What Are Sensory Bottles for Preschool Children?

By Sara Ipatenco
Anne Dale/Demand Media

Simple plastic bottles filled with colored liquid and a variety of objects might not seem like much, but they can have a calming effect on children, according to the FamilyEducation website. The bottles are easy and inexpensive to make, but they can have a powerful effect in your classroom.

What They Are and How They Benefit Students

Anne Dale/Demand Media

Sensory bottles are clean, empty bottles that have been filled with some type of liquid, as well as solid items. The lids are glued tightly to the bottles so preschoolers can turn them upside down and shake them without the contents inside spilling out. The bottles can help calm children by requiring them to sit still and examine the contents. Some children get overstimulated in the classroom, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and moving to a quiet corner of the room with a sensory bottle can be relaxing for these children. The bottles are also entertaining to watch.

Choose a Theme for Your Bottle

Anne Dale/Demand Media

Sensory bottles can look any way you want them to. Choosing a theme will help you integrate the bottles into your classroom curriculum. For example, make star-themed bottle by adding star-shaped confetti to the liquid in the bottle, suggests the Arkansas Division of Human Services. Make a shiny-themed bottle by adding sparkling sequins, glitter or beads. Add items based on your thematic units. If your class is studying letters, add letter-shaped confetti or beads, and if your class is learning about colors, add small beads, foam shapes, bits of ribbon or crayon shavings in one color to individual bottles.

Making the Bottles

Anne Dale/Demand Media

There are a few tricks to making sensory bottles. The easiest way to make the bottles is to simply fill the bottles with water and add the items before hot gluing the lid to the bottle. Adding other liquids, however, will add even more interest. Add a drizzle of dish soap to the bottle so bubbles form when children roll or shake it, or pour in a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil to mimic the action of waves. Corn syrup, clear shampoo or hair gel will create a slow-motion sensory bottle. Buttons, tiny plastic animals, bits of foil and small plastic party favors are additional items that work well in sensory bottles.

Tips for Using the Bottles

Anne Dale/Demand Media

Show preschoolers the proper way to play with sensory bottles before placing them on your shelves. Demonstrate how to roll the bottles and turn them upside down, telling preschoolers that these are appropriate ways to treat them. Allow the preschoolers to use the sensory bottles during free play, but also make them available to students who are having a hard time concentrating or getting along with others. This encourages self-regulation, which is the capacity for a preschooler to recognize that his behavior isn't appropriate and consciously seek out something to distract him, according to the NAEYC website.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.