Winter-Themed I Spy Sensory Bottle

Winter-themed I spy sensory bottle.

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Outdoor play often turns into indoor play this time of year. Dropping temperatures and snowy weather mean outdoor play is limited. What’s a mom of littles to do when the children are trapped in the house? 

I Spy bottles are a great option to keep little hands and minds busy! If you’ve never heard of an I Spy bottle, you’re in for a treat. These bottles contain hidden objects that will send your child on a search that can last hours. 

My kids and I recently created a winter-themed bottle full of winter animals and snowflakes. It only took us 5 minutes to make but kept all five of my kids busy for quite a while. Even the 1-year-old enjoyed looking at the bottle. 

Sensory bottles are easy to make and only use a few supplies. Grab an empty water bottle and follow along to create this Winter-Themed I Spy Sensory Bottle. 

Winter-Themed I Spy Sensory Bottle: What You’ll Need

Items you will need for a winter-themed I spy sensory bottle.

Sensory bottles are often made with basic household supplies. This one is no different. Here’s all we used for this winter I Spy bottle:  


  • Empty water bottle (Plastic is best so it doesn’t break)
  • Rice
  • Add-ins such as animal buttons, snowflakes, pine needles etc. 
  • Glue


This bottle came together in only a few minutes. While there are more ways to embellish the bottle, these are the basic steps:

Step 1: Clean Bottle

Clean out a plastic beverage bottle. Any water bottle or a sports drink bottle will work. Just be sure it’s clear and you remove the label so your child can see the contents inside. 

If you’re looking for a prettier option that might last longer as well, you can purchase empty sensory bottles online. These might also be the best choice for classroom use or if you’re making a set of sensory bottles. 

Step 2: Choose Add-Ins

You’ll want small objects in a variety of colors and shapes to make the activity interesting. Think about animals or items in nature that represent winter. We found that animal buttons are an inexpensive way to add color and interesting subjects. 

Dress It Up Woodland Holiday Pack Buttons
  • Novelty embellishments for sewing and crafting
  • Button embellishments come in a variety of shapes and sizes and some even feature glitter
  • Size shape color and number of embellishments per package Varies by theme

You can also add toy figurines, items found on a nature walk, or dry foods like marshmallows. The more creative you get, the more interesting the hunt becomes. 

Step 3: Make a List

This is one of the most important steps. Make a list of all of the items you’ll be adding to the bottle. Create a “key” for your child so they know what to look for in the bottle. 

If you miss this step, it’ll likely be hard to remember everything you added. You’ll have to hunt and create the key as you go. 

Step 4: Fill Bottle 

I found the best way to fill the bottle is to put in all the add-ins first. Then pour the rice into the bottle covering all the objects. Keep filling the bottle until it’s about an inch from the top. You want to leave a little room for the rice to move around. 

Step 5: Glue on Cap

The last thing any parent wants is an entire bottle of rice and toys dumped on the floor or in the car. Be sure to glue the cap shut using super glue or another strong glue. This will also keep little ones from a choking hazard. 

Little girl playing with a winter-themed I spy sensory bottle.

Time to Play

The best thing about this I Spy bottle is that the ways to play are endless! I loved watching how many ways to play my kids discovered throughout the week. 

Here are a few of their favorites: 

Scavenger Hunt

Give your child a “key” that has a list of everything they need to find in the bottle. Let your child roll and shake the bottle to discover the items. You can even throw in some “bonus” items that aren’t on the list for a fun surprise. 

Helpful hint: Before you hand your child the bottle, you’ll want to make sure your “key” is easy to understand. Consider adding pictures for little ones who aren’t reading yet. Make sure you also give them instructions on how to mark off the items as they find them.

Letter Sound I Spy

If you have a little one working on letter sounds, you can sneak in extra practice using this bottle. Call out a letter sound and have your child hunt for an object that starts with that sound. For example, you might call out /s/ and your child finds a snowflake. 

Color I Spy

This was my three-year-old’s favorite way to play with the bottle. Played just like a game of “I Spy,” you’ll say something like, “I spy with my little eye something blue.” Then your child will look for an item of that color in the bottle.

Scavenger Race  

This is a competitive way to play that my older children love. Set a timer and give each child one minute to find as many objects as they can. Whoever finds the most, wins. 

Story Telling Bottle

Try this as a way to get your kids talking at the dinner table. One family member starts with the bottle and shakes it up. They’ll start a story using one of the items they see after they shake it. 

For example, you might see a bluebird and start a story about a bluebird who is lost in the forest. Only a sentence or two is needed to get things started. 

After they start the story, they’ll pass the bottle to the next family member. This person will shake the bottle as well and add to the story using an item they see in the bottle. The bottle continues to pass around until you decide the story is complete.  

Little girl playing with a winter-themed I spy sensory bottle.

What can I use instead of rice?

Rice isn’t the only item you can use in this sensory bottle. You can also use sand or salt. If you’d like to make the bottle more colorful, consider dying the rice using bright colors.   

What types of items can I add to this I Spy bottle? 

To fill this bottle, hunt for items that represent winter or animals in the snow. Here are some ideas: 

  • Animals buttons
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Pine needles
  • Foam snowflakes
  • Deer figurines
  • Mini scarves cut from fabric
  • Cotton balls
  • Pieces of pine branches
  • Miniature coffee mugs

Items like charms, buttons, Barbie accessories, dry foods, craft supplies, and game pieces work well. 

What are the benefits of playing with sensory bottles? 

As your child plays, they’ll also be sharpening a variety of skills without knowing it. Here are a few benefits of sensory bottle play: 

Building Vocabulary 

When your child discovers new items in the I Spy bottle, they’ll also discover new words. Sensory bottles can be used as vocabulary games to encourage a child to expand their word usage. As your child names each object, help them also find descriptive words for each item. 

Providing Sensory Exploration 

Sensory input is crucial for a child’s development. Even as babies, children explore the world through touch, taste, sight, and sound. Kids can use these sensory bottles to explore new sights and sounds and they shake and search.  

Calming Emotions

Many parents turn to sensory swings or light-up sensory toys when their child needs help calming down. Sensory bottles can help divert the focus of a child experiencing a sensory meltdown. The sound of the rice rolling around in the bottle is often soothing as well.

What other ways can I enrich this activity? 

Here are a few ways to continue teaching your child about winter: 

Animals in Winter by Henrietta Bancroft
  • Henrietta Bancroft (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 32 Pages – 12/01/1996 (Publication Date) – HarperCollins (Publisher)
Winter-Themed I Spy Sensory Bottle

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