Sensory Bottles...and Developmental Skills They Can Target!

Lots of children think sensory bottles (aka discovery bottles) are cool. We think the coolest thing about them is that you can make them yourself! There’s a ton of information on different ingredients you can include to create, for example, an I Spy bottle or a calming bottle. There’s far less information on what to actually do with these bottles after they’re made, aside from shaking and flipping them upside down. Here are some developmental skills to target while you and your child play with sensory bottles.

Language Skills: Work on the concepts of Go and Stop. Say, “GO!” and encourage your child to shake the sensory bottle until you say, “STOP!” Play a version of I Spy by having your child identify the objects inside the bottle. Make the game more difficult by describing the object that your child should find. Add phonemic awareness lessons by having your child find an item that:
  1. Starts with the same beginning sound of a letter/word (e.g. say “I spy something that starts with the letter ‘T’” and then make the “t” sound), 
  2. Ends with the same ending sound of a letter/word or 
  3. Rhymes with the word you say.

Math Skills: Have your child identify different colors, shapes and sizes of items in the sensory bottle. Count different objects or talk about quantitative concepts (e.g. more, less, a lot and a few). Practice repetitive patterns by shaking the bottle two times and then stopping while chanting, “shake, shake, stop...shake, shake, stop.”

Social Skills: Take turns using the bottle. Make sure to give your child a warning on
how much time they will have to play with it until it is your turn. Say, “two minutes, then Daddy’s turn.” Then, use a sand timer to provide a visual representation of the two-minute time frame. When the time is up, point to the sand timer, say “it’s my turn” and gently take the bottle. Before you begin your turn, repeat the same process by saying, “two minutes, then Jacob’s turn” and flipping the sand timer over again. While you play with the bottle, your child is learning how to wait – a wonderful bonus skill for any child! When your turn is up, cue your child to express it is his/her turn. This can be done in many ways. You can:

  1. Prompt your child to touch his/her chest to signify ‘my turn” (one way to do this is to gently take his/her hand and pat his/her chest while you say “my turn” OR let your child pat his/her own chest while you say “my turn”),
  2. Verbally cue him/her to say “my turn” or 
  3. Have him/her give you or point to a picture that represents “my turn.” A “my turn” picture is included in our picture support cards, along with a picture for “your turn,” “go” and “stop.”

Science Skills: Talk about which items sink to the bottom of the bottle and which ones float to the top. Describe any sounds the materials inside the bottle make. Let your child hold a magnifying glass to examine different items up close.

Sensory-Motor Skills: Encourage your child to roll the bottle on the floor and then 
crawl, jump or animal walk (e.g. bear, duck or crab walk) after it. Add heavier items to the bottle, such as marbles, beans, corn, rocks or sand, to provide more weight. Allowing children with extra energy to carry around or hold a weighted bottle can help them both calm and organize their sensory system.

Behavior Development: Use the sensory bottle as a calm down jar. When your child is upset, have him/her shake the bottle and encourage him/her to take deep breaths while watching the contents swirl, slow down and eventually settle back to the bottom.

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We'd love to hear from you! Email us at support@earlyvention.com to ask questions or share your thoughts about this post.

Melissa Ames
Melissa Ames

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