We love discovery bottles, even though I didn’t know until recently that that’s what they are called. I love these because they are one of those activities that all three children enjoy and learn from despite their different ages. The older two enjoy choosing the contents, exploring their properties, and the science behind it all, whilst for F they can be rolled, make a noise, use colour, light, water…all three use them as musical instruments. They are perhaps my absolute favourite toy.
So when I cam across this idea from Sun Hats and Wellie Boots, I knew we had to try it as part of our Autumn crafting. It is such a lovely, visual representation of the four seasons and nature, and a great way of getting L and N to think about the cycle of the seasons and the changes that take place.
I prepared these materials ready for our bottles:
All of this was taken from our craft stash, baking cupboard and our collection from this Autumn Nature Walk, and I set it out randomly so as to start a discussion with L and N about which should belong in each season.
We started with Autumn. First we filled the bottle with a mixture of oatmeal, muesli and crushed autumn leaves (I knew i’d find a use for those millions of brown leaves we collected!). This is when I realised I should have either made discovery jars, or found bottles with wider necks. Another tip is to practise in advance – our funnel was too narrow for our materials which made for a messy experience as I improvised a funnel with my hands and the children poured! but we eventually filled our bottle about half full.
We added sycamore seeds, conkers, plane seeds, acorns and horse chestnut shells we had collected on our walk. We also added some red and gold glitter because – well, who doesn’t love glitter? We also threw in some red and gold birthday cake sequins to represent our two Autumn birthdays (L and N’s)
F enjoyed exploring the bottle. I wondered if she might be frustrated at not being able to get to the leaves, which she loves scrunching at the moment, but she seemed to accept it as a different way of doing things and a different sensory experience.
Winter next, since the children were keen to use Father Christmas – we used granulated sugar along with some blue glitter to represent snow, then added a sprig of holly, a sprig of pine and a twig painted white to represent a tree with no leaves, covered in snow. This time we managed to use the funnel.
L was very careful and scientific about the funnel, giving it the slightest shake and instructing us not to touch it while the “snow” was flowing freely, then giving it another little nudge when it stopped flowing. It was a very delicate and important operation for him and he was completely absorbed.
We also added a snowman decoration, father christmas and some stockings, along with some silver snowflakes.
For the spring bottle we used green rice to represent grass. We had previously dyed this using food colouring and alcohol gel. Easter decorations were perfect for this, and we found rabbits, chicks, and easter eggs to add. When asked what happens in spring, L’s first answer was that flowers grow, so we added plenty of flowers.
The hardest task was differentiating Spring and Summer. We used the green rice for grass again, and added different, more summery flowers, both paper and silk. I was a bit stumped at this point and wondered if we should have gone with a beach-type bottle and used sand, although I wanted to illustrate the changes in nature – L made a sun using yellow and orange pipecleaners, and it did look suitably Summery.
I am so pleased with the way L’s confidence and creativity have developed over the past few weeks. Whilst N has always been experimental and confident in trying things out, L has tended to want a right answer, and shy away from activities where he might get the answer wrong. I have deliberately stepped back and tried to encourage him to have a go, and not supplied the answers for him – and also provided a lot of open-ended activities, and I have noticed a real benefit for him. Even in reading (his favourite) he has always been reluctant to answer questions such as “what do you think might happen next?” and in the past few weeks it has been so interesting to watch that change – he is now very confident with discussion activities and is confident enough to make a story up, whereas previously he would simply say he didn’t know what happened, or who was there, etc etc – this is a bit of a digression, but with a point, that is, these type of activities really do have so much benefit across the board. Today, i was really pleased that he suggested adding the sun, and thought through how he could make it.
Here are our Four Seasons bottles (we are very pleased with them!)