Hey there, creative minds and fellow caregivers! If you’re on the lookout for a fun and engaging way to spark curiosity in your little ones, you’re in for a treat. This one is a classic, but still a fun science experiment for kids and a great way to re-use drink bottles. They will love making musical bottle instruments and creating different sounds with just a few glass bottles. As someone who’s spent years wrangling preschoolers, I can vouch for the magic that happens when you combine creativity with a dash of science. So, grab those empty glass bottles, and let’s dive into the world of homemade musical instruments!

– Life Over C's Two spoons are tapping on a glass bottle that is half full of water.

Recommended Grade Level:

Materials for Creating Music with Bottles

  • Empty Glass Bottles
  • Water

How Do Musical Bottles Work?

When I say that this was an impromptu activity, I totally mean it. Shiloh was playing with some cups in the sink and they were making a cool noise. That got me thinking about all the Snapple bottles we’ve been saving for the past few weeks. So we decided to remove the bottle tops and make some music!

I filled three bottles with water to different levels, from a small amount of water to an almost full bottle. You can use as many bottles as you want, but I thought three would be manageable for Shiloh.

Then, I demonstrated placing my lower lip on the edge of the bottle and blowing into the top of the open bottle and asked Shiloh to copy me. I was very pleased that she didn’t try to make any additional noises with her mouth, she just blew.

I demonstrated switching quickly between the first, second bottle, and third bottle to make some musical patterns. Then, I held the bottles for her while she blew a clear note and I switched the bottles.

I was starting to get worried that she was going to make herself hyperventilate by blowing out so much, so I picked up a spoon that was nearby and showed her how to make the sounds different by tapping the different bottles.

– Life Over C's Three glass bottles with water are sitting on a table, and a child's hand is hitting one of the bottles with a spoon.

What Can Preschoolers Learn From Tapping Bottles?

We also discovered that you can make different tones and pitch of the note by tapping on different sections of the bottle. The section filled with water will give off a different tone than the much empty space at the top of the half-full bottle.

Or, tapping the top of the empty bottle creates a different resonant frequency than the bottom of it.

Then, we decided to try a butter knife to see if that changed the sounds. It did! (We tried both ends of the knife too.) Other tools to try include wooden mallets, ruler, plastic utensils, or markers/pencils.

– Life Over C's A child is using two spoons to tap on a glass bottle with water in it.

This is a classic resonant sound activity, that has been done for generations, but it’s important to remember that our preschoolers might not have tried it yet and for them it’s an exploration into sound waves and variables that they have never experienced before.

Some vocabulary words that you can practice while doing this activity are: waterline, tap, ring, blow, hear, high pitch/higher pitch /highest pitch, low pitch/lower pitch/lowest pitch, different, water level,

For an extension with a more-skilled child, you could fill many bottles with water and ask them to line them up according to their sounds with the highest pitch bottles at one end and the lowest pitch bottles at the other end.

Other variations include the height of the bottle, size of the bottle, increase or decrease how much water is in each bottle, narrow-neck glass bottles vs. wide-mouthed bottles, or different shapes of bottles.

How Do You Use Bottles to Make Sounds?

Explaining the science of sound to the little ones can be a blast. When you tap a glass bottle, the sound is created by vibrations. The bottle, acting like a mini-resonator, vibrates when you hit it, sending ripples through the air. These vibrations travel as sound waves, reaching our ears and allowing us to hear the delightful tinkling or thudding sounds. It’s a fantastic way to introduce the concept of vibrations and sound waves to curious minds.

Scientific concepts covered in this musical bottle experiment:

  • Vibrations: Understand how tapping a glass bottle sets off vibrations that are crucial for creating sound.
  • Resonance: Explore the concept of resonance as the glass bottle amplifies and sustains the vibrations produced by tapping.
  • Sound Waves: Introduce the idea that the vibrations in the air, known as sound waves, travel to our ears, allowing us to hear the musical note.
  • Pitch: Experiment with different amounts of liquid in the bottles to observe how it affects the pitch of the sound produced.
  • Frequency: Discuss how the speed and frequency of vibrations contribute to the variety of sounds the glass bottles can produce.
  • Hands-On Exploration: Encourage hands-on exploration to connect the theoretical concepts with tangible experiences, fostering a deeper understanding of the science behind music.

How to Adapt the Musical Bottle Activity for All Learners

Whether your little one is ready to produce, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or “Mary Had a Little Lamb” with bottles and water alone, or this is the first bottle experiment they have ever conducted, you can vary the activity to keep it challenging and interesting for all learners.

  1. Colorful Creations: Let preschoolers decorate their glass bottles with vibrant colors or stickers. This caters to those who are visually inclined and adds a personalized touch to their musical instruments.
  2. Sensory Exploration: For tactile learners, consider filling the bottles with different materials like rice, beans, or water to create varied textures and sounds. This adds a sensory dimension to the activity, making it engaging for those who enjoy hands-on experiences.
  3. Collaborative Orchestra: Foster a sense of teamwork by organizing a group activity where each child contributes to a collective glass bottle orchestra. This promotes social interaction and allows children with different abilities to collaborate, creating a harmonious ensemble.
  4. Storytelling Integration: Connect the glass bottle instruments to a whimsical tale or create a narrative around the sounds they produce with airflow. This engages children who thrive on imaginative play and storytelling.
  5. Adaptive Modifications: Tailor the activity to accommodate different abilities by providing adaptive tools or assistance as needed. For instance, offer a variety of wooden mallet sizes for children with different motor skills, ensuring that everyone can actively participate and enjoy making music with bottle sound.

Use a real instrument to extend the activity even further:

  • Flute
  • Piano
  • Electronic keyboard
  • Drum
  • Guitar

Do you love this activity?

Pin it for later!

– Life Over C's Two spoons are tapping on a glass bottle that is half full of water.

Planning for a Community Helpers Theme? We’ve done all the work for you!

We now have interactive thematic lesson plans for toddlers (18-35 months) AND preschoolers (3-5 years)! Get ready for fun and learning with unit lesson plans for your COMMUNITY HELPERS THEME. Explore a variety of themed hands-on activities! Easy to follow lesson plans include activity modifications and adaptations to meet the needs of all learners. For more information, click on the graphics below:

Enjoy making musical instruments with your preschooler!

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author avatar
Kim Staten Owner and Curriculum Designer
Kim Staten is a mother of four children ages 20, 19, 16, and 12. Kim has taught at the preschool, kindergarten and early elementary levels for 16 years. With extensive experience working with special needs children, including her own children with special needs (Rett Syndrome, autism, anxiety, and ADHD), she creates hands-on curricula and activities that are great for working with children of all abilities in the classroom and at home. Hands-on, accessible activities are her passion. 

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  1. The best thing about these classic activities is that everything is still new to the young ones – and they think we’re geniuses for coming up with it! lol!

  2. A cool way to explore sounds. My girls
    so would love this and we have lots of snapple bottles. Mommy has an addiction to strawberry kiwi snapple.