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3 min read

I love making sensory bottles with my kids. 

They're fun to make, fun to explore, and they offer sensory play without any of the usual mess. 

If you've never made a sensory bottle or heard of them before, they're just closed containers filled with a variety of different materials for sensory play. ​​​​

Depending on what you fill them with, you can use them to refine the visual, auditory, and olfactory senses.

Sensory bottles, calming bottles, sensory tubes, learning resources, what to fill a sensory tube with

The great thing about them is that they're so simple but they have a ton of benefits. They can be used to develop:
  • Language skills - "that's loud when you shake it" or "​that smells like lemon"​​
  • Fine motor skills - shaking and turning the bottle
  • Gross motor skills - crawling infants can chase the bottle around
  • Concentration and focus - The child concentrates on the details and small pieces in the bottle, following them as they move around the bottle
  • Self-regulation skills - the bottles with liquid tend to be calming for children
And you don't need the fancy ones, like we have at the store

You can make your own using any clear, plastic bottle. ​Just be sure to secure the lid after with tape. 

Here's what to fill them with to develop the visual sense:
    • Water, a couple drops of food colouring, and glitter, beads, or sequins
    • Objects found in nature - pine cones, leaves, pebbles, sand, flower petals, feathers
    • Small loose parts - pom poms, beads, legos, or plus-plus
    • Objects found in water - shells, pebbles, sand
    • Items from the kitchen - popcorn kernels, pasta, dried legumes 
    • Holiday-themed - tinsel, small ornaments, fir tree branches/clippings
    • TOOBs or other small plastic figures
    • Playsilks

You can do them in the same colour or use a variety of colours in the bottle. 

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Here's what to fill them with to develop the auditory sense:

    • Dried legumes, seeds, uncooked rice, etc.
    • Bells
    • Twigs
    • Pebbles
    • Buttons
    • Beads
    • Any solid loose parts that will make noise

Note: For a quieter sound, fill the tubes up so there is little space at the top for the parts to move around. If you do this, just keep in mind that they will weigh more and you child might not be able to manipulate them as easily. 

    Here's what to fill them with to develop the olfactory sense:

    Note: to develop the olfactory sense, use vented lids (like in this set) or poke holes in your lid. 

    • Aromatic herbs and spices, coffee beans, wood chips, flowers, or fruit/vegetable peels
    • Add some essential oils to a paper towel, cotton balls or scraps of fabric and put them in the bottle

    ‘Smelling Bottles’ like these is an activity found in many Montessori classrooms and something we do occasionally in our at-home program.   


    5 Bonus Sensory Bottle Activities & Experiments

      1. Fill it mostly with rice, sand, or dried legumes and then add a variety of small objects. Give it a shake so that the objects disperse. 

        What you'll get is a "look and find" bottle where some objects will be visible while others will need to be found by tipping and shaking the tube. Your child can explore this independently and discover all the different objects or you can play a game where you ask them to find something specific, either by name or description - “Find the marble” or “Find something red”   

        Look and find bottle

      2. Develop gross motor skills by the using the bottle during tummy time. You can roll it on the floor for your infant to crawl after it.

      3. Use 4 different bottles to set up a science experiment exploring weight. Leave 1 tube empty, add feathers or pom poms to a second tube, add water to a third tube, and finally,, add rocks or marbles to a fourth tube. Pick them up one or two at a time, talking about which weighs more and why.

      4. Create a calming bottle. Add water, food colouring, glitter and some baby oil and watch the glitter dance and slowly settle to the bottom.

        Click the video below to see the calming bottle in action:

      5. Develop the other senses, the sense of touch or taste, by allowing your child to take the items out of the bottles. The food-safe items, like herbs, can be tasted and explored.

        The sensory bin-type items (sand, coloured rice, plastic figures, etc) can be dumped into a sensory pin or large tupperware for exploration with the hands. 

      For more sensory play, go here to check out our sensory bin guide and rainbow rice recipe: https://www.dropbox.com/s/f2znl6x5t2cb4we/Montessori%20Room%20-%20Sensory%20Bin%20Guide.pdf?dl=0

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