Five Ways To Use Bottle Caps In Play Based Learning

9 August 2016

There are many ways I use bottle caps with my boys, they range from simple colour sorting and pattern matching to more complex counting and spelling games. I’ve chosen five of my favourite uses (more at @three_busy_boys) that suit a range of ages and require a varied amount of effort to recreate. After all, some days (most days) there’s just not enough time!


This is a simple activity to put together with only two materials, bottle caps and playdoh.


The learning opportunities however are vast.  As a building task it requires kids to think creatively, problem solve and persevere. Just by layering a solid material and a binding material they must consider construction, quantity and balance.

We loved seeing who could build the biggest tower, my boys enjoy a bit of competition.


These are a great craft requiring only a permanent marker and if you like, some googly eyes. The more colours you have the better.

Not only are they fun to make with your little ones, but they have proven useful in both imaginative play and learning activities. We initially used them for Colour sorting just by using matching colours of paper.

PicMonkey Collage

Sensory play is so important as a huge amount of learning takes place when we engage our senses. In my experience these are often the messiest and most ‘mum intensive’ tasks which is not naturally my style, but I do my best! In this activity below I filled a large tub with leaves from the garden and scattered in the bugs. As the boys rummaged through I asked them to place the correct coloured bugs on the pieces of paper I had laid out.

Alternatively you can draw different numbers of spots on the bugs and use them for counting.


Graphing, counting, scale and measurement are all learning possibilities even with young toddlers.

Bottle caps are consistent in size and therefore a perfect tool of measurement. Using the same ‘type’ of cap is most accurate. Luckily we drink A LOT of the same bottled water in our house.

When we select things to measure I keep it simple, and obviously the bigger the item the more caps you’ll need. When the boys suggested we measure their beds I had to redirect!


Rather than using the object itself I find drawing around it gives a clearer overview of its size.

We have traced the outlines of our feet, our shoes, our hands and even our favourite toys before placing and then counting bottle caps to determine which is bigger, smaller, biggest and smallest.

We are currently trying to collect enough caps to measure our heights. I can’t wait to get a large paper roll, draw round the boys and see ‘how many caps’ tall they are!


Once you’ve made an alphabet from bottle caps the uses are endless. I’ve accumulated several sets.

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The first one I made was handwritten in permanent marker, they withstand sensory and water play, lots of handling and lots of spelling. I buried Calum’s name in a rice tub and he had to search out the letters.

The second set I made on the computer. I wanted a cleaner looking set to accompany my spelling mats, this one is animals.

A second animal game, the words can be be as simple or complex as you choose depending on the stage of your learner.

My last set uses a vinyl alphabet I bought cheaply online and stuck to the caps. I primarily wanted these for upper and lowercase matching, so the letters would have a uniformity and be easier to recognise by my young learners.

Here they are used to help my son spell his name with the help of colour.


Having a set of picture caps opens up many opportunities to play, count, tell imaginative stories, sort, pair, order or create patterns. With this set of stars I was able to make mats teaching pattern, colour and scale.

I like to print and laminate before using my hot glue gun to attach the small pictures. This ensures I can reuse them and the pictures don’t become unstuck during lots of handling.

PicMonkey Collage3

Having an identical ‘batch’ of images works well for counting mats.

Whether it’s placing the correct number of frogs into a pond, putting out fires in a burning building or loading a tractor with hay bales my boys love to lift, place and count. The physical action required by using the caps enhances and reinforces learning.




  1. So many amazing ideas! Thank you for sharing. Will be trying them out n the near future!

  2. Wow ! You’ve gone cap crazy and I love it! How on warmth do you find the time to do all this ??? I’ll drop my two little ones over for a cap session soon shall I ?
    Xx Rita

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