Use DIY Nature-inspired discovery bottles for safe, no-mess, sensory play and as an educational teaching tool for children from infants to teens! (First published May 5, 2016; this post is regularly updated and republished to improve the content.)
This list of nature sensory bottles makes it possible for babies, toddlers, and children of all ages to investigate natural materials with small parts without the risk of choking on them. Calm-down jars filled with natural materials and seasonal treasures can also help calm an anxious or overwhelmed child and help older children (and adults) relieve stress and learn to self-regulate.
Most of the DIY sensory bottles on this extensive list of nature discovery bottle ideas can also work as a science learning tool for little learners at home or in the classroom and can provide long hours of much-needed sensory input. DIY sensory bottles are often used in Montessori Education and make fantastic homemade toys for kids. For more information about sensory bottles and the many ways to use them, read Calm Down Sensory Bottles 101.
What is a nature Sensory Bottle or Calm Down Jar?
A nature sensory bottle, also known as a calm-down jar or discovery bottle, is a simple and engaging sensory tool and toy for kids that contains various natural materials with different textures, such as water, sand, rocks, shells, leaves, and other small items found in nature. Or it is a DIY sensory bottle constructed of items made to look like or mirror an aspect of nature like this snowstorm sensory bottle DIY.
These items are combined inside a transparent bottle, typically plastic or glass. Some nature sensory bottles and jars are filled with liquid (usually water or clear oil) to create an interactive and visually appealing sensory experience, but not always depending on the type of materials inside. For example, this rainstick musical nature sensory bottle does not need fluid of any kind to make.
The primary purpose of a DIY sensory bottle filled with natural materials is to provide sensory stimulation and promote relaxation and mindfulness. As the bottle is tilted, shaken, or turned upside down, the items inside move and flow, creating captivating visual effects. It’s like having a mini natural world in the bottle, offering a sense of wonder and curiosity.
How do you make nature sensory bottles?
Making DIY nature sensory bottles is a fun and creative activity you can do with kids or yourself. The process is relatively simple, and you can customize the bottles based on your preferences and available natural materials.
Scroll down to the next section to see several lists of different types of gorgeous nature sensory bottle DIYs you can make, or use the following step-by-step guide to learn how to make your own nature sensory bottles.
Nature Sensory Bottle Craft Supplies:
The following list of materials contains orange Amazon affiliate links for your convenience. If you click to purchase, Rhythms of Play will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. You might also enjoy this list of natural play materials for kids.
- Clear plastic or glass bottle with a secure lid (empty recyclable plastic water bottles, spice jars, mason jars, or craft bottles work well)
- Natural materials and treasures found in nature (e.g., sand, small pebbles or rocks, shells, leaves, flower petals, pinecones, feathers, dirt, etc.)
- Optional nature sensory bottle DIY materials:
- Distilled water or clear oil (baby oil or mineral oil). But not all nature sensory bottle DIYs need fluid. For example, this rainstick does not need water or oil.
- Goo Gone (to remove labels and sticky residue)
- Food coloring or liquid watercolors (for colored water) or
- Glitter (for added visual effects)
- Super glue or hot glue (to secure the lid)
How to Make a Nature Sensory Bottle: Step-by-Step DIY Instructions
1. Collect natural materials.
- Head out into your own backyard, go on a nature walk or hike, visit a park, or make your way into the great outdoors to collect a variety of natural items that you want to include in your sensory bottle to produce the desired effect.
- Choose items that are small enough to fit through the bottle’s opening and will create interesting visual effects when moved inside the bottle.
- Or find items that are visually appealing or provide a valuable learning opportunity for kids.
2. Clean and dry the bottle.
- Ensure your bottle is clean and dry before starting.
- Use a damp cloth or Goo Gone to remove any labels and residue from the bottle if you’re using a recycled one.
3. Add natural materials and treasures.
- Begin by placing the collected natural materials into the bottle.
- You can layer them or mix them up based on your preference.
- Experiment with different combinations to achieve the desired visual effect.
4. Fill the remainder of the bottle with water or oil (optional).
- Fill the bottle about two-thirds full with distilled water or clear oil. (optional–some nature sensory bottles, such as this rainstick, do not need fluid to function properly, and are better off without water or oil.)
- The liquid will allow the natural materials to move and create the sensory experience.
5. Add color or glitter (optional).
- If you want to add extra visual appeal, you can include a drop or two of food coloring (for water-based bottles) or glitter to the liquid before sealing the bottle.
- But don’t add too much, a little color or glitter goes a long way, and it’s easier to add more if needed than to remove the excess.
- As an example, we added a drop of blue food coloring to make this gorgeous nature sensory bottle filled with seashells.
6. Seal the lid.
- Once you’re satisfied with the contents and liquid, securely seal the lid onto the bottle.
- Use a hot glue gun, super glue, or another strong adhesive to prevent any leaks.
7. Decorate the Bottle (optional).
- You can further personalize your DIY nature sensory bottle by decorating the outside of the bottle with ribbons, stickers, or labels.
8. Shake and enjoy.
- Now, your nature sensory bottle is ready!
- Shake, tilt, and turn the bottle to observe the movement of the natural materials inside and enjoy the calming and visually captivating experience.
Please remember that adult supervision is necessary for young children using sensory bottles, especially if they are made of glass. Always ensure the lid is tightly sealed to prevent accidental spills or leaks. Additionally, be cautious when using small objects that could pose a choking hazard for young children. You might also enjoy this list of Sensory Bottles for Every Season & Holiday.
The Best Nature Sensory Bottles
We put this impressive collection of natural-inspired sensory bottles into different round-up categories to make this extensive list of natural calm-down jar ideas easier to navigate. First, you will find a fantastic list of naturally sourced sensory bottles made with items found in nature.
Next, we have listed a fun collection of sensory bottle biomes and fun ways for children to learn about the natural world, including a whole section of water and ocean theme sensory bottles!
Finally, we conclude with a list of seasonal nature discovery bottles to continue your nature study adventures and science learning explorations with fun ways to learn about the seasons. Make your nature sensory and discovery bottles with a recycled plastic water bottle, mason jar, or any of the other easy ideas shown for each DIY sensory bottle project tutorial.
We hope you enjoy learning about the natural world, the environment, and the planet we live on with this fun collection of calming and DIY discovery bottles made with natural materials for kids (or adults)! You might also enjoy making and playing this Nature Memory Matching Game.
Naturally Sourced Sensory Bottles
The nature discovery bottles on this list are all filled with natural materials. For the developing child, each fun sensory bottle idea can offer a new learning discovery about the natural world. At the same time, babies and toddlers can use them to safely investigate small natural items without the risk of choking on them, because they are safely contained inside an empty water bottle. But please supervise young children as they play with natural sensory bottles to ensure they play with them safely. For more fun ideas, check out these Nature Crafts and Art Ideas for Kids.
- Sea Shells Sensory Bottle | Rhythms of Play
- DIY Rainstick Musical Sensory Bottle | Rhythms of Play
- A Pine Needle in a Bottle | Teach Preschool
- Backyard Nature Discovery Bottle | Little Bins For Little Hands
- Parts of a Birds Nest in a Nature Bottle | Teach Preschool
- Nature Sensory Bottle | Carrots are Orange
- Ecojar | Paper Wings
- Pinecone and Birdseed Sensory Bottle | Teach Beside Me
- Calming Nature Sensory Bottle | The OT Toolbox
Related: Acorn Marble Necklaces
Nature Sensory Bottle Biomes
Discovery bottles filled with natural items can help teach children about the biomes on the planet and the ecological region in which they live. Biomes form the largest ecological areas on Planet Earth with a specific climate and certain types of living things, primarily plants and animals, that have adapted to the region. There are five basic types of biomes on planet Earth–with further subdivisions made within a few branches to differentiate the weather and seasons–or animal and plant species. You might also enjoy this list of Outside Activities for Kids.
Biomes of the World
- Aquatic (Abyssal Zone)
- Forrest (Tropical, Temperate, Boreal, Mangrove, and Mediterranean)
These sensory bottles offer a fun yet simple way for kids to explore a few of the biomes of the world and the varied types of terrain found on the magnificent planet that we call Earth.
- Sensory Bottle Biomes for Kids | Parenting Chaos
- Zoology Sensory Bottles – These nature discovery bottles are not all biomes. However, each jar can offer a fun way for young children to learn about different types of animals, areas, and environments. | The Kavanaugh Report
- Aquatic Biome Sensory Bottles – The Aquatic Biome & Ocean Theme Sensory Bottles are listed in the next section
Related: Nature Crafts for Kids and Teens
Ocean Theme Discovery Bottles
There are many ways to make an aquatic or ocean theme discovery or sensory bottle! Use a simple oil recipe to color water to make an ocean, or design a mini ocean exploration with everything from children’s under-the-sea toys to small seashells.
Some ocean sensory bottles can be used as a calm-down tool, while others make a fantastic educational teaching tool. They also make fun ocean theme party favors and an easy DIY gift idea. Make an ocean theme discovery bottle using the ideas listed below. And while you’re at it, try a few of these Under the Sea Black Glue Ocean Art Projects for Kids!
- Sea Shells Soothing Sensory Bottle DIY | Rhythms of Play
- Ocean in a Bottle | Happy Hooligans
- Sea in a Bottle Baby Play Idea | Childhood 101
- Ocean Zones in a Jar | I Can Teach My Child
- Underwater I Spy Jars | Adventure in a Box
- Ocean Zone Discovery Jars | Edventures with Kids
- Suspended Ocean Creature Discovery Bottle | Preschool Inspirations
- Ocean and Waves Discovery Bottle | The Imagination Tree
- Glow in the Dark Ocean Bottle | Sunny Day Family
- Make Your Own Jellyfish in a Bottle | Bhoomplay
- Glittering Mermaid Tail Sensory Bottle | Rhythms of Play
Seasonal Bottles And Calm Down Jars
Continue your nature study adventures and science learning explorations with seasonal nature sensory bottles. Discovery bottles like these make learning about the spring, summer, winter, and fall seasons fun. Like ocean discovery bottles, some seasonal sensory bottles are great for soothing and calming an overwhelmed child, while others make a fun learning aid.
- The Four Seasons Discovery Bottles | Sun Hats & Wellie Boots
- Weather Sensory Bottles:
Spring Flower Nature Sensory Bottles
- Spring Sensory Bottle | Lemon Lime Adventures
- Desert Flower Discovery Bottle | Preschool Inspirations
- A Spring Flower Sensory Bottle | Kids Craft Room
- Lilac Nature Sensory Bottle | Parenting Chaos
- Real Flower Discovery Bottle | Little Bins for Little Hands
- Parts of a Flower Sensory Bottle | Chalk Academy
Related: Real Flower Craft Ideas
Summer Nature Sensory Bottles
- Butterfly Sensory Bottle | Rhythms of Play
- Sunburst Sensory Bottle | Rhythms of Play
- Vegetable Garden Discovery Bottle | Sunny Day Family
- Swimming Turtles Discovery Bottle | Sunny Day Family
- Citrus Themed Nature Discovery Bottle | Where Imagination Grows
Fall Nature Sensory Bottles
- Windy Fall Leaves Sensory Bottles | Rhythms of Play
- Fall Sensory Bottle | Little Bins for Little Hands
- Leaf Sorting Sensory Bottles | Chalk Academy
- Pumpkin Patch in a Bottle | Sunny Day Family
Winter Nature Sensory Bottles
- Snowstorm Sensory Bottle | Rhythms of Play
- A Pine Needle in a Bottle | Teach Preschool
- Nature Sensory Bottle | Carrots are Orange
- Simple Snowman Sensory Bottle | Little Bins for Little Hands
Nature Bottles for Kids
This fun collection of nature sensory and discovery bottles have many purposes at home and in the classroom. They are fantastic educational teaching aids for homeschoolers and teachers and also provide a fun way for children to learn how to calm down and self-regulate. You might also enjoy this fun glow-in-the-dark ringer game sensory bottle DIY.
DIY sensory bottles made with natural and recycled materials are a great tool to help children (and adults) learn to calm down and unwind. Nature sensory bottles, such as those on this list, also provide an easy way for babies and toddlers to safely investigate natural materials and small items without the risk of choking on them. To learn more about sensory bottles and their uses, check out Calm-Down Sensory Bottles 101.
Learn more about Rhythms of Play HERE!
More Amazing DIY Sensory Bottles for Kids
- Glittering Mermaid Tail Sensory Bottle
- Rainbow Galaxy Sensory Bottle
- Slow Falling Hearts Sensory Bottle
- DIY Ringer Game Sensory Bottle