I Spy – So Much More!

I am sure most of us have seen these types of bottles filled with small items hidden inside rice or rice-like material in the stores… well, there is no need to go out and buy one when you can make one at home. Before I get into the whole “supply list” and “how to” mumbo jumbo, let me tell you why you should make one of these for your kid(s). There are more therapeutic reasons behind using an I Spy bottle than one may have thought, in fact, there are a lot of reasons. Okay, okay, quit twisting my arm, I will tell you some of those reasons!


This activity can take a while for someone to find all the objects, so it offers practice for increased attention span. It can also be good for working on attention to details.  By putting similar items in the bottle, your child will have to pay attention to the details (i.e. color, size) to correctly identify the requested item.


If your child is having a hard time calming their system, they can use this bottle to assist them. They can turn it upside down and right side up to hear the filler move up and down as a soothing and rhythmic sound. It can also serve divert their attention from what ever it is upsetting them to being still and quiet. This activity allows your child to be alone and independent.

Executive Functioning

You can have your child locate the items in a specific order, list the objectss as they find them, find items and then ask them to go back and recall the first 3 items they found, or any form of use that requires them to complete more than one step.

Incorporating Speech and Language

Use the items in the bottle to introduce new vocabulary. Build language by asking your child to describe an item they found or ask them to use the item in a sentence (try to build the length of the sentences “purple bear”, “purple bear in woods”, “I see purple bear”, “I see the purple bear”, “I see the purple bear in the woods”). If your child is working on sound production and articulation of specific sounds/letters, try to include objects in the bottle that use that/those specific sounds (i.e. a child is working on the “b” sound, use items like: bead, bear, bike, button, bell, ball…).

Visual Perception

There are many facets of visual perception and this is a great tool to use to assist with nearly all of these skills. Looking for the items helps with figure ground, visual closure (especially if part of the item is hidden in the filler), visual discrimination, form consistency (if looking for an item that is presented in picture format then 3-D in the bottle), and visual memory. For more information about visual perceptual skills and their importance in a child’s development and daily life, pop on over to read our visual perceptual blog.


Okay, so enough of the “why”… you get it… there is therapy in toys (I know right, so cool!). Now, I will tell you the “how to”, and it’s quick and simple.



  • Empty plastic bottle (can be an old water bottle to the pictures container, to a mason jar)
  • Filler (rice, colored rice, sprinkles, fake snow, beans…)
  • Small objects (the object selections are endless, just make sure that they are small enough to find inside the bottle and be hidden I the filler)
  • Funnel (you don’t have to use a funnel, but if the opening to your bottle is small, you are going to want to use one… trust me and my rice filled carpeted floors)
  • Object cards
  • Rubber band
  • Hole punch

Once you decide what you want your filler to be and what objects you are going to put into the bottle or pouch, go ahead and put them in. Seal or zip and shake it up to mix the objects into the filler. Now, to make the item cards, there are several things that you can do and each one has its own level of difficulty for the user.

  • No cards, but a baggie with a duplicate of each object so that your child can take the object out, manipulate/study it, and have a concrete idea of what they are looking for.
  • Cards with pictures of the objects so that they can see what they are looking for
  • Cards with pictures and word lists of the objects so that they can start seeing that relationship or just so that they can be given both options (this is the typical way of presenting the task)
  • Cards with objects listed on them and no visual representation (this is harder)
  • Cards with descriptions of the objects (probably most difficult presentation)

You can hole punch the object cards and secure them to the bottle or pouch with a rubber band, put each item on its own card and put them on a key ring, or you can put them in a baggie. Some people decide to tape or hot glue the lid or zipper so that their children cannot open it to make a mess.  Be sure to consider whether or not you will want to change the objects at some point.

There you go, you now have your “why” and “how to” of I-spy bottles. They can be used at home, in the car, or just about anywhere. They have several therapeutic uses that kids don’t need to know about, they just need to know to shake it up and find away!