Sensory bottles are an absolute winner in our house. They are engaging, easy to make and perhaps most importantly, don’t cause a huge mess like other forms of sensory play.
The bottles featured in this post are all plastic Voss bottles. We personally prefer this brand because they are pretty versatile: you can see clearly through them.
With the exception of the bottle filled with water, it’s important to note that the lids are glued in place. This is because these bottles are intended for babies and toddlers.*
Here are ten sensory bottles to try at home. In most cases, you probably already have most of the materials at home already. All of them are suitable as a tummy time activity (from when your baby is old enough to reach and grab) or as an educational tool for slightly older children.
Here’s 5 to get you started…
When creating sensory bottles, my main advice would to create more than one at a time. All 5 of the bottles photographed above took a collective 10 minutes to make.
It’s a good idea to use a funnel to guide rice and other small items into the bottle and of course seal the lid shut with a glue gun once the bottle is filled.
From left to right we have:
1.Black and white rice with pompoms. I created this as a high contrast sensory exploration for baby Elliott.
2.Pompom roller. Very simple, intended for babies to roll back and forth.
3.Sprinkle shaker. A fun, makeshift musical shaker for toddlers using cake sprinkles.
4.Ocean ‘eye-spy’ with blue dyed rice and miniature sea creatures. Ideal as a language development tool. We used ocean themed animals after a trip to the coast but you could useany theme you like.
5. Tinsel and pompoms. A sparkly bottle intended to introduce Christmas as a time of celebration. Here we used tinsel confetti from a craft shop but you could easily use an off-cut of tinsel from the tree!
6. Food colouring and water. To be used as a tool when learning colours. We combine ours with ‘colour baskets’ or as an aid for colour hunts when identifying colours.
7. Magnet Exploration. These little magnetic chips are loads of fun, but also a choking hazard. By placing them in a sealed plastic bottle, toddlers are able to explore safely.
8. Scent bottle. There’s no need to seal this bottle as it’s intended for exploring scents. Pop any herb into the bottle and leave for at least one day before using as a sensory exploration.
9. Ice! Fill 3/4 of the bottle with water and leave in the freezer for a few hours for babies and toddlers to explore ‘cold.’
10. Alphabet / Number eye spy. A sensory learning tool for toddlers or preschoolers. Here we used coloured rice and beads but plain rice and standard size fridge magnets work just as well.
*Please never leave your child unattended whilst playing with homemade activities regardless of how safe you have made it.
The very early days and months with baby are HARD. You’re tired and your bub will probably sleep a lot but almost definitely not at night. The midwives and healthcare visitors will encourage you to do ‘tummy time’ but that’s sometimes easier said than done.
Tummy time helps babies to strengthen their head and neck although initially, they won’t be able to lift their head at all. That comes with time. So if you’re reading this and your baby is very new, try very short intervals of tummy time a few times a day.
Once your baby begins to show interest in the world around them, here are some ideas to try that will make tummy time more engaging.
Sounds obvious, right? But it’s a good place to start. Ideally books should be a part of your routine with baby from birth so it’s a good idea to combine reading with tummy time.
Books with high contrast images work really well. There’s a number of series that we absolutely love such as the ‘Where’s Mr/ Mrs…’ series by Nosy Crow and the ‘That’s Not My…’ series by Usborne.
Suitable from birth
Baby Ball Pit
This is a fun activity when baby gets a little older and starts to take notice of the world around him. When Elliott reached 5 months he was starting to reach and grab for objects so we placed a variety of balls in different textures and sizes into a tuff spot tray. A much simpler version of this is to simply place one ball in front of baby – we really like ‘o-balls.’
When trying this activity at home, please be mindful of the size of ball you use. Small items are choking hazards.
Suitable from 4 months
You will need:
Cylindrical bottle (we like Voss)
Glue gun and refills
Having a baby doesn’t need to mean buying loads of expensive toys. After all, they do outgrow items rather quickly! This homemade pompom roll allows baby to explore cause and effect without the price tag.
To recreate similar at home, put pompoms (or other colourful items) into a clear plastic bottle and seal the lid shut.
Suitable from 4 months
Baby’s First Painting
You will need:
Non-toxic paints (best to be safe!)
Art isn’t the easiest activity to try with babies. Because of their tendency to mouth absolutely everything, paints aren’t a very safe option. The ‘taste safe’ alternative paint of yoghurt mixed with food colouring is great for older babies but bear in mind dairy products aren’t recommend for children under the age of 6 months.
For this activity, I placed very small blobs of non-toxic acrylics onto a piece of card, then placed it into a sandwich bag. For extra safety, use masking tape to secure the edges – curious babies have the tendency to be pretty ‘grabby!’
Suitable from 5 months
Baby Wipe Sensory Board
You will need:
Baby wipe lids
Cardboard (we used one side of a box)
Glue gun and refills
Various materials such as felt, bubble wrap, pipe cleaners and feathers.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve likely gone through countless baby wipe packs already. Start saving them up, so you can use them for this ‘baby peekaboo’ activity.
With this activity, it’s really best to use a glue gun to make sure the materials are secure. Ours was only $10 from the local craft shop.
I’ve used this with Elliott from the age of 5 months but it will really depend on development stage too. Signs to look for would be baby reaching and grabbing for objects. They really need to have good upper body strength in order to do this activity.
Suitable from 6 months
A note on age recommendations
I’m hesitant to put age recommendations on this post, however I know lots of people will ask. This is just a general guideline based on my own experiences with Elliott and Zoey.
My best advice is to watch out for signs of the next developmental stage. For example, when Elliott had sufficient head and neck strength, I introduced the ball and pompom roll. Now that he is starting to reach and grab objects, I’ve introduced the sensory board.
If you are at all concerned about your baby’s development, please contact your GP or health visitor.
Never leave your baby unattended while they play. Check homemade play items everytime you use them and take into consideration your babies developmental stage – there is no point rushing onto activities before they are ready!
If you have any questions about the activities featured here, pleass comment below or send me an email.
The best toy I’ve ever bought the children? Without a doubt, the Grimm’s large rainbow. Wooden toys have a longevity that makes them particularly appealing to me, a mum of three children.
When my eight-year-old son was small, I fell into all of the parenting toy traps possible. Our house had turned into a plastic city, full of noisy, garish toys that he would lose interest in almost immediately. By the time Zoey was born six years later, there was nothing left from Harrison’s baby and toddler years to pass down.
That’s when I knew things had to change…
I resolutely refused to go down the same pathway with Zoey (now 2). I hated the waste and the short-lived play-ability, so I made it my mission to seek out good quality toys that lasted longer than a few moments. This is really where wooden toys come in: I think it speaks volumes that wooden toys have been around for centuries.
Thanks to the wonderful world of Instagram, I found out that good quality wooden toys still existed, particularly in fact, from German toy makers. It made my teacher heart really happy to know that traditional style toys were still loved by children in different parts of the world.
After only choosing quality toys for the last few years, I can thoroughly attest that wooden toys are worth it in every sense. Here are just a few reasons why you should consider them over their plastic counterparts:
Wooden toys are value for money:
Okay, so on the surface, yes wooden toys look way more expensive. Initially I had my doubts over whether they would be worth the initial outlay. However, after starting off the wooden toy collection with building blocks and a medium Grimm’s rainbow two years ago, I can definitely confirm that they are worth every cent.
They aren’t toys that you buy everyday, but carefully considered purchases. Personally, and speaking from experience here, I’d much rather than have fewer, good quality toys in the play room over a stash of ‘trendy’ toys any day.
Young children cannot cope with a mass of toys surrounding them on a daily basis. They get overwhelmed by choice. This is part of the reason why we re-organised our play space and established the Discovery Table series.
Wooden toys are great for imaginative play:
When is a rainbow not a rainbow?
Well, when it is a bridge, bird, slide or even a musical instrument! Wooden toys have endless play-ability. The child is doing the thinking rather than the toy itself. Featured above is an ocean theme where a Grimm’s rainbow and miniature cave was used by the children.
Children aren’t stifled by the same barriers as us. Whereas you and I might just think, ‘ well that’s a gigantic rainbow,’ they will transform it into a whole range of other items. Besides, If you’re genuinely stuck for ideas, you only need look at Instagram. I am always in awe of the ideas I see there!
Wooden toys are gender neutral:
‘Gender neutral’ has become a popular term in recent years. Take a trip down any of the major toy-store aisles and you will see why: the majority of toys on offer are specifically aimed at either boys and girls. With a boy, girl and another boy on the way, I’m constantly searching for toys that are gender neutral. This is a matter of practicality for us as well as a desire not to stereotype.
Whilst I am by no means a staunch feminist, now that I have a daughter I have a heightened awareness of toys that have been designed in a certain way. She does love the doll she picked out herself; but she’s also a huge fan of toy trains and trucks. Wooden blocks or rainbow people can belong to anyone.
In the photo above, we had spent an entire weekend building a zoo from cardboard and other scrap materials. Both children were really engaged with the process and as you can see, Grimm’s building blocks, houses and rainbow people complimented the activity perfectly. You can read more about that activity here.
Wooden toys are environmentally friendly:
Watching those scenes of plastics pollution in Blue Planet 2 brought home the environmental issues in such a vivid way. We can`t eliminate all plastics from our life, but I’ve become more aware of the purchases we make and I’m on a mission to reduce, reuse and recycle wherever possible.
Recently the eldest (9) asked for the latest fad toy that: ‘all the children have in school.’ However, after he showed me a clip on YouTube, I could see the limitations. It was a single-purpose toy that would be discarded at the bottom of his cupboard within a week. Thankfully Harrison also understands this and knew that he only really wanted the toy because everyone else did! The recent Jurassic Plastic art installation at the 2018 Sydney Festival would’ve given anyone food for thought on this subject matter.
This brings us neatly back to wooden toys. Brands such as Grimm’s use natural dyes to colour their products. They are handmade with love and care. The visible quality of the toys also means that:
A. They are unlikely to be left broken at the bottom of the toy box.
B. You’ll want to keep them as an heirloom for your children to pass down to future generations.
Wooden toys don’t have an age limit:
Santa Clause very kindly gave Zoey a range of Grimm’s goodies on Christmas Day. The whole family spent the morning building structures with them. Surely toys that appeal to both a nine-year-old and a two-year-old have got to have a good thing going on? There aren’t in fact many toys that Harrison would willingly share with his sister, but wooden toys are an exception.
Each week I create a new discovery table designed to capture the interests of my eldest two. Tables that feature our wooden toy collection sustain the interest of both for far longer.
Have I persuaded you to try wooden toys?
Don’t hesitate to contact me here or via my social media pages if you have any questions about starting you own collection.
If you liked this post, please check out the following:
We made it to week 10! At the time of writing this, still no baby but hopefully it wont be long now! This is the final post in the Discovery Table Series on the website, however if you follow us on Instagram and Facebook, we will still be changing the table each week.
This time around, we’ve chosen the city as our theme. Zoey has taken a real interest in both building and cars recently so we decided to combine the two!
What’s on the table this week?
This rather futuristic cityscape was another weekend project of ours. Both kids loved being involved with making this out of old IKEA boxes – there’s a separate blog post on the process coming soon.
As you can see, this table is slightly on the sparse side in comparison to previous tables, however this is kind of the point of the discovery series. We’re always just using what we have rather than buying brand new resources! You might’ve noticed that Grimm’s products have featured rather heavily throughout and that’s because they have so much playability!
We don’t have many books based on cities, but ‘Lots’ by Marc Martin more than makes up for it. Ordinarily, I would also squeeze in a library visit too but I haven’t been able to drive as much recently due to pregnancy related issues. If you have a local library near you, I would heartily suggest you support it!
This wooden car garage play-set from Tiger Tribe is a big hit with the kids and we often take it on holiday. For our cityscape, it’s been placed on the play-mat – so far its been the most played with item!
Finally, we added in some of Harrison’s massive toy vehicle selection to complete the table!
So that’s it – the end of the 10 week discovery table series! I’ll be sad not to write about it every week, but my time will be rather taken up with a brand new baby for the next few weeks. Rest assured they will continue in real life and you will be able to see our progress and get inspiration from our Instagram and Facebook posts instead.
In the meantime if you missed past posts, check out the following:
Inspiration often strikes when we have a billion tonnes of recycling to use up! After so many trips to IKEA recently, we have a serious surplus of cardboard. Whilst we always recycle, it seemed like a shame for these huge canvases to be immediately consigned to the yellow bin.
With another baby on the way, I’m not as up for massive messy projects (literally really, since I can no longer hoist myself off of the floor!) so we made use of the dining room table to make ourselves a zoo. This project was inspired byDiscovery Table Week 8: Zoo!
Here’s a photo diary of the process:
On Saturday we set about mapping out the zoo. My 8 year was eager to do this, drawing roads and animal enclosures with the help of a Posca pen.
By the end of day one, we had a basic outline of the zoo. As you can see, my 2 year old also made her contribution! When creating with very young children, I think it’s really important not to be too precious about the end result. I would much rather have Zoey involved and exploring materials than have perfect colouring!
On Sunday, the project really started to come together. Everyone had got over their colouring in fatigue from the previous day and using a range of crayons, pens and paints helped get the job done quicker. We started to add signs (using cut-off pieces of cardboard) and trees made from paper towel rolls and green foam.
All we really needed to do then was play! Our Grimm’s rainbow people became the tourist and the minature animal collection we had was also put to good use! If you follow us on Instagram, do check out the story we made on this project – I absolutely love the conversations Zoey was having between the animals and people!
Creativity: drawing, colouring and making all feature in this project.
Writing: my eldest wrote and spelled all of the words himself. On this point, let them spell words themselves – again this isn’t supposed to be about perfection!
Fine motor skills: drawing, cutting and writing.
Imagination: visualising what the zoo might look like, role play with the final results!
Language development: learning names, acting out roles, making animal sounds.