I made two of these ABC I Spy bottles for my toddlers this week, and they love them! It’s an easy way to give your child an additional exposure to the alphabet to help with letter recognition. You can also use it to help with color recognition, and it takes about 10 minutes and less than $10 to make.
I saw a different version of an I Spy bottle on Pinterest a few months ago with little trinkets in it from a blog called, “Meet the Dubiens” (http://www.meetthedubiens.com/2010/11/i-spy-bottles.html), and I thought adapting the idea would be a fun way to sneak in a learning opportunity for my twins.
All you need is 2-3 cups of a filler (I used a large bag of rice to make 3 bottles, but oatmeal, sand, salt, quinoa, or any small particle filler that is in your pantry), a Voss brand water bottle from the water section at your grocery store (or any other clear plastic container with a tight-fitting lid) and a set of alphabet magnets, alphabet beads or alphabet foam stickers. You might also want a funnel or a piece of paper you can roll to help get the filler into the bottle.
Peel the labels off of the bottle, and empty out the water. (For costing more than $1 a bottle, I couldn’t tell the Voss water tasted any different than other water…sorry, Voss). Then put the bottle upside down on a towel for a minute to get out as much moisture as possible so the rice or filler won’t stick to the side of the bottle.
Then alternate adding a letter and some rice. A funnel or piece of paper rolled into a cone can be helpful to keep the rice from getting everywhere, but if you don’t mind a mess you can use your hands. Putting rice between each letter seemed to keep the magnets on my letters from sticking to one another as much.
Choose the letters you’d like to put in carefully. I used only capital letters because my girls are still learning their alphabet, but you can use a mix of capital and lowercase or only lowercase, too. (I was hoping to make sure my girls’ bottles each had the letters for their names, but my set of letters used to be in my first grade classroom, and quite a few were missing).
Continue alternating the filler and the letters until you have about an inch gap from the top of the filler to the bottom of where the lid sits. A bigger gap seemed to make it easier to shake around. Then put the lid on and see what you think.
I found that about 15 of my larger, magnetic letters filled the bottle without making it too crowded, but it took me several attempts of shaking and taking out letters before I found the right balance. Smaller alphabet beads or foam stickers will take up much less room, so you might be able to get the whole alphabet in the bottle.
Once you get the filler to letter ratio just right so that your child can easily shake the bottle and uncover a new letter, close the lid tightly. You can glue the lid down if you think your child might be able to open it. I chose to keep mine unglued so I can change it out in the future with different letters or objects.
Then ask your child to see what letters he or she can find. Show him or her how to turn and shake the bottle to find the hidden letters. You can turn it into a little scavenger hunt by asking your child to find either a specific letter or a letter that is a specific color.
We’ve taken ours in the car and will keep them in the diaper bag for restaurants and other places where a busy activity might come in handy. It’s not completely quiet when you shake and turn it, so beware if you pull it out at church or somewhere quiet.
Happy I Spy-ing!