Most of the information you’ll find out in internet-land on “sensory play” is designed either for toddlers, or with children with some sort of sensory problem. It came as a surprise to me just how much my kids enjoyed and appreciated a little bit of time with some bottles of their own—not just creating them, but coming back and playing with them later. They enjoy the colors; they enjoy the shapes; they love the sparkles. This is an excellent project for a rainy day, when kids need a little something to keep them busy; and it’s a nice break from normal learning activities. As their senses are stimulated, their minds are opened creatively, and they’re able to increase their thinking outside the box.
Step One: Acquire half a dozen or more empty water bottles. The easiest way to do this is to just collect them over time.
Step Two: Pick up some (cheap) food coloring, a few toys small enough to fit through the hole at the top of your bottles, and plenty of glitter.
Step Three: Raid your art supply cabinet. What do you have that would look fun?
Step Four: Create! If you have older kids, the easiest thing to do at this point is just let them run wild. Decide ahead of time how much noise you’re willing to live with. If you prefer to gain a little peace and quiet out of your sensory bottles, you might want to avoid contents that will rattle together to make a loud noise. Adding water to your bottles can alleviate some of this.
Step Five: This one is important: duct tape your bottle shut. Glue it shut. Do whatever you must in order to ensure that the contents of the bottle—particularly one filled with water—are not easy to get out.
Fill a bottle with toothpicks and rice. When it’s turned upside down, it makes the same sounds as a rain stick.
Make a “lava lamp”—fill the bottle three quarters of the way up with water, then fill it the rest of the way with oil. Just for fun, you could also add glitter.
If you don’t mind noise, put craft rocks or marbles in a bottle. Little ones will love the sound it makes.
Push small pompoms through the opening of the bottle. This can be fun either on its own, or with water added.
Make rainbow bottles—one filled with things that are red, one with things that are blue, etc. For increased color fun, add a few drops of food coloring.
Make a glitter bottle. Put a handful of small beads in the bottom of the bottle. Add glitter and water. Even grownups may be fascinated by this one! The smaller the glitter, the longer it will take to settle.