I Spy Bottles, also known as sensory bottles or discovery bottles are plastic bottles that your children can fill with odds and ends and then top up with water. Making the bottles helps kids identify colours and shapes and strengthen fine motor skills, and playing with the sensory bottles is a delight for toddlers and preschoolers.
What child doesn’t love to play “I Spy“?
Every year, we make a new set of sensory bottles here in my daycare. Sometimes we use large plastic juice bottles to make “bottle babies“, and sometimes, like today, we use smaller bottles to make a set of I Spy Bottles.
What is a sensory bottle?
Sensory bottles are clear plastic bottles filled with a mix materials for kids to observe and explore. Sometimes referred to as calm down bottles, sensory bottles provide kids with an opportunity to learn about and observe different colours, shapes, objects and materials in a mess-free way, and they’re quite relaxing and mesmerizing to play with.
Colour recognition and fine-motor development
Some sensory bottles are based on a theme like weather, or ocean animals for example. For our I spy bottles, the only theme we follow is a colour theme. We round up dozens of small items from the craft room and toy room and we sort them by colour into the bottles. We make one bottle for each colour of the rainbow. Making and playing with the bottles is great for helping toddlers and preschoolers learn their colours and learn about rainbow order.
A game of I Spy…
Filling the I Spy Bottles with small pieces helps kids to develop fine-motor and co-ordination skills too. Kids love this dropping in process. It’s so fun they don’t even realize they’re developing important skills.
Once the bottles are filled and the lids are on tightly, kids can play I Spy with them. Simply give the bottle a shake, and ask your child to find certain objects in the bottle.
I love that our I Spy Sensory Bottles cost nothing to make and that they end up being a great source of learning and entertainment for the toddlers and preschoolers in my care.
Our bottles also add a nice pop of colour to our play space and they look particularly lovely when placed in rainbow order in the sunshine.
To make your I Spy Sensory Bottles, you’ll need:
- a clear bottle with a tight fitting lid (we used empty, clean Gatorade bottles)
- lots of small, coloured odds and ends (see suggestions below)
Start with a treasure hunt!
Part of the fun is gathering all of the goodies that you’ll use to fill the bottles.
The hooligans and I went on a “treasure hunt”, searching through the toy-room, craft room and kitchen drawers, looking for small, colourful objects to use in our bottles.
What to put in an I Spy Sensory Bottle:
The following are some some suggested items to gather for your I spy bottles
- foam pieces
- bread tags
- chopped up straws
- pipe cleaners
- pony beads
- glass beads
- lego pieces
- barbie/polly pocket shoes
- rubber bands
- marker lids
Making your sensory bottles:
Once we’d collected lots of goodies, I set each child up with a bowl of coloured items and a clean, empty plastic bottle.
Fine motor-fun AND water play!
Dropping the items in the bottle is great for fine motor development, and lots of fun of course.
They loved this part so much they kept pouring the items out after filling the bottles and then dropping them all back in again. They did this 3 or 4 times before I could convince them to leave the items in the bottle so we could move on to the next step.
Next, the kids filled their bottles all the way to the top with water and the put the caps back on the bottles. I gave each lid a really firm twist to prevent little hands from being able to remove the lids.
Our bottles are outside for play, but if you’re going to keep yours inside, a little hot glue around the inside of the lid, before you put the cap on, isn’t a bad idea.
Aren’t they pretty?
I love how they reflect the sunlight.
We have our sensory bottles set up on a table in the backyard, and they look so colourful and cheery.
The hooligans have fun tipping the bottles upside down to watch which items float to the top, and which ones sink to the bottom.
And of course, it’s fun playing I Spy as we try to find and identify all of the objects inside of our colourful sensory bottles.
More Homemade Toys and Games:
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Jackie is a mom, wife, home daycare provider, and the creative spirit behind Happy Hooligans. She specializes in kids’ crafts and activities, easy recipes, and parenting. She began blogging in 2011, and today, Happy Hooligans inspires more than 2 million parents, caregivers and Early Years Professionals all over the globe.