Rainbow Bottle Xylophone

Many years ago, we made a DIY instrument…a bottle xylophone to be exact! We used recycled plastic water bottles to create a rainbow xylophone and explored not only colors of the rainbow, but also creating a water xylophone made from plastic bottles. This was a fun activity the whole family loved! Another of our favorite DIY instruments is our DIY tambourine craft.

bottle xylophone

Bottle Xylophone

If you have plastic water bottles or a couple of drink containers or recycled plastic bottles in the recycle bin, this is an easy activity to do with kids. It’s actually a great science experiment too. By exploring how different levels of water make different sounds in the bottle, you can really foster a lot of learning.

Here is one easy way to use plastic water bottles to make a color xylophone with the kids. 

We made these music bottles to explore auditory processing skills: specifically, these musical bottles were perfect for noticing differences in tone of sound. When we notice these differences and put them together with other tones, we get music! This simple instrument is a DIY music activity my kids loved…and they didn’t mind the auditory processing lesson.

You’ll need just a few materials to set up your own bottle xylophone:

  • Empty and clean plastic bottles
  • Water
  • Food coloring (you can make a bottle xylophone without the food coloring, but the rainbow feature is fun, especially if you are including this activity in rainbow activities or a rainbow theme.)

How to make a Water Xylophone with Plastic Bottles

If you follow this blog, then you know that we love to use recycled materials in play and crafts. After our bottles of Coca-Cola were empty, we decided to make our own songs with a DIY water xylophone!

To make a water xylophone using recycled plastic bottles:
This was SUCH a huge hit with my kids.  The process is very simple, and it’s a great activity for kids.

  1. We filled the plastic bottles with varying amounts of water.
  2. We used all six bottles from the six pack of plastic Coke bottles and added liquid food coloring to the bottles.  Each bottle held a different color of the rainbow to make a rainbow water xylophone.
  3. Start by pouring water to almost the top of one water bottle. Then, pour a little less into the next plastic bottle. Continue down the line.
  4. Test the sound by blowing across the top of each bottle. You should get a nice hollow sounding sound. When you have the sound as you like it, add drops of food coloring to create a rainbow. 
Kids love this rainbow water xylophone using recycled bottles to make music.

I showed my kids how to blow across the top of the opening of the bottles to make a musical sound.  It was fun to see my kids’ expressions as they realized they could make a sound on the opening of the bottles.  

Even better was watching them make a little tune with the xylophone!  This is one activity that they will remember for a long time to come.  

A hint for pouring water into the plastic bottles: One functional skill that can be challenging for some kids is pouring water. Pouring water into the plastic bottles requires skills such as: 

  • bilateral coordination
  • eye-hand coordination
  • refined dexterity of the pouring (dominant hand)
  • strength

Doing this activity over a kitchen sink or outside can make the process easier for some. You can also use a funnel or a small pitcher with a lipped spout to make the pouring task graded. To foster pouring skills, try these pouring and scooping activities.

This is a great activity for addressing oral sensory needs. Blowing across the top of the open bottles to create a sound can even be a calming oral motor exercise. Check out some of our favorite ways to provide sensory input through oral motor exercises for sensory calming sensory input in our animal cracker oral motor activity and our plastic egg boats activity

Kids love this rainbow water xylophone using recycled bottles to make music.

A water xylophone would be the perfect addition to a summer bucket list!  Take this idea outside to create memories with your kids!  Just like music invokes memories, making music with this water xylophone will be the hit of the summer break.

Kids love this rainbow water xylophone using recycled bottles to make music.

Other DIY instruments that we loved include:

Don’t forget to check out all of the great resources on the OT Toolbox, including the Auditory Processing Tool Kit.

The resources support listening skills, auditory memory strategies, and includes games and activities to foster auditory processing during functional tasks.

Get your copy of the Auditory Processing Kit here.

Auditory Processing Kit

Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

Plastic bottles filled with water at different levels with colorful water in rainbow order. Text reads "bottle xylophone"