Eco Craft That Junk Drawer Into Toddler Discovery Toy

eco toy toddler water bottle
Execute some alchemy and turn random junk and recyclables into a smart toy for your toddler. 

This takes so little time and attracts such rave reviews you’ll be tempted to make a batch for future gift-giving, school projects, and maybe replace birthday “goody bags” with a toy that will get real use.  An Amman school is making them by the boxful to donate to Jordan orphanages. It’s based on a pricey educational toy that’s been around for decades: someone gifted my-then toddler daughter with a “Find It“, and a dozen years on, she’ll still pull it off a shelf and play with it (OK, so maybe just when the internet’s down).

Here’s how to make your own “discovery bottle”.

  1. Grab a clear plastic bottle – go for short and squat and easily-gripped by kid-sized hands.
  2. Collect your materials. Scour your house for all sorts of tiny objects. Start with buttons, big beads, safety pins, coins, a rubber band and broken jewelry.  Gather tiny figures, a ransom Lego man or brick, small pieces from a discarded game or puzzle.  Check your toolbox too: screws and washers, nuts and bolts are good additions.  The only criteria is that a) the object fits through bottle opening,  b) it’s waterproof, c) it’s recognizable to your kid.
  3. Gather some eye-catching filler material: sequins, glitter, tiny seed beads, glitzy remnants of ribbon or yarn.
  4. Stuff the stuff into the bottle. Aim for a high volume of tiny eye-catching trinkets: fill a quarter of the bottle at a minimum.
  5. Pour in water up to about an inch below rim.  You can add some food coloring if you want to really jazz things up – don’t be heavy-handed.
  6. Use a hot glue gun, or gobs of “crazy glue”, to lock the plastic bottle cap in place.  I schmeared waterproof glue outside the bottle neck then screwed on the cap, carefully wiping away all surplus ooze. Run a thin line of hot glue around the bottom of the sealed cap if you’re a “belt and suspenders” kind of crafter.
  7. Once it’s completely dry, hand it off to the soon-to-be-enthralled child.

If, like me, you prefer a “dry” discovery bottle: skip the water and fill a cleaned, bone-dry bottle with couscous, lentils, split yellow peas, or quinoa.  Choose the grain that will most contrast with the colors of whatever trinkets you’ll use.

The original discovery bottle came with a notepad listing each of the objects hidden in the sparkly sludge. Sort of an “I-Spy-With-My-Little-Eye” concept: give the tube a shake, can you spot Mommy’s earring, can you find the little puppy?

An over-achieving friend actually makes a little list of the treasures inside, laminates it, and attaches it to the bottle with a ribbon: a good idea for kids who can read.

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