Many communities have recycling programs for used plastic bottles, but whether yours does or not, you can upcycle your used plastic drink bottles for some fun activities with your kids. Here are my top ten uses for plastic bottles and some skills you can address while you play.
1. Once you have a collection of at least three bottles, you can set them up like bowling pins and have your child roll a ball to knock them down. One or two-liter soda bottles work best for this, but you could use water bottles instead.
- Talk about the concepts of up and down as you set up and knock down the pins.
- Work on sequencing: first we put up the pins and then we knocked them down.
- Practice taking turns.
2. You can fill bottles with a variety of different small objects and then super glue them shut to create sensory bottles. A quick search on Pinterest will reveal hundreds of ideas for what to put in the bottles. Here are a couple of ideas that I like for working on basic concepts. Small Gatorade bottles work well for this because they are sturdy and have a wide openings, but you could use any clear plastic bottle you have.
- Fill each of several water bottles with items of a different color. Then talk to your toddler about each color and the items that are in the bottles. You can add water to the bottle to make the items float freely.
- Fill several bottles with items that make different sounds (jingle bells, dry rice, cotton balls). You can talk about loud and quiet.
3. Create a tornado in a bottle by filling it with water and adding a little bit of dish soap. Seal the bottle closed with super glue. Then shake it up to see a tornado.
4. Use a collection of empty and cleaned plastic and cardboard food containers to create a play supermarket.
- You can name the items for your toddler as he puts them in the basket.
- Talk about the sizes of the containers. (The soda bottle is bigger than the water bottle.)
- Engage in pretend play with your child. One of you can be the customer while the other is the cashier, and then switch roles.
5. Put colorful items inside a two-liter bottle, seal it with super glue, and let your crawling baby roll it across the floor.
6. Save the caps from a variety of bottles and let your child sort them by size or color. Not only can you work on the concepts of color and size, but as you sort, you can work on same and different.
7. Your empty plastic bottles can become bath toys as you allow your child to practice pouring water from one bottle into another.
8. Have your child work on his fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination by picking up raisins, Goldfish crackers, or Cheerios one at a time and putting them in an empty and dry water bottle or soda bottle with a small opening. Then let him dump them out and do it again.
9. Use toothpicks or uncooked rice or beans inside a plastic bottle to make a shaker toy for your toddler. For preschoolers, see if they can copy a rhythm pattern after you.
10. Give your child age-appropriate art materials to create an animal or a vehicle out of a bottle. Again, you can find plenty of such projects on Pinterest. Or you can let your child’s imagination run wild. Your child can work on sequencing by telling the steps to complete the project in the correct order.
Before you throw away your next plastic drink bottle, think about how you could use it instead to play with your child. You’ll be keeping some trash out of the landfill and some money in your wallet as you create some free toys.
Do you have any other ideas for using plastic bottles for play? If so, leave a comment to tell us.