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We Tried It! – Discovery Bottles

I’ve been on the lookout lately for a new activity both the kids would enjoy. S is going through an afternoon crankiness phase (at least I hope it’s a phase) and C is always up for something novel to play with. After thinking over my options a bit, my mind turned to the various discovery bottles I’ve seen popping up on pinterest.


These guys are easy to make and open to lots of interpretation.  I figured if I came up with multiple version, C and S were each bound to like a few of them. I was right – both kiddos equally enjoy taking their turn shaking the heck out of these things.


This isn’t exactly a tutorial because there’s really nothing to it: choose ingredients, fill the bottle, and hot glue shut to avoid major catastrophe. So instead of a DIY, treat this post as a source of inspiration to get you pondering on what type of bottles your littles would enjoy.



This classic is the mother of all other discovery bottles.  Fill to the very top with one part baby oil and one part water (with a few drops of green and blue food coloring mixed in). Shaking will produce gorgeous clear bubbles immersed in the blue water while holding horizontally and rocking will replicate small ocean waves in a bottle.  Note: baby oil is toxic if ingested, you can substitute other clear cooking oils if you’re concerned your child may open the glued lid.



These galvanized hex nuts look pretty and make a fun sound when rattled. The speed of the dropping objects in this bottle also serves as a nice contrast to the slower moving pins in baby oil bottle.


I made this one so C could shake and hunt down various letters but S really likes it too.


The glitter in this one eventually separates out and settles to the bottom. I read here that this could be used as a calming tool for kids. Give it to them to shake when they’re worked up and ask them if they can watch all the sparkles hit the bottom. I’ve tried it once with C and had mixed success (he put his tantrum on pause long enough to watch it work and resumed when it was over).  Both kids like the sparkles though.



The bubbles eventually all disappear but all you have to do is shake and the bottle fills up once again. (I added purple food coloring here too.)



This is the only one I didn’t hot glue the lid on, it’s also a bit random – just some colored peanuts I found in the dollar aisle at Target. S likes to shake it with the lid on and also with the lid off (it’s a challenge to get them to actually come out and great fine motor work putting them back in).



Last is a petite version I made especially with S in mind. As I already mentioned, I thought she’d enjoy how the sewing pins fall slowly in the oil (versus the hex nuts falling quickly in the water).  Again, baby oil is toxic so please substitute with cooking oil if you’re concerned your child may open the glued lid.


Similar Stuff:
We Tried It! -DIY Edible Finger Paints
We Tried It! – Magic Milk Paint
We Tried It! – Cookie Cutter Pumpkins



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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Bernadette {Chic Spaces for Little Faces} November 9, 2011 at 12:19 pm

This is an awesome idea! Thanks for sharing.


Charlotte November 9, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Have seen this everywhere too but am finally inspired to give it a go (off to raid the recycling looking for bottles now!)


Mini Piccolini November 10, 2011 at 7:44 pm

What a great idea! I think my little Alec will love it. Thanks for posting!

(I had to share: http://minipiccolini.com/2011/11/discovery-bottles/)


Anonymous December 1, 2011 at 10:39 am


Please don’t let kids play with the baby oil bottle!! It is very dangerous if the bottle is accidentally cracked or opened and then inhaled, which has happened and has resulted in death and brain damage.

The water and glitter is so pretty (and safe) though!!


Mina January 23, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Finally got around to trying these ourselves! It really is a great, easy and quick project and the bottles held the babies’ attention for longer than I expected. Thanks again!



kate January 27, 2012 at 4:13 pm

I love these. Oh, and for the water and glitter one: If you add a bit of clear school glue to it, the glitter will fall slower and give more “calming” time. (We have two of those in my house)


Lady M March 12, 2013 at 2:28 pm

When I made a couple of these for the older 2 children (so like a decade ago), I used corn syrup & water (per a recipe on Family Fun, I think). It did a great job slowing the drop (it is so thick) of what was inside and completely non-toxic. I am off to try some of these variations for the little 2 children. They should be great entertainment for our upcoming road trip!


Painting Sunny March 24, 2013 at 2:39 pm

This was a great way to recycle some bottles in a unique way, and to add some educational elements specific to what your own children are interested in. I made my own set! Thanks for the great inspiration! I linked to you on a post about it, over at Painting Sunny right here: http://paintingsunny.com/2013/03/18/before-blog-projects-part-1/


Debbie June 2, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Having grandkids and nephew for a beach weekend (ages 1 to 5) so I began saving plastic bottles to make “BEACH” snow globes! They will add small shells, sand and water. Then I will glue the tops on and they will take a little bit of the beach home with them! :)


Steph (MPMK Founder) June 3, 2013 at 12:48 am

LOVE that idea!


Michelle @ Mind of Meesh February 1, 2014 at 8:14 pm

Love these ideas. I am making some tomorrow for my baby and I can’t wait!


Candace May 5, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Be so so so careful with baby oil!!!
We learned the hard way that Baby oil is potentially FATAL if swallowed. DO NOT induce vomiting, call poison control, call 911. If the oil is aspirated (gets into the lungs) it can cause breathing problems. Thankfully my son was ok after steroids, but I never would have guessed that a baby product was so dangerous.


Melissa January 17, 2015 at 6:05 pm

Thanks for the inspiration.


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