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How to Make Sensory Bottles With Oil (My Favorite Chanukah Decoration Project)

Natalie, a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, is a freelance writer who is always searching for what lies within the potential.

Learn how to make a sensory bottle for your Chanukah celebration!

Learn how to make a sensory bottle for your Chanukah celebration!

A Unique DIY Chanukah Craft

In my writing group tonight, we were asked what was our favorite crazy holiday decoration that we used or just had come across. It took me a few minutes because there isn’t a ton of variety in Chanukah decorations. When I was a child, my father brought home one of those long signs made of glittery letters strung together with stretchy string. The blue and white “Happy Chanukah” sign went up in the den stretched across an entire wall every year after that.

Other family members put out small dreidels (small tops with Hebrew letters on each side used to play a betting game), or large, candy-filled dreidels (even the adults preferred the latter). Other than the menorah and candles, there were few other decorations that went with the holiday.

A New Tradition

Perhaps because of this fact, one of my friends took it upon herself to come up with a Chanukah decoration tradition of her own. She held a Chanukah party every year for friends and family members. She was also a gourmet cook, so the invite to the celebration was always welcomed and no one turned it down, as anticipation of her menu had mouths watering weeks ahead of time.

For this decoration, she got us all in on the fun. Since Chanukah has a lot to do with oil (short explanation — there was only enough oil to keep the Menorah lit for a single night, but it burned eight nights which was long enough for more to be found), she had created our own oil-based sensory bottles. She’d learned to make them at her son’s school on Parent’s Day, and had decided it was just what we all needed for Chanukah.

What Are Sensory Bottles?

Basically, these are tall narrow bottles filled with different colored oil and corn syrup which flow and can blend together temporarily but separate back out again into their separate hues.

I don’t take mine out just for Chanukah but keep it available in a window. When the sun filters through it, the colors are lovely, and if the sun is strong enough it will project the colors onto the white tile floor. I also leave it out, since there is something very relaxing about tilting it one way and then the other and watching the colors flow.

How to Make Your Own Sensory Bottle

Let's get started!


  • Water bottle: Use a small one for this project since the oil and corn syrup can become very heavy in too big of a bottle. VOSS bottles are perfect because the letters also provide an easily determined halfway mark. Each bottle contains two colors.
  • Clear corn syrup
  • Mineral oil
  • Candy dye: This is used to dye the mineral oil since other dyes are water-based and won’t mix into the oil.
  • Liquid water colors or food coloring: We used liquid water colors since the hues are much more vivid.
  • Spatula
  • Two funnels
  • Two mixing bowls


  1. The corn syrup goes in first. You need about 5 oz. of corn syrup but color an extra ounce or two since it is thick and you can’t get all of it out of the bowl or funnel. It’s better to make up a little extra than to have to go back and make more.
  2. To keep the corn syrup from becoming too bright, it’s best to start with half the corn syrup and add about four to five drops of liquid water color. Mix well.
  3. Determine if it’s the color you want, then add the rest of the corn syrup and adjust the amount of liquid water color according to your preference. You can also use this food coloring chart to better estimate how many drops to use if you are mixing colors together to get a particular shade.
  4. Use one of the funnels to pour the corn syrup into the bottle. If you are using a VOSS bottle, fill it up to the point between the “O” and the “S."
  5. Use the mineral oil for your second color. Candy coloring is very vivid so add a very small amount at a time and mix well. Then decide whether you want to add a little more. Transfer this mixture to the water bottle so that it is on top of the corn syrup.
  6. Use a strong glue to seal the bottle shut as you don’t want a syrupy oily mess to leak out onto the floor.

Color Combinations

  • Blue (corn syrup) and Yellow (mineral oil)
  • Pink (corn syrup) and Blue (mineral oil) (blue bottle, color the corn syrup light magenta to make the light pink with liquid watercolors)
  • Red (corn syrup) and Yellow (mineral oil)

You’d be surprised how soothing these are to play with. By the time the potato latkes came out, the room was mostly quiet as we were all mesmerized by our sensory bottles.

© 2021 Natalie Frank