Put your favorite children’s book in a discovery bottle!

Ignite the senses while exploring literacy in your classroom!

I am joining a few of my fellow bloggers today to bring you some new ideas for making Affordable and Amazing Discovery Bottles!

I have been making a new collection of discovery bottles this year which I call Literacy Discovery Bottles. I consider this set of discovery bottles amazing in that they are a fun way to extend a favorite children’s book in the classroom. They are affordable in that you can use simple toys or items you have around the classroom or house to make your own set of bottles.

Rather than telling you how to make a discovery bottle, I will just give you a few examples of the literacy discovery bottles I have made so that you can get the idea and then head off to choose your own favorite books to bottle up!

Discovery Bottle Inspiration

For each literacy discovery bottle I have made, I simply looked around for a few small objects that represent an idea, character, or object from a book we have read in class. After reading Elmer, for example, I added a few colorful square blocks that I had on hand. This set of small blocks have always reminded me of the colors and squares in Elmer’s patchwork coat. I also added a small toy elephant to the bottle.

Preparing the Discovery Bottles

For each of my literacy discovery bottles, I used Voss plastic water bottles and I rotated only four liquid ingredients in each of my bottles – water, baby oil, a drop of dish soap, and/or food color. Although I like the objects to move around in unusual ways in the bottles, where possible, I mostly wanted the focus to be on the objects and the story the objects remind the children of. My Elmer the Elephant Discovery bottle is filled with water only.

Exploring the Discovery Bottles

While reading Elmer to the children, the children passed the Elmer Discovery Bottle around the circle. The child holding the discovery bottle sat quietly and moved Elmer and his colorful blocks up and down the bottle as I read a page in our book.

When I turned to read a new page of the book, the bottle was passed to the next child for his or her turn to move the bottle. Often times, discovery bottles (with glitter and oil) are also referred to as “calming bottles” because the glitter slowly makes its way from one end to the other end of the bottle. I will say that the children enjoyed slowly watching the blocks drift up and down the bottle and it made for a very calming read-aloud experience too…

I don’t just use my literacy discovery bottles in circle time. In fact, I often will introduce the bottle to the children after reading our book and then leave it sitting on a shelf by or near the book somewhere in the classroom. The goal is to invite the children to explore the bottles anytime they like and for the bottles to remind the children of the books we have read or to inspire the children to talk about the stories or even retell the stories in their own words.

More Discovery Bottle Ideas

Following are a few examples of favorite books I have read this year in my classroom or at home with my grandson along with the literacy bottles I have made to go with each book…

Stick and Stone by Tom Lichtenheld 

Inside the bottle: A Stick and a Stone and Water (with a touch of Dawn soap to represent the ocean bubbles).

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Buskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld

Inside the bottle: A toy construction truck and an orange work zone cone, rocks, water, and a touch of blue food color (I need to add a few stars). The construction truck moves the rocks around the bottle.

The Mixed-Up Chameleon By Eric Carle

Inside the bottle: water, baby oil, red food color, a toy chameleon and a toy fly. The chameleon can’t eat the fly no matter which way you turn the bottle. This bottle dropped just right one day and the lid broke. The middle part of the lid is still in tact and it doesn’t leak so the kids just move the broken ring of the lid out of the way until I have a chance to replace the entire lid.

Dinosaur Farm By Frann Preston-Gannon

Inside the bottle: Baby oil, a toy tractor and a couple of toy dinosaurs.

These are just a few of the many different Literacy Discovery Bottles I have sitting around my classroom. I would really like to make a bottle to go with every one of my favorite books! I am sure you will be able to come up with some great ideas for your favorite books too!

The Grouchy Ladybug By Eric Carle

Inside the bottle: lady bug buttons, baby oil, water, and a stick.

Now be sure to check out the links below for more Affordable and Amazing discovery bottles

Magic Two Ingredient Sensory Bottle | Preschool Inspirations

Suspended Beads Dollar Tree Discovery Bottle | Fun at Home with Kids

Weighted Discovery Bottles | Play to Learn Preschool

Marble Color Mixing Discovery Bottle | Still Playing School

Beaded Names Discovery Bottle | Stay At Home Educator

Available on Amazon

By |2018-12-31T20:10:49+00:00April 27th, 2015|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Devany April 27, 2015 at 8:42 am - Reply

    These are BRILLIANT!

  2. Debe April 27, 2015 at 8:47 am - Reply

    Love this idea! Where did you find those great bottles?

  3. gisa April 27, 2015 at 8:49 am - Reply

    i love this!!

    what a creative, wonderful idea!!

    where did you buy those great bottles?

    thanks for sharing!!

  4. Katie @ Preschool Inspirations April 27, 2015 at 10:28 am - Reply

    Be still, my discovery bottle loving heart!!! These are incredible, and I can’t wait to incorporate some of our own based on our fave stories!!!!

  5. Asia Citro April 27, 2015 at 1:12 pm - Reply


  6. Jamie White April 27, 2015 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    What a fantastic idea! You’ve started my wheels turning… I’m already thinking about our favorite picture books and ways to make coordinating discovery bottles. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Kacy Clontz April 27, 2015 at 6:12 pm - Reply

    Hi Deborah,

    This is such a wonderful article and I really like the discovery bottle idea very much. 🙂

    A year ago I bought an ebook online and to my surprise, the results were very impressive. My child was able to read within 12 weeks after I had gone through the book and used the simple methods which were mentioned. I hope it will help others as well as it helped me as well.

    Here’s the link to get the book: https://www.childreadingsecrets.com/

    Here’s a tip which I would like to give: You NEED to give something to your baby in order to make them read. Remember how we all used to tame our parrots? Give it some seeds and let it sit on our finger. Similarly, you have to reward your child as soon as they hold a book. It will be difficult at start but your child will develop a habit — that is for sure.

  8. Janice April 27, 2015 at 10:55 pm - Reply

    Love, LOVE your sensory bottles. What a fabulous idea! Can’t wait to play with a few ideas of our favourite books. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Scott April 29, 2015 at 12:22 pm - Reply

    Love this idea, Deborah. I’ve seen discovery bottles for lots of different things, but a bottle based on a particular book – great, brilliant!

    Now I’m off to find cows and a typewriter to make a bottle for (one of) my favorite books. 🙂

  10. Secember April 30, 2015 at 11:54 pm - Reply

    Great !
    From an english ans mathematics teacher from France !

  11. Janet Nevins May 5, 2015 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    This is such a great idea thanks.

  12. Cathy May 11, 2015 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    I LOVE the book connection! Are all the items (such as the work truck and red tractor) small enough to fit through the opening are do you have a secret method?

  13. Sonali Jain May 13, 2015 at 8:40 am - Reply

    Hey, I am a teacher in India. I really liked your article, the pictures are cool something innovative for children to learn and comprehend new things. We too conduct activities like this and share it with parents through our school app

  14. Joey May 18, 2015 at 9:59 am - Reply

    Where do you find all the small items? I’ve looked everywhere for things and not having any luck.

  15. michael May 26, 2015 at 2:23 am - Reply

    Interesting idea. haha must try at home now.

    Michael from Malaysia

  16. Marion Getchel May 29, 2015 at 5:51 pm - Reply

    Hi! My name is Marion from teachthychild.com. I am in the process of writing an ebook on activities to do with preschool and early elementary age children. I would like to include your blog as a reference so the readers can get more ideas. Please let me know if I can add your blog to the list of recommended blogs in my ebook. Thank you for your time.

  17. Wanda Wyont June 1, 2015 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    I love the idea. I am a retired educator. Recently, I have written my second children’s book. I am enjoying the opportunity to visit schools and child care centers to share my books. I am going to make the Discovery Bottles. It will add to the reading experience. Thank you.

  18. Carrie June 26, 2017 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    Why do you use different liquids, i.e. baby oil, water, dish soap? I’ve even seen corn syrup used. I just don’t know which liquid to use?

    • Deborah Stewart June 26, 2017 at 5:13 pm - Reply

      Hi Carrie,
      Different densities of luquud change how fast the objects flow from end to end. So baby oil is thicker than water thus slows the objects. It is a subtle difference but definitely worth playing around with!

  19. Cynthia October 23, 2017 at 10:01 am - Reply

    Love these! I have been searching around for a small tractor, construction truck and chameleon, but without any luck. Do you remember where you found ones small enough to fit into the Voss bottles? Thank so much!

    • Deborah Stewart October 30, 2017 at 6:58 pm - Reply

      I find quite a few small items from Hobby Lobby and sometimes in the party toys isles in places like Dollar Tree and Party Supplies.

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