Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Toddler Color Bottles

Toddlerhood is so exciting – everything they do is a learning experience. The explosion of vocabulary manifests itself all throughout the day, so they are able to verbalize the things they are discovering. (Of course, it helps to have attentive adults who can assist in labeling experiences and objects for their ever-growing minds.) With all this comes the beginning of learning the “things they need to know,” such as animal sounds, body parts, numbers, letters, shapes, and… COLORS!!!

Notice I said the “beginning.” Little toddlers don’t need to be drilled on academics – it should be introduced in ways that they will be naturally interested in exploring. This way of playing with colors is something they were very interested to participate in, so much so that we have been doing it every week for the entire year!

And what are they? Color bottles! The concept is very simple – just reuse a plastic bottle and let the kids stuff several objects of the same color inside. I usually write “____’s [Color] Bottle” on the outside and fill it with that color of sand before letting the children drop items inside.

Then at the end of the month, I tape it (with that color tape if I have it), and they get to take theirs home.

I have a huge trash bag full of donated plastic water bottles, so every month each child gets a new one to fill. We usually make it a weekly activity, so on Wednesdays each child gets the chance to drop 2 or 3 items into his or her color bottle. By the end of the month there are lots of interesting things rolling around in there!

And what kind of things do we place inside? Whatever can fit through the hole at the top! Here are a few ideas:

  • crayons
  • dried-out markers
  • ribbons
  • yarn
  • dyed pasta
  • paper clips
  • feathers
  • buttons
  • crepe paper
  • beads
  • pompoms
  • cloth scraps
  • foam shapes
  • erasers
  • fake flower petals
  • pipecleaners twisted into curlicues
  • rocks
  • balloons (not blown up)
  • cut-up straws
  • Easter grass
  • mini gift-wrap bows

We have focused on a different color each month, casually incorporating that color throughout our days, books, and centers. Here’s what we did:

September: yellow

October: orange

November: brown

December: red

January: black and white

February: pink

March: green

April: purple

May: blue

It has been amazing to watch the kids learn about colors. At the beginning of the year as I talked with them about “yellow,” they just looked at me. Several months later, they began labeling colors too, and not just during this activity – toys around the room, my clothes and earrings, their cups and backpacks, foods, paints. They love their colors!

But even if it wasn’t for the color-learning aspect, this activity would still be a valuable teaching tool for practicing fine motor skills. The children take turns doing this so that I can supervise them with the small objects they will be placing inside.

But when Wednesday comes around and I announce that it’s time to fill our color bottles, everyone finds a seat at the table, and they all watch in silence as their friends concentrate on fitting these objects through the hole. That’s probably the quietest they get all week (other than naptime)… except for the in-between times when I’m getting the objects for the next student, and they’re all yelling, “My turn! My turn!” 

I was a little worried that they may want to put the objects in their mouths at the beginning, but because I was supervising and they went one at a time, we haven’t have any troubles. Since they hadn’t been exposed to such small objects before, they were fascinated! 

Grasping the objects and dropping them in the mouth of the bottle have been great finger exercises. And I wish I could show you their eyes so you could see how focused they are!

It’s also been a good sensory experience, letting them feel the difference between things like a soft, squishy pompom and a hard, smooth rock. 

Problem-solving skills also came into play as they had to figure out how they would get the long, thin ribbons into those holes – it’s harder than it looks! (Pompoms are probably the easiest.) 

While we fill the bottles I speak quietly about the object they are putting inside, labeling it with a color. 

And throughout the week, as they see the color bottles in the window, they can pick them up and turn them around, finding all the little things that are hidden in the sand.


  1. This is SO cute and a great learning activity I wanted to invite you to share this activity on my Thursday link up party. Hope to see you there!

    1. Yes, I will definitely link up! Thanks for inviting me! I am looking forward to your "Toddler Tuesday" - and I may need to do that on my blog too! :)

    2. That would be great!! A lot of my readers share that they are always looking for more toddler activities. You have awesome ideas!!

  2. I LOVE this idea! What a great sensory and learning activity. We decided to feature your post as part of our Creative Play for Toddlers round-up on Share It Saturday tomorrow. We hope to see you again on our link up. (We love your ideas!)

    1. Thanks so much! I am honored! I love your ideas too :)

  3. Visiting from Tuesday Tots. My Family-Focused Monday hop is live now and I would love to see one of your awesome posts linked up @

    Have a wonderful week.

  4. This might sound silly, but did you lay out things that were the certain color? have a box of all different colored things? for example how would they find the bead if they normally don't play with those things?

    1. Sorry if I didn't explain it well... I collected several different items at the beginning of the year and placed them in bags for each month. (It would be fun to have the kids bring in items of that color too!) Since we did ours a little bit every week, I just took out a bead and a pompom, for instance, and laid them on the table next to the child as I opened their bottle. (Place it to the child's left to introduce left-to-right pre-reading skills!) Once they dropped them inside, I closed the bottle up and then they got to shake it, examine it, play with it, etc.

      If this was a one-day activity, though, or if you are doing this individually with one child, it would be fun to lay out all the different items of that color on a tray and let each child choose which ones they wanted to put inside. I just didn't want the first student taking all the pompoms (that seemed to be popular) and leaving none for the later children. Does that answer your question?

  5. Your pictures are a little creepy. Perhaps you should have cropped the photos differently or covered eyes with a black box. The pictures of kids with their eyes grown over really freaked my kid (and me) out!!

    1. I felt the same.

    2. Here's one more vote for please quite clone stamping out your kids' eyes. Although at the same time, it's the main attraction of this site so maybe don't.

    3. Glad I'm not the only one, haha.

  6. I came to this blog when I stumbled onto a picture of one of your kids on google images. (searching for generic images to use in a local children's charity flyer...)

    I thought I was seeing a picture of a child born without eyes, and skin grown over her eye sockets. I was simultaneously heartbroken, horrified and creeped out. I thought perhaps this was a school for children with disabilities, and clicked into this blog to see if this was, in fact, real.

    ... then it became clear the kids were all photoshopped.

    I agree that you should seriously consider either cropping your pictures differently, or just put a black box over their faces. I am all for protecting childrens' identities online... but this clone-stamp-over-the-eyes thing is making your preschool look like something out of Pan's Labyirinth. Seriously creepy.

    1. i totally agree it is so weird. I agree that you should seriously consider either cropping your pictures differently, or just put a black box over their faces. tHAT IS WEIRD AF


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