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Sensory Bottles: Our Favorite DIY Sensory Toy

Feb 21st, 2022 | by Courtney Shea, OTR/L

Courtney Shea, OTR/L

February 21st, 2022

Sensory bottles are fun and easy DIY sensory toys that can be made with your child and for your child! Making these with your child can work on many different skills including fine motor, visual motor, and sensory processing as well as promote language development.

How to Make Sensory Bottles DIY

You may already have everything you need to “DIY” a sensory bottle in your home or after going on a nature walk! You’ll need to start with a clean and clear bottle. Reusing or recycling a bottle you have can be great and Goo Gone can come in super handy to remove any unwanted labels. When picking a bottle, keep in mind the hands that will be using the bottle to determine the best size and shape.

Next, go ahead and pick the fillers of your choice with your child. Depending on the type of sensory toy you want to make, you’ll want to use wet or dry fillers or a combination of the two.

Dry Filler Sensory Bottle Ideas

The list of potential dry fillers for a sensory bottle are endless, but here are some of our favorites:

  • Glitter
  • Sequins
  • Pom poms
  • Small plastic trinkets/toys
  • Beads
  • Loom bands
  • Googly eyes
  • Plastic letters/numbers
  • Legos
  • Marbles

Liquid Filler Sensory Bottle Ideas

The liquid fillers can include:

  • Water (just make sure the dry fillers are not metallic or magnetic or they will rust in time)
  • Baby oil
  • Mineral oil
  • Shampoo
  • Glycerin
  • Liquid soap

Bonus Tip: When using a liquid filler, you can change the color of the water or diluted soap by incorporating just a few drops of food coloring.

Incorporating Fun Themes With DIY Sensory Bottles

Get creative with any items you have on hand or any theme you’d like to go for! Below, we have shared a few of our favorite sensory bottle ideas and themes to get you started.

1. Ocean Sensory Bottles 

An ocean sensory bottle may include blue water, some bubbles from liquid soap and some plastic ocean animals.

2. Water Bead Sensory Bottle

A quick and simple visually pleasing sensory bottle would be a water bead bottle. Making this will be fun and exciting as the water beads will grow by adding a little bit of water. You can use many beads with a little bit of water for a very full colorful experience, or you can use fewer beads and a lot of water to watch them float throughout your bottle.

3. Winter Sensory Bottles

Whether you’re a frozen fan or love all things snowy, you can make winter sensory bottles in many ways! Decorating the outside of a bottle like Olaf or Frosty, including fake snow and adding some white glittery can add a touch of magic to make them come alive!

4. “I-Spy” DIY Sensory Bottles

“Find it” or “I-Spy” DIY sensory bottles can also be a fun way to work on visual and auditory processing as well as attention and language development. Rice or Polly-Pellets can be an excellent neutral colored background filler to help the colorful toys stand out visually.

A DIY Alternative to Sensory Bottles: Rain Sticks!

A fun alternative to a sensory bottle primarily geared toward the visual sensory system would be a rain stick, geared more toward the auditory system. You can DIY one of these easily too! Going on a nature walk could be a fun and exciting way to gather supplies for this one. Again, you’ll need a clean and clear bottle as well as sticks or twigs and rice or very small pebbles. Turning this bottle over and over to hear the “rain” can be relaxing and engaging.

Engaging Your Child in Sensory Rich Experiences

Exploring the items that you and your child have selected by touch (engaging the tactile sensory system), before putting them into the bottle can be an excellent sensory rich experience. An example of this might be putting a package of sequins, water beads, pom poms, etc. into a bowl or container and having your child explore these items with their fingers.

By placing the items into the bottle, you can also work on gross grasp, pincer grasp, grasp and release and even tool/utensil use by using tweezers or spoons throughout the process.

Sensory Bottle DIY Step by Step Recap

To quickly recap how to make sensory bottles DIY:

  1. Find an empty bottle
  2. Fill in whatever manner you and your child choose. Again, the choices for fillers are endless!
  3. Hot glue or superglue the lid closed
  4. You may want to put tape around the lid to attach the top of the bottle, to ensure secure closure after gluing.
  5. Enjoy!

Find Additional Sensory Activities and Resources in the NAPA Blog:

About the Author  

Courtney Shea is a pediatric occupational therapist at the NAPA Center in Boston. In her free time, she enjoys being outdoors with her family and their dog Kolana. She is often caught overpacking for weekend getaways and adventures. She enjoys a good cup of coffee, spending time at the beach and being silly with her sons.

TAGS: Blogs, OT