Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Shaker Bottles: A Fun Activity

Shaker bottles are a fun and interesting way for your infant to explore the properties of sound as well as develop motor skills! By putting various fillers into the bottles, you can create a sound experiment that is bound to captivate your little one's attention. Jonah loves exploring the different sounds of each bottle, as well as the motion and colors of the fillers. By using fillers of different weights, you are helping your child to learn about physical properties, while encouraging them to lift, shake, and manipulate objects in the world around them. Making these bottles is fun and easy!
Wash and dry plastic bottles from water, soft drinks, or juices. It is fun to have a variety of shapes and sizes, but make sure that your infant is able to easily hold that particular kind of bottle. Sports drinks bottles are large, but offer textured sides that make it easy for infants to grab. Remove the little ring that is usually left behind by the seal of the cap. These are often sharp, and can interfere with gluing the cap on properly.

Fill the bottles each with different materials. It is fun to have some bottles filled with similar materials that differ in one major way. Jingle bells, for example, are fun if you fill one bottle with large bells and another with smaller bells. Try to find materials that have a wide range of sounds when shaken. Strips of cut construction paper, or pom-poms, make extremely soft sounds and would be a great contrast to the jingle bells. Materials I'd recommend for filling the bottles are:
  • colored rice
  • colored pasta (you can fill each bottle with a different shape pasta!)
  • popping corn
  • popped pop corn (the air pop kind, with no salt or butter!!!)
  • sand
  • pom-poms of different sizes and bright colors
  • sand and colored water
  • jingle bells of various sizes
  • a variety of dried beans (pick colorful beans that have different shapes and sizes. Kidney beans and navy beans are a fun contrast!)
  • Construction paper cut into shapes or strips
To color rice or pasta, put the amount of rice or pasta into a ziploc bag and add a couple drops of food coloring. Make sure the bag is sealed properly and shake/knead the bag until the color coats the pasta/rice. Pour it out onto a plate (you might want to use disposable plates, to ensure your nice plates don't get stained with coloring) and let dry over night. This step is great for older siblings, especially if they are learning to mix primary colors (yellow and blue to get green) Have them choose the colors to see what color it makes, or say "we want to make green, which colors should we use?" If you are mixing colors to make a new color, remember that a little goes a long way, and purple is very difficult to get. Add a bit more red than blue, and sometimes a little yellow helps it too!It is also fun to create variety by filling different bottles with varying volumes of each material. Fill one bottle 1/3 full with kidney beans, another bottle 1/2 full, and another bottle nearly full. This creates differences in sound, weight, and the motion of the material when shaken. It is also fun to create themed sets of bottles. You can create bottles that have all red contents, blue contents, green etc. You could create sets of bottles that are opposites: loud jingle bells, quiet pom poms. An earth's elements set would include things like sand, water, twigs, pebbles.

Glue the caps onto the bottles. This is important. Caps can easily come unscrewed and fall off. When this happens, not only is the cap a choking hazard, but so are the contents of the bottles. Also, you will want to replace the bottles regularly. They get chewed on, crunched, stepped on, and some of the materials such as sand or popcorn will begin to break down and leave residue on the inside of the bottles. This residue is completley harmless, but it makes the experience of watching the motion of the objects inside a little less exciting for your child. Always supervise your child when playing with the shaker bottles. This is an activity for both of you to share- the child as the explorer, and you as the guide.

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