Color Changing Sensory Bottles

Woohoo! I’m so excited to be sharing my first activity and learning related post. This one is a relatively easy DIY project that children can help with. It might be best if you handle dyeing the baby oil though. It can get a little messy. There are several how-to tutorials out there for these and other sensory bottles, but this is what worked for me. Let’s break it down.

What are they? Water bottles filled with a mixture of water, baby oil, and different dyes and coloring.

What can you use them for?

  • Teaching colors, which ones mixed make which other one
  • Helping a child calm down from too much sensory input
  • Science project, particularly about the properties of oil and water

Materials Needed

  • Water bottles, labels removed (I used VOSS)
  • Water
  • Baby oil
  • Food coloring
  • Candy dye. I used Wilton Candy Colors primary set (red, orange, yellow, blue), which you can find online (the link brings up the photo for the garden set although it says primary) or in some craft stores. I got it at Michael’s in the clearance section on 7/30/19.
  • 2 Measuring cups or anything you can mix the colors in
  • Toothpicks
  • Forks or popsicle sticks
  • Small jar with lid
  • Funnel
  • Hot glue
  • Apron to avoid ruining clothing (optional)
  • Plate or paper towels to stick used forks, popsicle sticks, and/or toothpicks on (optional, but recommended)


  • USE OIL-BASED COLORS FOR THE BABY OIL. Make sure you use oil-based colors for the baby oil. Double check that they are oil-based so you don’t have to go back to the store. I bought two other types of dyes thinking they were the right thing and that they would work. They didn’t, it won’t. They have to be oil-based when it comes to dyeing the baby oil.
  • Buy more baby oil than you think you’ll need just in case.
  • Mix separately not in the bottle. One video I watched showed them pouring water into the bottle and mixing that color. Then they poured the baby oil in the bottle and mixed in the candy dye, but some of the candy dye floated into the water and changed the color. Some of the colors, especially the water ones, do start to change little by little over time, but I wanted to avoid it as much as possible.
  • Go easy on red and blue to start. When I first did the red and yellow one, the red was so concentrated that when the colors combined, it looked red not orange. With the blue and red one, they were so deep that when shaken, it was too dark to tell that it was purple.
  • Test the combo color in a small jar. Someone else gave this tip and stubborn me didn’t think it was necessary. It might not be necessary, but it is helpful! Otherwise, you might be remaking a few of them.
  • Glue the lids on once you’re satisfied with the colors. Little hands and minds like to try to open things to explore their contents. Others have said to check the lids regularly to make sure the glue hasn’t loosened up over time in order to avoid a potential mess.

Photo 1 was my first go before I redid the red/yellow one. You can see how dark it is. I also played around with adding glitter to the red/yellow one. I don’t recommend it. It settles in the middle, but winds up looking kind of gross. It doesn’t really add any interest, so I deemed it not worth it.

From the first photo to the second, you can also see how the water takes on some of the baby oil color eventually. Maybe one day I can figure out if it’s preventable.


  • Gather materials needed.
  • Determine how much liquid your bottle holds. (Mine held about 2 cups).
  • Put half of the above amount (for me, 1 cup) plus a little extra of water in one measuring cup.
  • Put the same amount of baby oil as you did water (for me, 1 cup) in a separate measuring cup.
  • Determine your bottom color, what will be the water.
  • Put a drop or two of food coloring in the water. You don’t have to be as careful with the number of drops with yellow. Mix with a fork or popsicle stick. Add more if desired.
  • Determine your top color, what will be the baby oil.
  • Use a toothpick to scoop color out of the Wilton colors. Start with a small amount, especially for red and blue. Swish it in the baby oil. Mix with a different fork or popsicle stick. If more is needed, use a different toothpick to scoop out the color.
  • Pour small equal amounts of both the water and baby oil into a small jar. Screw the lid on. Shake. If not satisfied, adjust color by adding a little more. Keep in mind, depending on the amount poured into the jar (I poured a very small amount) the shaken color will be more obvious in a larger bottle, meaning it’s probably okay if it looks a little light in the small jar.
  • Once happy with the color, use the funnel to pour the water into the bottle. Next, pour the baby oil into the bottle. Don’t fill it up completely. Leave a little room in the bottle for liquids to move, like the portion covered by the lid. Screw the lid on. Shake!
  • If you’re making more than one, wash the measuring cups and forks before mixing new colors.
  • Hopefully you’ll be content and won’t have to redo any of them like I did. If so, glue the lid on. I went around the outside of the mouth of the bottle with the hot glue using a wwwww pattern. Then, I quickly screwed the lid on. Let it sit for a bit before testing the lid(s) for secureness.

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