Discovery bottles are fun for all kinds of kids. Babies and toddlers love to explore them, and for big kids, they can demonstrate interesting scientific concepts, or be used as learning manipulatives, or even serve as a tool for helping them calm their big feelings.
Fortunately, all kinds of discovery bottles are also easy to make from upcycled plastic jars or bottles and mostly household ingredients. Here are some that you can probably make without any extra trips to the store:
1. beads, water, and pipe cleaners. You can’t get much more simple than simply beads and water, and yet kids will still find it fascinating to explore. The pipe cleaners are a smart addition, as they can be manipulated by a kid wielding a magnet.
2. bubbly bottle. This is a really clever idea for getting foam and suds without overfilling the bottle.
3. color mixing bottles. This tutorial does call for lamp oil, but the alternate method of dyeing cooking oil using candy coloring just doesn’t work as well.
4. corn syrup and marbles. You do have to buy corn syrup for this, which isn’t ideal (at least, *I’ve* never seen an organic, GMO-free corn syrup that I’m happy to buy), but the result is fascinating: the marbles fall slloooooowly! It’s great science.
5. DIY density bottles. Half the fun for kids is getting to make these discovery bottles themselves, exploring the physical properties of the substances that they choose in the process. It’s messy, but it’s a stellar hands-on science experience.
6. fairy garden. Part snowglobe and part discovery bottle, this DIY fairy garden, made from an upcycled plastic container with a lid, is really cute!
7. hurricane in a jar. There’s a particular ingredient in some soaps and shampoos that will add a pearlescent swirl to your discovery bottles. With that ingredient, you can actually watch the water currents as you tilt your bottle–it’s really entertaining! Unfortunately, the ingredient, Glycol Stearate, isn’t something that you actually *want* in your soap and shampoo, but a friend or family member who uses one of those brands will surely let you have just a couple of squeezes of her shampoo.
8. jellyfish in a bottle. Upcycle a plastic grocery bag into a toy that will fascinate everyone, no matter their age.
9. I Spy bottles. These are SO fun for little kids! Pop tiny objects into a bottle, fill it 3/4 full of dyed rice, and let the kids have fun discovering each little thing as they turn the bottle. You can photograph an answer key, or use the bottle to encourage the kids to practice math or phonics. This spelling words bottle still works with my nine- and ten-year-olds!
10. nebulae. Since you won’t want to shake this, this is more likely a discovery bottle for adults. It would be a lovely decoration!
11. rainbow bottles. If you’ve got little kids, this is a great way to clear up some of the little toys and craft bits that are strewn across your house. Don’t forget to check the recycling!
12. rainbow pasta. Unlike dyed rice, pasta is large enough that it won’t just look like rainbow confetti. Here’s how to dye pasta.
13. smelling bottles. Upcycle empty spice jars for these bottles, which allow kids to exercise their sense of smell.
14. static electricity discovery bottles. Here’s an educational way to use up a little bit of any Styrofoam that might find its way into your house.
15. toothpicks and rice. This bottle not only functions as a DIY rain stick, but is also simply fun for kids to tilt and explore with their eyes and ears.
16. tornado in a bottle. You’ll need to buy the special piece that makes the tornado, but you’ll probably have all the other supplies right in your house.