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How-To: Toddler Exploration Bottles


CRAFT Summer Camp
toddler exploration bottles_picture1.jpg
By Vanessa Coppolla
One of my toddler’s favorite things to do is rummage through our recyclables bin, which I seriously need to find a better way to child-proof. I’m not sure why I spend money on toys for Logan when he prefers to play with the cardboard box that the toys arrived in. Give him a paper bag and he’ll be your best friend – and entertained for a good hour.
After many days of trying to keep him out of our old plastic bottles, I decided to embrace his curiosity. Yes, I let him play with our trash. Well, I actually upcycled (because this sounds better than just letting him play with trash) a few of our old plastic water bottles and turned them into exploration bottles. I simply added a few small colorful trinkets to old water bottles and they have become Logan’s new favorite toys.
You probably already have everything you need for this project lying around the house. Get creative with what you fill your bottles with. Look in your craft supplies, pantries, and backyard for colorful objects. This is the perfect project to enlist the help of big brother or sister.

toddler exploration bottles _picture2.jpg


3 plastic water bottles (I used Voss water bottles)
Hot glue
Popcorn kernels
Small colorful trinkets
: pompoms, buttons, sequins, confetti, yarn, ribbon, beads, rocks, leaves, glitter, game board pieces, charms, sea shells, etc.


toddler exploration bottles _step1.jpg
Step 1: Remove the labels from the water bottles and allow them to dry overnight with the lids off.
toddler exploration bottles _step2.jpg
Step 2: Fill the first bottle with feathers. Drop in a few buttons or other shakable objects to add sound to the bottle.
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Step 3: Add non-paper confetti to the second bottle and fill it with water. Colorful ribbon or other small trinkets would also make a great addition to this bottle. You can add a few drops of food coloring or glitter to the water, but I noticed that the confetti I was using turned the water a different color after a few hours. You might want to do a “soak test” with your materials before you assemble the bottle.
toddler exploration bottles _step4.jpg
Step 4: Layer the third bottle with popcorn kernels, buttons, pom poms, beads, and other small shakable items. Instead of popcorn kernels, you could use beans or macaroni. Leave about 3 inches from the top unfilled, for room to shake.
toddler exploration bottles _step5.jpg
Step 5: Place a few globs of hot glue inside each lid and secure it to the bottle. This should prevent the bottle from being able to be opened by little hands, but as with any toy, please supervise your toddler.
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Step 6: Hand the finished exploration bottles to your toddler and let him enjoy his new toys!

About the Author:
Vanessa Coppola Headshot.jpg
Vanessa Coppola crafts from her Arizona home, where she resides with her husband and almost 1-year-old son, Logan. Vanessa is the author of The Crafty Nest, where she blogs about life as a newish mama and all things crafty.

15 thoughts on “How-To: Toddler Exploration Bottles

  1. Jessica says:

    If you leave the water out of the confetti bottle, your little one can experience static electricity! Just rub the sides of the bottle and the confetti will jump all over the place. I used to work for a company that made “sensory tubes”, and this is an awesome and cheap DIY version.

  2. Jess says:

    How coincidental – I just did this a couple weeks ago and also used a Voss bottle! It was my second time creating something like this: the first time I used a tennis ball container. I put a handful of popcorn kernels for sound and felt circles of different sizes/colors. With the Voss bottle, I painted pasta shells for color and threw a little rice in there. My 10-month old LOVES them. Not sure why I spend money on toys. :)

  3. Sien Deprez says:


    I’m writing a thesis about play for parents of young children with developmental issues. I’d like to use the first picture of your son for a part where I advise parents that it is good to let their child discover small things by using bottles.

    can you please let me know if it’s okay to use the picture?

    greetings from belgium,


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