If your child is overwhelmed by sensory input, a sensory bottle may help. It’s a tool that can help kids self-regulate. You may also hear it referred to as a sensory tube.
The great thing about a sensory bottle is that it’s a peaceful object that kids can focus on. They can even shake it to get some proprioceptive input. And there are different kinds of sensory bottles to capture their attention.
Your supplies will vary depending on what type of bottle you choose to make, but here are the basics that you need to get started on a homemade sensory bottle:
- A clean, empty plastic water bottle with the label removed
- Superglue (or a hot glue gun)
- Warm water
- Food coloring
- A funnel
- Corn syrup
How to make a themed sensory bottle with glitter
This sparkly sensory bottle is easy to make. It provides some visual calm for kids when they shake it or turn it around in their hands. Plus, it can be tailored to a child’s interests to make it more appealing.
For instance, if your child loves the ocean, you can use blue food coloring, blue glitter, and confetti shaped like fish.
First squeeze corn syrup into an empty water bottle. Use enough to fill one-third of the bottle with the syrup. (Instead of corn syrup, you can use oil, like in the video above.) Add warm water until it’s about three-quarters full. Next, add a few drops of food coloring and sprinkle in some glitter. Put the lid on the water bottle and shake to mix the ingredients.
Once you’re satisfied with how it looks, fill the bottle to the top with water. Put the lid back on and secure it with superglue or hot glue.
How to make a wave sensory bottle
Fill an empty water bottle about one-third full with water. Add a few drops of food coloring. Once the food coloring has spread throughout the water, fill the rest of the bottle with baby oil or cooking oil.
Secure the lid with superglue. Your child can put the bottle on its side to see the waves or shake it to see the oil and water separate.
How to make a “peekaboo” sensory bottle with sand
You can make this bottle with rice that has been dyed with food coloring (search online for a recipe) or with colored play sand.
Put a funnel in the mouth of an empty water bottle and fill it about halfway with sand or rice. Add small toys, like alphabet beads, LEGO blocks or mini-erasers.
Then, fill the rest of the bottle with sand or rice, leaving about an inch of room at the top. This gives the contents room to move around and get mixed up. Shake the bottle and then secure the lid with superglue.
You can even make a list of the toys in the bottle. Kids can use it to see if they can find all the items.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.
Keri Wilmot is an occupational therapist who works with children of varying ages and abilities in all areas of pediatrics.