Whether you call them discovery jars or sensory bottles, these little hand-held gems of sensorial goodness are quick and easy to make. And, you can DIY Montessori discovery jars on a budget to encourage sensory play and just plain good fun for your littles (without breaking the bank!)
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What are Montessori Discovery Jars?
The Montessori Method of education relies on a few main principles, one being that children learn through exploration of their environments via the senses.
Montessori discovery jars give us a way to let our children explore any number of things such as color, material, and shape in a convenient hand-held toy. You can find Montessori sensory jars and toys online for $20 to $40 or more. But why pay that when you can pay less?
Why are Sensorial Activities Beneficial to Babies?
Our little ones are learning so much! By creating opportunities to learn through sensory play, we are giving them adventures and experiences that will help them explore the world around them. The various experiences also help children make sense of all the sensory information they receive in their day to day world. This type of learning is also called sensorial learning. These activities will help lay the foundation for further learning as well as contribute positively to brain development, hand-eye coordination, and other spacial abilities.
Consider this my legal disclaimer to cover my bum: Think about safety and be wise about what you put into your jars. Most likely, the items that you will put IN your jars are choking hazards when OUT of the jars. Make sure that you have secured the lids fully.
Be wise. Even though I am confident that the lids to my daughter’s Montessori discovery jar set are secure, we don’t allow her to play with them unless someone is with her. I also check each jar before handing it to her each and every time. Just be safe. Our little ones are too precious.
How to Make Your Own DIY Montessori Discovery Jars
Jars: Choose something clear and small enough to be handled easily yet large enough that it will not fit inside your child’s mouth. Although I generally like natural materials, I prefer plastic for these to avoid breakage.
Glue: I’m fond of Gorilla Glue or a clear epoxy.
Glitter, sequins, and other shiny embellishments found in the craft aisle.
Small rocks, twigs, and other found objects in nature.
Miniature animals or objects found in daily life.
Buttons, beads, and charms.
- Sort your objects into groups.
- Add them to your jars.
- Glue the threads of the jar so the lid is sealed nice tight.
- Allow the glue to dry according to the directions.
These little jars of awesomeness are super simple to throw together during naptime if you’ve gathered your materials ahead of time. Here are a few tips to make it an easy project:
- Start collecting materials as you find them on clearance, at the dollar store, or in your own craft supplies.
- Any engaging materials will work, but specifically look for items that are either brightly colored, reflective, or made of natural materials. These make for especially fun discovery jars.
- Choose containers that will not fit in your baby’s mouth. It sounds like common sense, but sometimes we get so wrapped up in the excitement that we don’t pay attention to that.
- Think in terms of theme. Each jar should contain items that make sense together or teach a concept. In our set, I’ve included jars with objects grouped by color, shape, or materials. I’m currently collecting items for a calendar set – each jar will represent a month of the year through fun holiday-related items. (Her birthday month will be festive!) I’m also going to create a set based on animals and their habitats similar to her polar bear jar that she loves. My little one is already a huge fan of our local zoo and aquarium, so I think she’ll be especially pleased with this one.
I love to take one or two jars out at a time rather than handing my daughter the entire set. This helps prevent sensory overwhelm and allows her to really focus on each item. I especially love to use these as a high chair activity before or after eating. She prefers objects that make a satisfying noise when she shakes the jar, so most of ours contain something that will rattle.
All of the materials used in our Montessori discovery jars were found either already on hand or on clearance making the total project cost far less than $10 when you consider you are only using a few of each item. That means more materials for crafts later on!
You can vary the size and material to make the jars appealing for children of all ages. Get creative and enjoy the experience!
Our Montessori Discovery Jars
Here’s a peek at our set by the way (category) we use them…
- Arctic: white glitter, baking soda, sea salt, a few snowflake sequins, and a small rubber polar bear
- Color: buttons, sequins, plastic gems, and confetti that are all silver.
- Nature: small, polished river rocks that are used in planters. This is her favorite!
- Green: buttons, yarn, and beads in a lime green.
- Blue: buttons, yarn, and beads in blue.
- Red: buttons, yarn, and beads in red.
- Nature: natural twine-wrapped red glass beads – not traditional, but still natural!
- Wood: various wooden alphabet beads with her initials and several wooden beads of different shapes.
- Name: wooden alphabet beads to spell out her first name.
- Shape: round wooden beads in various wood stain colors.
- Texture: round wooden beads with ridges in various wood stain colors.
- Shape: square wooden beads in various wood stain colors.
How do you teach your baby to use her senses? Share your favorite activities with me in the comments. I’d love to have fresh ideas to use with my little one!
© 2017, Stephanie Pitcher Fishman. All rights reserved.