Fun With Bottles





Introduction: Fun With Bottles

About: I am a paper engineer, writer, maker and chemist wannabe. In addition to pop-up cards I design and build furniture, lights, costumes or whatever I happen to need at the time. Lipstick, a mixing studio, all-p...

Here is a non-exhaustive list of the many ways in which plastic bottles can be used as toys.

Step 1: Rubber Ducky's Not the One

An empty bottle's much more fun!

Pushed underwater to make bubbles, used as a boat, used to sink other boats, filled with cold water and emptied on some unfortunate sibling's head, squeezed to squirt water or simply used for good old fashion clobbering and splashing -- the fun is endless!

Plus, you never need to clean those nasty black mildew spots. Recycle, and replace it with a fresh one. Did I say one? Fill the tub!

Step 2: Construction

Safer and more suspenseful than a wood block tower, try finding out how many you can stack. You don't have to be a toddler to become engrossed in this game!

Step 3: Shovel and Bucket

All you need are three empty milk bottles (two half gallons and one gallon) and you're set for the sandbox. The plastic fruit and vegetable trays are great for sifting, too...

Step 4: Dress Them Up

Little yogurt bottles make great dolls (or soldiers). If you eat a lot of them you can raise an army -- or make a chess set! I'll post more pictures as we consume the yogurts...

Step 5: Bowling "lite"


10 (or 6) empty liter-sized plastic bottles
1 tennis ball
One hallway, preferably unencumbered with priceless, fragile artifacts
Patient and understanding downstairs neighbors


Take turns rolling the ball to knock over the "pins". Keeping score is optional. Game ends when neighbors bang their ceiling with a broomstick.

Step 6: Music

If you want more noise, put a few dried beans in an empty bottle, shake it hard and call it music.

Using different types of beans isn't just to look pretty -- it affects your sound. For better musical control put lentils in one bottle, Fava beans in another, white beans in a third, maybe some rice or popcorn in the last one and start a band.

Step 7: The Little Fish That Got Away


Empty plastic bottle with cap
2 Paper clips
2 rubber bands
Paper, pens....

Make a small hole in the bottom of your bottle. I used a screw and screwdriver which worked well. Push one of the rubber bands through the hole. Hook a paperclip to it from the outside to hold it. Catch it from the inside with the other paperclip and hitch it to a second rubber band (you may not have to do that if your elastic is long enough, or your bottle small enough). Make another hole on the cap and bend the second paperclip in half so it holds the elastic in the middle. Push the two ends through the inside of the cap. Screw the cap on and attach your fish. You may want to make them with duck tape... my paper fish didn't hold on very well when I wound up the rubber band (by twisting the fish backwards) and then gave them a little push to start swimming. Oh well. This toy isn't meant to last, but it can start an interesting conversation on the food chain.

Step 8: Make a Night Light

Since this project is slightly more involved than all the others, I have given it its own instructable here.

Step 9: Dogs Like 'em Too

As I was taking pictures for one of these steps, my dog jumped in and ran off with the star... As a special treat I'll let him play with a plastic bottle, but I keep a close eye on him and take it away when he starts ripping it into little "chokable" pieces.

Step 10: Volcano

Nothing new about this classic eruption of vinegar mixed with baking soda, except perhaps the novelty of using lint for the modeling material -- which is of course perfectly irrelevant to the chemical reaction going on in the bottle -- but hey, some kids like to get their hands messy, and I hate wasting huge quantities of salt and flour to indulge them.

What you'll need:
3 cups of lint (the stuff you're supposed to take off your dryer filter)
2 cups of water
2/3 cups (non-self-rising) flour
One SHORT bottle (or your volcano will be more like a high rise)
baking soda
red food coloring
detergent (such as dishwashing liquid)
distilled vinegar

Put lint and water in large saucepan. Stir to get it all wet, then add flour. Mix well to get rid of lumps and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, till mixture holds together and forms peaks. Pour out onto several layers of newspaper to cool. Use this like paper mache pulp to shape and sculpt your volcano around the empty bottle. You can wrap newspaper around the bottle to make a more natural-looking grade for your hill.
This is the hard part: let dry for 3-5 days.
Fill the bottle most of the way with warm water. Add a few drops of red food coloring, 6 drops of detergent (liquid dishwashing soap) and 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Stir as best you can. Add white vinegar and watch it bubble. Then watch your kids wander off and loose interest before you can explain about the acid (vinegar) reacting to the base (baking soda), creating a gas called carbon dioxide. Clean up.

Note: you can skip the whole volcano set-up, pour your baking soda and vinegar in an empty bottle and be done with this in a few minutes -- it's more fun anyway if you put it in a small bottle with a non screw-on cap (such as a milk container) shake it and watch it pop (OUTSIDE -- and omit the food coloring water and detergent) or you can skip the chemistry lesson and just have fun with the modeling material. If you press this into a mold you will get a smooth, hard finish. Shaped over an armature the result will be hard and durable too, but rough. If you want to keep your work for more than a few months I'd recommend adding a few drops of wintergreen oil, peppermint oil or powdered alum (sometimes used as a canker sore remedy) as a preservative.

Step 11: Sand Bottles

This is not my favorite thing, but I feel like it should be included here anyway: my kids can't keep themselves from shaking the bottles, so they end up very quickly looking sad and ugly, nothing like the bottles in this picture (which I took from the internet -- these were not mine!).

All you need to do this is an empty (preferably small) bottle, colored sand from a craft store and lots of patience -- that's the part I lack.

Step 12: Spin the Bottle

I'm way past this and my kids aren't there yet, but how could I omit this important step? With a little imagination I suppose this classic teenage kissing game can be modified for the tastes of different age groups.

Let's say we sit a half dozen seven year olds in a circle, they take turns spinning the bottle and whomever the bottle is pointing at when it stops has to trade a Pokemon card with the spinner -- or is challenged to a Yugi-oh duel.

I summon you, Double Headed Dimensional Alchemist!

Or a group of moms waiting for a birthday party to end spin the bottle to pass time and must recount birthing stories in graphic detail, leaving the outnumbered father(s) nauseated and resentful at being so explicitly excluded. No, that's not nice.

Ideas, anyone?



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    23 Discussions

    A little science lesson you can do with kids:

    Fill about 1/3 with water.
    Get a funnel and let the kids put about another 1/4 or more of plain old dirt fron the yard/beach/driveway/lawn...this can be really cool if the do one a day.

    Now, get them to put the cap on and shake it up good. Over the next couple days, they will see that the dirt will filrter itself through the water in ascending order of fineness. Rocks on the bottom, silt on top.

    THis looks cool, it cost nothing and kids think it's, they might just learn something on summer break this year!

    Lots of fun, very creative and green. I find it hard to throw away bottles... or anything with potential. I don't think I could throw out a refrigerator box even now, and my baby is now over 20!

    I like the little fishies idea ;) My pre-schoolers used to love bottles for water and sand play, bowling, collage constructions, shakers... this brings back memories. You can also use the cut-off bottom of a bottle for a sand mold, and blow across the top of a bottle as a "wind instrument".

    For shakers, try glitter or confetti for a softer sound and to look pretty. If you're using them with littlies, please make sure you duct tape on the lids of shakers with beans etc in.

    Thanks for the 'ible - cute toddler/pup pics too!

    My dog absolutely LOVES plastic bottles.  He'll carry empty 20 oz. bottles around all day and lie with them as if they were a toy.  He also loves chasing empty plastic milk gallons.  Once we had an empty room in our house (a roommate had just moved out and the new one hadn't moved in yet).  We also found ourselves with a few garbage bags full of plastic milk and soda bottles (hadn't been to the recycling center in far too long).  We'd been diligent about rinsing, so they were all clean.  So my husband decided to dump all the bottles in the empty room and bring the dog in.  He went bonkers!  Chasing and nosing and running around.  So much fun!

    1 reply

     That (and a big serving of chicken) would be my dog's idea of heaven!

    Never had any pup cut their gums on the plastic but we've always had smart dogs. One had a Goldren who could compleley chew up a cat food can and never cut her mouth. She stole the can!

    Our puppy loves plastic milk bottles or large pop bottles with a few kibbles inside. She has learned to screw off the cap and shake out the kibbles. But that was when she was two. As a puppy the thing just drove her nuts but she had fun!

    a good quick spin to see who gets to be "it" for hide and seek or duck duck goose or tag seems age appropriate

    :) Are you sure you want the neighbor kids going home telling their moms "I played spin the bottle at Bobby's house!!!"? Just a thought. Fun stuff - thanks.

    For Spin the Bottle, how about: - Recounting funny dating stories. - How did you get engaged? - Recounting funny kid stories? How many peas can fit up a 2 year old's nose? What happens when a baby eats a lot and the diaper can't hold it all? - Funniest thing your kid has said? - Farthest horizontal distance your baby has "burped up"?

    1 reply

    Those are good... and they reminded me of when I was a French teaching assistant trying to get students to talk: I asked them to tell about the most embarrassing thing which had ever happened to them. We heard some great stories, but EVERYBODY told of things which had happened to someone else, not themselves. Since my goal was conversation rather than humiliation I only corrected their grammar....

    take it away if they puncture the bottle too as the sharp edges around the hole can cut their gums, then you end up with dog blood on your carpet.

    1 reply

    And since my dog can only be described as a drama queen (even though he's a boy...) I'm sure I'd also get some pretty loud yelping.

    nice picture of the bubbles. do yo still have that in full res? would make a good background for a phone or computer screen.

    1 reply

    Send me a private message with you email and I can send you a copy.

    Great 'ible They make good funnels for sand too. Just cut off the bottom and use the top half. Because they're a bit wider than most funnels the sand pours through without blocking. They're good for anything you need a funnel for actually.

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    How could I have missed that one? I even had the piece right there (the other half of the patty cake mold). When the weather warms up maybe I'll go take another picture. Thanks for the comment!

    I've always tapped a few holes in the bottle cap w a nail or small drill bit to make an ad-hoc 2 litre squirt gun (by just squeezing bottle), or could be used to water plants. I use one to rinse our shower stall of the spray-on cleaner.