In honor of Earth Day, here’s a way to get more uses out of your plastic bottles. From a crinkly musical instrument to a sensory-inspired experience, these upcycle ideas turn this ordinary household product into plenty of entertainment for your baby. Read on for nine fabulous ways to turn those bottles into an eco-friendly toy for your little one.
Exploring Hot & Cold
Let your little one experience the difference between hot (but not too hot) and cold by using two water bottles. Fill one with ice and the other with warm tap water and let the exploring begin. This idea from Mama Papa Bubba is a cinch to pull off, especially considering you probably have water bottles already lying around!
Glitter Sensory Bottle
Great for both big kids and babies, these glitter sensory bottles from Little Bins for Little Hands are beyond easy to make. The simple ingredients include water, glue and glitter, and they provide your little one with a beautiful visual experience.
Water Bottle Water Fountain
Perfect for hot weather or even bath time, this water bottle water fountain from Toddler Approved is an easy-peasy activity that baby will love! Decorate a water bottle in colorful tape, and then poke a few holes in it before filling with water. When you squeeze, the fun begins!
I Spy Bottles
Road trips just got much quieter. "I Spy" bottles made from recycled plastic bottles provide hours of entertainment for babies of all ages. Fill the bottle with dried rice and a bunch of small trinkets or knickknacks. Amy from Mama Librarian used pom-poms, charms, buttons and crayons. Younger babies who are still working on dexterity will roll the bottle around, and bigger tots can use the bottle to learn new words and colors.
Tummy Time Bottle
Make blanket time and tummy time more exciting with this colorful sensory toy from Hello Bee. Fill a plastic, screw-top bottle with water and small objects in different colors and shapes (like glitter, buttons and shells). Baby can roll the bottle and reach for it, or you can shake it around for them to look at. If you plan on using the bottle for more than one day, consider hot-gluing the cap shut.
Bottle Cap Snake
Collect a bunch of plastic caps—the more, the merrier—and file down any rough edges before cleaning them thoroughly. Next, use a screwdriver or a nail and hammer to poke a hole through each bottle cap. String together with ribbon, and if you're feeling adventurous, draw a cute little snake face (like the folks behind Krokotak did) on the first cap with a baby-safe permanent marker.
Put It In/Take It Out Bottle
Coffee drinker? Upcycle an old creamer bottle into a cool fine-motor tool. After rinsing out the lidded bottle, grab a bunch of baby-friendly craft items. Jamie of Hands On as We Grow used colored popsicle sticks, but depending on your little one's age and ability, you can try pom-poms or cut pieces of ribbon. Your kid will have a ball putting things into the bottle, closing the lid and dumping the items out again.
Water Bottle Maracas
If your baby likes rattles, then these DIY maracas will be a huge hit. Start with a clean water bottle (mini bottles work great for this project), and fill it with your chosen contents, like sand, salt, pebbles, birdseed, rice, beans, small beads, large beads or dried pasta. Follow the how-to instructions from Daria at Making Multicultural Music. When you've created a sound you like, make the handle by wrapping toilet paper rolls around the lid of the bottle and securing with electrical tape.
Water Bottle Bowling Pins
Baby bowling! Clean six empty bottles, removing the outer wrapper from each one. Pour a small amount of rice into each bottle, and tape use a hot glue gun to reseal the top. Paint or decorate the bottles. If you have older kids, make it a painting project. Then set up the pins and use a small, light ball like a tennis ball to knock them down.
––Ayren Jackson-Cannady & Karly Wood