cannot.

bottle babies for large muscle development

You’ll also want to visit Lesley’s gallery of photos to see dozens of examples of children at play with various open-ended objects at Takoma Park.   Take the time to click through the photos to see the looks of determination on the childrens’ faces as they construct, create, collaborate and problem solve when playing with the loose parts in the classroom and in the playground.  Lesley’s post and her photos can help us to better understand how essential this kind of play is for young children.bottle babies - loose parts in play space

What exactly are “bottle babies” anyway?

Because another blogging friend of mine recently made her bottle babies and wrote a wonderful post about them, I’m going to send you to her for the details.  Cathy from Pre-School Play will tell you what the overall purpose and benefits of the bottle baby are  and what the name “bottle baby” is meant to suggest to a child.

Meanwhile, I’m going to take the easy road here, and just share the photos of the Hooligans making and playing with ours.

Making our bottle babies:

supplies for making bottle babies

For your convenience, this post contains affiliate links.  When you shop through these links, I receive a small commission from any purchases you make. 

I set out an assortment of items that would sink and float:

 **I should mention that we added the baby oil to one bottle, and it didn’t really do much, other than make the inside of the bottle look greasy, so I personally wouldn’t bother with it again.

children making bottle babies

Cups and funnels make filling the bottles fun, and they’re great for developing hand/eye co-ordination.  Adding food colouring can provide a lesson in colour mixing, and fine motor skills are tested when the children fill their bottles with their collection of small objects.

Playing with our bottle babies:

Cups and funnels make filling the bottles fun, and they’re great for developing hand/eye co-ordination.  Adding food colouring can provide a lesson in colour mixing, and fine motor skills are tested when the children fill their bottles with their collection of small objects.

chidren playing with bottle babiesbottle babies - loose parts in the playground

Aren’t they neat?  The Hooligans have been hauling, heaving, carrying, pushing and sliding their bottle babies around for days.  They love ’em!  And I’m betting your little ones will too!

I’m editing this post to say that our bottle babies survived the winter in one piece, and 10 months later, the hooligans are still playing with them!  If you leave a little space in the top of the bottle to allow for expansion when the water freezes, yours just may make it through a long, cold winter as well!

bottle babies - easy and inexpensive loose parts

Want to see some more terrific ways we’ve added inexpensive but engaging loose parts to our space?

a rope and a bucket

a rope and a hoola hoop

pool noodle abacus

playing with sponges


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  1. says

    Brilliant first post for the outdoor play linky, Jackie & I love the photos of your bottle babies. Like you I just can’t believe how quickly the children have taken to them, On the oil front, I put cooking oil, glycerine & glitter in one bottle & now have the most fantastic sparkly glob that moves about in the bottle!! Kierna

  2. says

    What fun, i have never thought of using a larger bottle to make our sensory bottles in. They looked like they had lots of fun with them. Thanks for sharing and for letting me share through link up. Pinned this, jaime@FSPST

    • happyhooligans says

      They’re not sealed, Marie, but I put them on tight enough that even I can’t get them off now. lol

  3. Carol Zelazny says

    I love your bottle babies!! I am interested in finding out what kind of bottles you used? I love the interesting shape of them – much more textured than a soda bottle.

  4. Tammy says


    I teach in an early childhood education center in Los Angeles that serves a very low-income, high-need population. All the teachers here want the same thing: fun, engaging, educational activities that are, above all else, low-price and sustainable on a budget. I love your emphasis on reusing household materials. Since discovering your website yesterday, I must have spent hours sending links to different activities to our teachers.

    Thank you for not only being an educator, but for documenting your incredible work and sharing it with the world! I have never seen such a well-documented blog nor one that is so accessible (low-cost!).

    • happyhooligans says

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Tammy. I am absolutely thrilled to know that you are loving and sharing our activities. I love that moms and teachers all over the world are learning that they can be incredibly crafty and creative on a very small budget, simply by thinking “outside of the box”, and using materials that they already have. Thanks so much for your support! :)

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