Employee and Intern Make Sensory Bottles to Give the Gift of Calm to Children Clients and their Families (Directions to Make Your Own Sensory Bottle Included)

As a child welfare specialist in Lutheran Social Services of Illinois' (LSSI's) Intact Family Recovery Program, Ashley Jensch provides support to children and their parents who are working through drug or alcohol recovery. And like any parents juggling the added stress of the coronavirus pandemic, extra resources to calm a bored or cranky child are a must! So Jensch and her intern from Aurora University, Lauren Parker, created sensory bottles for the 24 children in their care.

Sensory bottles are water bottles filled with items that create a fun and calming sensory experience for children—and even adults! Similar to a snow globe, the water bottle is filled with interesting objects, letters, and glitter. When shaken, the contents swirl around, creating a visual experience that captures attention and can be a source of calm.

"People are managing day-to-day," Jensch said. "We wanted to do something fun for our families that they could use as a resource." Jensch initially thought of the idea for the sensory bottles when she saw two young sibling clients playing with water in a Ziploc bag.

There are lots of resources on the Internet for making the sensory bottles, and Jensch, who loves crafting, tested several before perfecting her approach. Then she and Parker made all of the sensory bottles in about three hours, and distributed them to families in their care.

Jensch has received texts from parents letting her know how much their kids enjoy the sensory bottles. From keeping a baby calm during a diaper change to settling children down at the dinner table, they are a hit!

"I think our families are amazing," she said. "I wanted them to see that we're here to be supportive, and provide them with something that will help them day-to-day."

Jensch shared her instructions for the sensory bottle, which is listed below, for anyone who would like to make this craft with kids (or adults) in their lives who need a calming, sensory experience!

Sensory Bottle Instructions

Ingredients/Supplies:

  • Using the water bottle brand Core worked best due to its wide mouth opening; remove the wrapper and empty out the water so that it is 2/3 full.
  • After emptying the water bottle, add 2 to 2.5 tablespoons of glycerin—this is a KEY ingredient as it helps to slow the ingredients without making the water cloudy. (You can find glycerin at any craft store.)
  • Now the fun begins of adding in the dry ingredients. For our sensory bottles we used Legos, alphabet beads, flower beads, gems, sequins, confetti, glitter, and pom-poms. It is important not to add items that are heavy as they sink quickly.
  • Using a combo of dry ingredients/different sizes will add depth and character to the bottle.
  • You can also add some glitter glue if you choose. A half-tablespoon goes a long way.
  • Once happy with your creation, top off bottle with room temperature water.
  • You can use hot glue, rubber cement or my personal favorite, Loctite Super Glue. After adding the glue, make sure to screw the cap on all the way and let dry.
  • Making sensory bottles can have a trial and error concept depending on your preferences. Stay patient and have fun!  

Once your masterpiece is complete, all you have to do is give it a good shake and let the magic happen!