When emotions become too much, having something to help your child calm down is a great idea. And the actual act of making sensory bottles or calm down jars is in itself a wonderful activity! Discover how you can make different styles of sensory bottles at home with our round-up below.
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Like all sensory play, sensory bottles are a really useful tool for promoting a sense of wonder and encouraging children to use their senses to explore and discover. They can also help with the development of fine motor skills when children are involved in making the bottles, and language and social skills when shared.
One of the most effective uses for sensory bottles is as a calm-down tool. A sensory bottle, calm down jar or other similar items can offer a valuable focus or distraction to a child while they calm down from an overwhelming emotional experience.
They also make a great craft activity and are simple to make. The best bit is that the overall purpose of a sensory bottle is entirely open to your child to determine. They can explore textures, colours and contents by shaking, rolling and up-ending the bottle. Or, alternatively, use it to calm down and as a meditation tool. How cool is that?!
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Make Your Own Sensory Bottles
We wanted to share some of our favourite DIY sensory bottles – all of which offer a unique element for discovery and exploration, which are sure to be a hit with children of all ages.
Some require a little more adult supervision than others, so we have provided ingredients and instructions to get your craft session started!
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Rainstick bottles use the calming effect of the sound of rain to sooth your child’s troubles away, and can be made from a huge array of household items such as dried rice, beads or buttons. Just add your chosen objects to fill around half of your container, secure the lid and be transported by the soothing sounds.
Back to Nature Rainstick
Why not include a nature scavenger hunt or trail in your quest to find items for your rainsticks? Children will love hunting for twigs, cones and small stones – and you can add in bird seed and nuts for effect too, like these rainsticks from Chalk Academy.
Fill the cylinder (e.g. water bottle, cardboard tube with the ends covered, etc) with twigs and sticks, and then carefully pour in your smaller items (uncooked rice or beans, sand, seeds, pebbles, etc). Secure the lid and then slowly tip the rainstick from one end to the other to hear the ‘rain’ sounds inside.
Scented Rainstick Bottle
Sensory or calm down bottles are typically a visual tool. In the case of the rainstick bottle, a hearing element is added. But what if we could add the sense of smell too? Why not add a few drops of your favourite scented essential oils to some dried rice and add this to your rainstick for a sensory treat?
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Slow Motion Sensory Bottles
This kind of sensory bottle is a fabulous tool to use with children experiencing big emotions. They can regulate their breathing as they watch items move slowly around the bottle.
This slow motion LEGO sensory bottle from Childhood 101 is a great example – and the LEGO bricks can fall and focus, slow down or calm down, depending upon the moment.
To make this, you will need:
- Clear hair gel
- Warm water
- A tall bottle
- LEGO bricks
- Fine glitter
- Super glue or tape to secure lid (optional)
- Combine one part hair gel to 6 parts warm water. Leave to cool completely and settle.
- Pour most of the gel/water mix into the bottle.
- Add a little fine glitter and your LEGO bricks. Push the bricks below the surface to remove any air bubbles.
- Fill the bottle right to the very top with the remaining mixture.
- Put on the lid, shake vigorously and test your bottle. If the bricks fall too slowly, empty the mixture back into a bowl and add a little more warm water. Let cool again and re-test. If the bricks fall too quickly, mix in a little more hair gel. Let settle and re-test.
- Once you are happy with the flow of your sensory bottle, secure the lid – a waterproof glue or wide, clear packaging tape will help to keep it secure from curious little fingers.
The great thing about these slow motion sensory bottles is that you can swap the LEGO bricks for anything you choose, or something that particularly resonates with your child. We really like this idea for an alphabet sensory bottle from Modern Preschool, or you could use small animal toys, beads, buttons, flowers or loom bands.
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Colour Mixing Sensory Bottles
These vibrant oil and water discovery bottles are a safe science activity for preschoolers and older children, but will need some adult supervision. The vibrant results of these colour-changing bottles from Preschool Inspirations shows just how eye-catching they can be.
Aside from the sensory element, this engaging science activity is also effective for teaching the concepts of colour (for younger children) and density (for older children). By using different densities, the two colours are able to mix to form a new colour and then separate again. But beyond the science, they are beautiful to look at and simply mesmerising.
To make this, you will need:
- Baby oil (or another clear oil)
- Water-based food colouring
- Oil-based food colouring
- Spoon or mixer
- Super glue
- Pour some water into the bottle until it reaches the halfway point.
- Add a few drops of water-based food colouring to the water. Then put the lid onto the bottle and shake it to mix the colour into the water.
- Pour some baby oil into a jug, then add a few drops of oil-based food colouring. Always use contrasting colours for the best effect.
- Use a mixer to mix colour into the oil.
- Carefully pour the coloured oil into the bottle (use a small funnel if you need to), on top of the water. It will sit on top of the water until the bottle is shaken.
- When the contents settle, seal the lid onto the bottle with super glue or hot glue gun to prevent leakage when shaken.
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Ocean Sensory Bottle
To recreate the calming feeling of being under the ocean or enjoying the waves, an ocean-themed sensory bottle, like this one from Little Bins for Little Hands, would be a good idea.
To make this, you will need:
- One lightweight plastic bottle
- Clear glue (or blue glitter glue)
- Blue water-based food colouring (if you used clear glue)
- Clear, plastic gemstones (alternatively, you could use clear or coloured glass pebbles or even clean beach sand)
- Silver glitter
- Small sea shells
- Silver star sequins
- Add some water to the bottle and squeeze in some glue. Shake to mix and then add the gemstones, glitter, sequins, sea shells, etc and a drop or two of blue food colouring if you used clear glue.
- Fill the rest of the bottle with water.
- Secure the lid tightly with a dab of glue from the hot glue gun or by wrapping the top with coloured electrical tape.
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Winter Sensory Bottle
No Time For Flashcards created this really effective ‘Blizzard in a Bottle’ winter sensory bottle that is ideal for Frozen fans.
A few simple ingredients really can be transformed to make you feel like you’re in the middle of a blizzard!
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Glitter Sensory Jar
These unicorn or mermaid-inspired glitter sensory jars from Childhood 101 is so eye-catching! Kids will love the way the colours blend together, creating a really magical focus for them during calm down time.
This style of bottle uses acrylic paint and cotton balls, which gives a different look and feel to the final effect – we love it!
Have Some Hands-On Fun!
These sensational sand play ideas are perfect for toddlers, pre-schoolers and big kids to get to grips with!
When it comes to any form of sensory play, water beads are a popular choice and they are incredibly versatile.
Just adding them to water can be a really engaging activity. As they expand in size and suspend in water or oil, the water beads appear to blur and bounce around. It’s really quite hypnotic, and lots of fun!
This rainbow sensory bottle with water beads from Ryan & Marsha is another way to enjoy them. Of course you could make any pattern of colours you like, but in this case the rainbow effect is really mesmerising, particular when held up to the light.
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Have you ever made sensory bottles or calm down jars at home? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!