Activity Ideas and Examples

Colorful Sand Bottles

Adapted from Joltin, A., Camp, C. J., Noble, B. H., & Antenucci, V. M. (2005). A Different Visit: Activities for Caregivers and Their Loved Ones with Memory Impairments. Beachwood, OH: Menorah Park Center for Senior Living.

The Story Behind This Activity

A woman living in a long-term care residence due to physical disabilities and memory loss spent her younger years working as an artist. The woman’s daughter would regularly come to visit, but was often frustrated. The daughter felt that her mother’s condition prevented her from doing the things she used to enjoy. Would it be possible to find a way for her mother to express her creative side while using the abilities and strengths that remained? Mother and daughter tried this activity together and found that it provided an ideal artistic outlet that greatly enhanced the quality of their time together.

This activity consists of pouring sand of various colors through a funnel into bottles for the purpose of creating unique pieces to decorate your home. Colorful sand bottles also make wonderful gifts.

Supplies Needed

  • Funnel - You will need a funnel to fill your bottles. These are typically available in plastic or stainless steel. An inexpensive funnel set is recommended. This way, you will have different sizes to accommodate various bottles.
  • Plastic or glass bottle with cork - Clear, decorative corked bottles of various shapes and sizes are available online or at craft stores and other retail shops. If you already have a bottle, corks of different sizes may be purchased separately. Corks are recommended to prevent sand from spilling. You also would want a clear bottle so the colored sand effect will show through. Avoid the frosted clear glass because the frosted glass will mute the effect of the colored sand. The ideal vessel will be a clear bottle with a tightly-fitting cork.
  • Colorful arts and crafts sand - You also can buy colorful sand at craft stores, retail shops or online. As you gather the materials for this activity, you will discover that sand art is a very popular hobby. Let your loved one choose which colors they want to use. We suggest involving your family member as much as possible.
  • Containers to hold the sand - Depending on how the sand is purchased, containers may be necessary to hold the different colors of sand during the activity and afterwards for storage. For example, if the sand is purchased in large containers that are not easy for your loved one to manipulate for the activity, we recommend transferring the sands to smaller jars or cups.


  1. Set up your craft area! If it is possible to place everything on a tray, that would be great. If you do not have a tray, then a clutter-free table would be fine. Set the different colors in a row with the labels facing the artist. You can also add a little color to the label to match the sand inside so there is another cue as to what color the sand is. Be sure to place the containers of sand in reach of the artist’s dominant hand.
  2. Begin the activity. The idea is to fill the bottle with the colored sand and alternate the colors to form color layers. However, it is up to the artist to decide which colors to use, how many colors, how much of each color, the order of colors, etc. You can assist by demonstrating how to pour the sand through the funnel. After you demonstrate, help the artist by holding the funnel in place on the top of the bottle. Encourage the artist to continue filling the bottle with sand by pouring it through the funnel, alternating colors as they wish.
  3. Start off small. Begin with a bottle that is not too large. By starting with a relatively manageable piece, you will be able to determine the level of challenge that is right for your loved one. If it’s too simple, simply begin with a larger bottle, more colors, etc. the next time.
  4. Ideally, the bottle can sit on the table so it is level and the artist can work with it there. This will require them to reach up somewhat. If this is too difficult, try moving the bottle to the artist’s lap. You may have to hold the bottle with one hand and the funnel with the other to make this possible.
  5. Once your family member finishes the sand bottle, it is a good idea to place it somewhere where it cannot easily get knocked over, such as on a shelf or center of a table versus an end table. If you used a bottle with a cork, place some glue on the top of the sand and the edges of the cork before you seal the bottle. This will help seal the sand and hold the cork in place.

Adaptations and Variations

More Challenging.

You can increase the complexity level of the activity by going using a larger bottle. You can always do more than one bottle, and vessels of different shapes. More color choices will add both to the complexity of the craft and its potential for creative expression.

Creating designs in the sand also adds complexity and creative variation. Using a wooden skewer or narrow stick, the artist can poke down into the sand along the inside edges of the bottle to create interesting designs.

Another option is to use beads along with the sand. Just make sure the beads are small enough to fit through the hole on the funnel. You would want beads that could fit through the funnel so you could follow the same process. As with the sand, the beads should be placed in a container and poured through the funnel to create layers.

Less Challenging.

See if using fewer colors makes the activity more manageable. If less complexity is still needed, let your loved one have the role of color coordinator or designer. Let him or her tell you which colors to use and how much. He or she can help you decide on materials before the activity and provide creative guidance and feedback as you fill the bottles.

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