Galaxy in a Bottle

So this isn’t really a science experiment but I LOVE discovery bottles and this one is so pretty!  My older boys really enjoyed making this and it led to discussions about supernovas and galaxies and nebulae.  The tots in my class enjoyed the pretty swirly colors and filling the bottles.

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • cotton balls – almost a bag per bottle
  • empty bottles (I used old gatorade bottles)
  • paint in “galaxy colors” (we used metallic acrylic paint in purple, silver and blue)
  • glitter
  • straw (or something to push the cotton balls into the bottle)
  • cups


First, create the colors of your galaxy by adding some paint to water.  We used metallic blue, metallic purple and metallic gray.  We love how swirly the water looked!

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Next we stuffed our bottle about 1/2 full with cotton balls.  (It looks prettier if you shred the cotton balls, but my boys and the tiny tots don’y have the patience for that!)  We used a straw to help push the balls into the bottle.


Next, add your first color to the bottle.


Add some glitter.  (We probably should have added more)


We noticed that as soon as the water was added, the cotton squished into a smaller layer.  So add lots of cotton! Like we did on the second layer.


We again added a new color to the cotton.  And more glitter.  Make sure to push the cotton down as tight as you can.

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We repeated it again with the last layer.


Then we added the lid and shook it a bit.


The puffy cotton looks like the “clouds” of space debris you see when you look at pictures of galaxies, nebulae, supernovas, etc… The glitter looks like stars in the night sky…


While we were making these bottles, my boys asked me what a galaxy was and what a supernova was.  It was a great art activity to open up discussion about outer space.  While not a real science experiment, it sparked a science conversation.  It my book, that’s success!

For more details and to see where I got this simple, but fantastic idea from, please visit:


Ocean in a Bottle

For my ocean themed class, I thought it would be fun to make an ocean discovery bottle.  If your kids love to collect shells and rocks and the beach (like mine do), this is a perfect extension activity for when you get home.  This is an easy activity for the kiddos to do and there are so many fun ways to play and learn with them.  And there are so many variations you can add to yours.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • Empty water bottle with a cap
  • Funnel
  • Water tinted light blue
  • Sand (we used play sand since that’s what I had at home)
  • Sea shells that are small enough to fit inside a water bottle (I picked up a pack at Michael’s but you could use some that you’ve collected at the beach yourself)
  • Little fish/sea creature figurines (I couldn’t find any that were small enough to fit through the mouth of our bottle)
  • Foam ocean stickers/shapes (we peeled the backing off the stickers since I couldn’t find just the foam shapes)IMG_1675

First we added about 2 inches of sand to an empty water bottle.  We used a funnel to make it easier.


Then they added the sea shells.

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Next we added the foam shapes after peeling the paper backings off them.  We didn’t want to “pollute” our ocean:)


Using a funnel, the boys added the blue ocean water to the bottle.  Screw the cap on.  (You can also use a hot glue gun to attach the cap so it can’t be opened)

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And THEN the fun began.  Almost immediately, my middle son started shaking his bottle.


My oldest son decided to roll his bottle and make waves.  They tried to find their sea animals and sea shells.

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That’s it!  So easy!  And lots of shaking going on over here!

The Science behind the Activity:

Discovery bottles are great for toddlers and preschoolers as it gives them a chance to explore cause and effect.  “If I shake this bottle, what will happen?”  For preschoolers and a bit older, you can discuss the motion of water and waves.  A variation to this is to make it with oil and water instead of sand and water and you can discuss concepts such as density and why water and oil don’t mix.  Endless options!  What variations have you tried?