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Ocean Sensory Bottle | How to Make an Ocean in a Bottle

Closeup on a seashell and rocks ocean sensory bottle

An ocean sensory bottle is so captivating and fun to play with! Create your own ocean in a bottle and watch the contents swirl and settle, just like waves at the beach.

Explore 3 different types of ocean sensory bottles made with marine themed items like sand and seashells. These DIY discovery bottles are simple, versatile, and very inexpensive to make. And best of all they’re great calming tools for reducing anxiety and improving concentration!

Closeup on a seashell and rocks ocean sensory bottle


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How to Make Ocean Sensory Bottles

Make an ocean sensory bottle and create your own underwater paradise. Have fun shaking and tilting the bottle to explore the beauty and mysterious wonders of the deep.

Author: Debbie Chapman

Check Out The Video Tutorial:


Prepare your water bottle:

  • Rinse or wash out an empty water bottle to make sure it’s clean. Remove the label.

  • Clean the outside of the bottle to remove any glue residue. You can wipe this with rubbing alcohol, Goo Gone, or simply soak the bottle in warm, soapy water.

Helpful Tips:

  1. We recommend carefully rinsing your decorative sand in a large bowl until the water is clear. This will remove some of the “murkiness” from the sand, giving your sensory bottle a nicer look. Then add the sand directly to your sensory bottle, or allow the extra to dry on a paper towel lined tray.
  2. Play around with adding different liquids to your sensory bottle. Read below for more details!
  3. Glue the lid of the sensory bottle shut with hot glue or super glue, if you’re worried about little hands opening it.

Ocean sensory bottles made with sand and seashellsOcean sensory bottles made with sand and seashells

What add-ins are best for an ocean sensory bottle?

There are so many great items you can put in an ocean sensory bottle! We used the following:

  • Decorative sand
  • Seashells
  • Decorative rocks
  • Starfish beads
  • Polished agate stones
  • Star shaped glitter

You can also try some of these add-ins:

Movement of glitter in an ocean sensory bottleMovement of glitter in an ocean sensory bottle

What liquids are best for an ocean sensory bottle?

You can use different types of liquids for your sensory bottles. For most sensory bottles, either option will work. And some sensory bottles, like oil and water sensory bottles, will use a combination!

1. Oil

We used baby oil as the only liquid in two of our ocean sensory bottles. Baby oil (mineral oil) works especially well for sensory bottles with lighter weight add-ins, like glitter.

You can buy a bottle of baby oil at the dollar store and pour it right into your water bottle, without worrying about ratios or combining any other liquid ingredients.

Cooking oil is another option for making sensory bottles, but keep in mind that the sensory bottle liquid will be yellow. This could work well to combine with oil based blue food colouring for a seafoam green colour.

2. Water mixture

Mixing water with another item, like glycerin, is a great way to make slow moving sensory bottles with heavier items, like seashells or beads. You can use this mixture instead of baby oil for the first two sensory bottles.

Instead of glycerin you can also use: clear dish soap, clear glue, clear hair gel, or white corn syrup. Add mostly water to your bottle and then play around with the ratios to get a good thickness, where the add-ins sink slowly.

3. Oil and water mixture

We used a mixture of water and baby oil for one of our sensory bottles. Water is heavier than oil, and it will sit on the bottom of the bottle.

When you shake the bottle the two liquids will look like they’re combining, creating the beautiful “water bubbles”. But oil is hydrophobic and will push away the water molecules, meaning the water will eventually sink to the bottom again.

Three different ocean sensory bottles fun for discovery playThree different ocean sensory bottles fun for discovery play

What bottles make the best ocean sensory bottle?

The best bottles for making sensory bottles are, of course, the ones you have at home that you can find in the recycling. Ideally, though, you should use a clear bottle with flat, non-ridged sides. This allows you to see the add-ins more clearly!

We like to use VOSS water bottles to make our sensory bottles. With their flat silver cap they almost look like little aquariums!

The 500 mL VOSS bottles are a popular choice for making sensory bottles. They have a wide opening, which is great for adding larger items to the bottle, like seashells or other aquatic themed items.

You can also buy a bottle of Sparkling ICE. These bottles are tall and flat-sided, but the opening is a lot more narrow, so make sure you use small shells and a funnel to add the sand.

You can also make mini sensory bottles with travel sized shampoo bottles or test tubes with caps. These little containers don’t fit as much, but they’re still a lot of fun!

DIY ocean sensory bottleDIY ocean sensory bottle

Enjoy making a simple and beautiful ocean sensory bottle! DIY sensory bottles are so easy to make, and these customizable ocean sensory bottles are very visually appealing.

It’s so fun to tilt and shake the bottles, watching the contents mimic the gentle ebb and flow of the waves. Make these sensory jars at home or summer camp, or use them at school to learn about the ocean!

DIY ocean in a bottle sensory activityDIY ocean in a bottle sensory activity

Here’s even more DIY sensory bottle ideas:

Rainbow Sensory Bottles

DIY sensory bottles made with water beadsDIY sensory bottles made with water beads

Weather Sensory Bottles

Weather sensory bottles DIYWeather sensory bottles DIY

DIY Sensory Bottles

DIY sensory bottleDIY sensory bottle

Our book Low-Mess Crafts for Kids is loaded with 72 fun and simple craft ideas for kids! The projects are fun, easy and most importantly low-mess, so the clean up is simple!