LDS Nursery Activity Ideas: Sensory Bottles

In Nursery, I was getting a little sick of the same old toys. I was on the look out for some new LDS Nursery activity ideas that were easy and cheap to do. So I decided to whip up some sensory bottles.

Recently, I made some sensory bottles for my older kiddos at home to see if it would help reduce homework anxiety. And I kind of got hooked on them. I now have two by my office computer that I shake up when I am feeling a little overwhelmed. One of my children struggles with anxiety and helping him to learn coping skills has taught me how much us adults can benefit from a few coping skills as well. And trust me, parents need loads of coping skills.

The same coping skills don’t always work for everybody, so you kind of have to experiment. It is interesting to see which coping skills resonate with different members of our family. My son is a gum chewer, my daughter a swinger, my husband likes the weighted blanket for sleeping, and for some reason the Primary hymns do it for me. Regular church hymns don’t have the same effect, it has to be children’s hymns. My kids know me so well now that my daughter will run over and turn on the Primary hymns when she sees me starting to go a little batty. It makes me wonder why we don’t do a better job teaching coping strategies to everybody, not just people who struggle with anxiety.

Nursery can be hard for some kids, so I decided to try out sensory bottles to see if they would help us weather the emotional storms. And if the kids didn’t like them, I could at least use them if the chaos was starting to get to me! But the sensory bottles turned out to be a big hit and for some of the kids they are the first thing they ask for when they walk through the door.

Here are a few things I learned about using sensory bottles or discovery bottles in Nursery.

LDS Nursery Sensory Bottle Tips

Picking out bottles: I used water bottles to make the sensory bottles because they are cheap and plastic. I didn’t want to have to stress about broken glass. However, water bottles have gotten really flimsy as they have cut down on the amount of plastic in them. Great for the environment, but not so great for sensory bottles. Luckily, I found that Dasani Water still makes a thicker water bottle that is sturdy enough to stand up to abuse and that maintains its shape.

Creating a good seal: The beauty of sensory bottles is that they don’t make a big mess, but if they kids figure out how to open them, you are toast. At first, I tried super glue, but the kids were able to twist them open with very little effort. Same with hot glue. I also tried duct tape, but the kids peeled it right off. But when I used aluminum foil tape, the caps didn’t budge and I found that the kids didn’t try to twist the caps or peel the tape off. It created a great seal and several months later the bottles are holding up great.

What to put in the bottles: My favorite one is the glitter bottle. I tried doing one with food coloring and glitter, but it made the glitter harder to see. Just doing water and glitter works the best. The kids’ favorite is one I did with water orbs. I bought a small bag of them at Dollar Tree, but you can also buy them on Amazon. They start out as small, hard pellets and grow as they absorb water. The bottle looks cooler if you don’t fill the bottle all the way up with the orbs because it allows them room to mix and float around. This one is a huge hit with the kids.

Another favorite is a bottle I filled with rice, bouncy balls, beads, and dyed noodles. The kids like the sound it makes and searching for the bouncy ball. This one is a little on the loud side though if you are looking for quiet.

I filled another one with dyed water, a plastic bag, and beads to make a kind of jellyfish, but it wasn’t a big favorite. A quick search for sensory bottles on Pinterest will also give you a ton of ideas to try out with your Nursery kids.

Introducing the bottles to the class: The kids now love the bottles, but the first time I brought them it was a total disaster. The kids thought I had brought them yummy, colorful drinks and were devastated when I wouldn’t let them open up the bottles and drink them. I had a handful of toddlers crying and screaming for “drink! drink! drink!” Luckily, a parent was smart enough to go get some water and serve up drinks for all the kids. So if your kids don’t have any experience with sensory bottles, I recommend having some kind of alternative drink available so that you don’t disappoint their expectations. It was only a problem the first time though. Once they realized the bottles weren’t for drinking, they were fine.

When to use the bottles: For us, the bottles make for a nice settling activity when the kids are transitioning from Sacrament Meeting to Nursery time. It isn’t overwhelming and is soothing for a lot of the kids who struggle with separation anxiety. If you have a cryer, I will sometimes use a sensory bottle to distract him or her. They can also be a good calming down activity if kids are getting too energetic.

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