Baby Sensory Play: Discovery Bottles

Create some fun, engaging discovery bottle toys for babies and toddlers by using recycled and everyday materials from around the house! These are cheap to make, long lasting and can easily be adapted to create exciting and intriguing sensory play experiences for little ones.

It has been a LONG time since I first made a discovery bottle for Pop, when she was just 8 months old! Now that Bean is sitting up and dragging herself around on her tummy, she is excited to explore everything from her new vantage point and test out what every object can do! 

She has been enjoying a homemade treasure basket (much like this one that we made in the past) and I decided to get the older girls to help me create some new discovery bottles to present her with for sensory play and exploration!

We found some small, empty water bottles and dried them inside. Next we added simple materials from the craft baskets and kitchen cupboards that are too small for her to handle, but just perfect for safely exploring through the clear window of a bottle!  The items were chosen based on the sound that they create when shaken, for being bright and captivating or for the way they move in liquid, perfect for tiny developing senses to explore.

These are the different discovery bottle contents:
(left to right, top to bottom)

1. Water with brightly coloured Hama beads (pony beads are similar in the US) for noise, colour and movement

2. Ripped pieces of tin foil for gentle, slow movement and reflection of light

3. Red water mixed with 1cm of vegetable/ baby oil, for mixing and separation of liquids

4. Brightly coloured, twisted pipe cleaners for visual interest

5. Blue water and a variety of sea shells for gentle sounds and interesting objects to examine

6. Water, plastic crystals and a large amount of silver glitter for noise and beautiful movement and dispersement

7. Yellow water with a large squirt of washing up liquid (dish soap in US) for shaking and creating bubbles and froth

8. Mixture of pom poms in various colours and sizes, for visual stimulation and early maths concepts

9. Coloured, shaped buttons for fabulous noise and exciting colours

10. (not pictured) Multi-coloured dry rice for fabulous shaky noise!

Once the ingredients are inside the bottle, seal it shut with a glue gun or extremely strong sealant. Obviously don’t use these around an inquisitive toddler who can unscrew caps,  if they can’t be secured.

We are keeping these in a couple of baskets between the kitchen and living room, where she spends most of her day. She loves to roll them, bash them and watch as the objects move and dance before her eyes! They are also great for 1:1 play with an adult or  an older child, exploring and examining together!
Bean: 7 months
Have you ever made any discovery bottles or boxes?
What did you add to yours!?


  1. says

    Wonderful ideas, thank you. My son is almost 6 months old and so far I have made him two bottles – one with water and chopped up straws in various colours. The straws float to the top and move around nicely when the bottle is rolled. The second, like one of yours, has no water and a selection of brightly coloured plastic buttons, I also added two wooden marbles (one black, one white) for added visual and auditory effect.

    I did try one with baby oil but found I then couldn’t get the glue to stick the cap tight :(

    Thanks for the great ideas.

  2. says

    At the risk of sounding incredibly shallow in the face of all this educational brilliance….. WHERE is Pop’s beautiful top from? I covet it!

  3. Anna D says

    Going to make some of these for my almost 5 month old. She loves tummy time, so these could make it a little more interesting for her!

  4. says

    We’ve just made some of these, need to get around to writing a post about them – Baby Boo isn’t sitting up yet but his big sister has been desperate to make them for ages and kept asking to make them so we have them all ready nice and early! They are such lovely idea, we got them out when my friend and her little one (9 months) came over and where just perfect for my 2 year old and him to play with together. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Maria says

    I made a few sensory bottles when my six year old boy was about 8, I repeat them for the 5 year old and these are the ones that my little girl who is 2 and a half now has used. We filled them with almonds, hazelnuts beans and rice. They loved them a lot!
    Thanks for sharing your ideas

  6. says

    I LOVE these! More precisely, my son (13 months) loves them. We have them placed around the house and the diaper bag, and I just love how entertained he is. Also, wide baby eyes are adorable.

    This is such a great idea that I’ve featured you on our weekly roundup of the Internet’s best blog posts! Thank you!

  7. Anonymous says

    I used empty mouth wash bottles- have a secure lid like medicine bottle caps so my toddler can’t get into it! Both my 4month old and 2year old love them and can play together which is lovely :-)

  8. Anonymous says

    Hi Ann

    I have recently come across your wonderful website too, and can I just say a BIG THANK YOU!!!! I’am a nanny working in London looking after too wonderful children who I adore! I’am hoping to start my own family this year and wanted some more inspiration to build up my own crafty port-filo of children’s crafts that will help with their development. ( I just feel that this would help when I return back to work, so i can show my potential new family what i plan to do with their children etc, as i know its not going to be a walk in the park when my own child will have to come to work with me!)

    And after seeing your website I know I’am not going to struggle!

    I’am a huge art and craft addict too, and having worked in a nursery previously my skills and creativity has widened …. I remember having these wonderful discovery bottles too, and one thing that used to work was having feathers in bottles!!! however my question to you is, how could we inject some air in so the feathers can float?! sounds silly i know, cause maybe we should just blow in the bottle our self and tightly shut?! haven’t tried that one so don’t know how successful it will be!!…. I just figured the child would like it more than to add water and the feathers wont be able to float and will just be all soggy!

    Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful ideas!!! I too will share some of mine.
    Your my new favorite website!

    Thanks again


  9. says

    This is such an excellent idea!! I have been going crazy trying to find things that keeps my son’s interest. These are sooooo much better than toys!!

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