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Friday, July 6, 2012

Upcycled Challenge: Water bottle to Rainstick Toy #freefromtrash

Ugh.  So how hard do you think it would be to make a little toy?  Turns out it required more engineering than I  thought.  The final project you see below is the result of one failed attempt and I tried to learn from my mistakes on the pilot project.  I am 90% happy with the project but I have some room for improvement, which I'll get into at the end.  I was thinking about making this rainstick toy because my kids have an all-plastic one with tiny little plastic beads in it.  They seem pretty fascinated by it so I thought I would make something similar. How hard could it be?

Water bottle
soft plastic can lids
pen, scissors
pipe cleaners (2)
drill with small bit
food dye

Here is what I did:
1. Collect  a water bottle.  I ended up using a pretty rigid one (Ethos, from Starbucks) because the other regular brands have made their bottles so flimsy that with a couple of squeezes form my he-man-like toddlers they are pretty much crushed.  Due to this rigidity, I needed a drill to poke a tiny hole in the bottom of the bottle and in the cap (through which a pipe cleaner can fit but not big enough for rice to fall out.
2. Insert a pipe cleaner into the bottom hole and up through the bottle
3. Collect two soft plastic tops from cans like oatmeal or formula.  The plastic should be bendable.  Cut two circles about the diameter of the water bottle.  These plastic pieces will form the baffle that will slowly allow the rice to drain from top to bottom and back.  Lay the two pieces together and cut a couple of v-shaped notches in the plastic pieces.  Poke a small hole right in the middle of the pieces.  I wanted the pieces to stick together somehow to become more rigid after I get them inside the water bottle.  I thought I could maybe dab some hot glue near the center of the pieces to secure them together but A. I couldn't find the hot glue gun and B. I thought it might make them too hard to bend to insert into the bottle.  So I decided to use a pipe cleaner and wrap it around the two pieces to secure them together.  Then iI fed the pipe cleaner sticking out of the bottle neck through the baffle.  I rolled up the baffle and fed it into the bottle while pulling the pipe cleaner through.  Poke the baffle down until it about in the middle of the bottle
4. Make colored rice.  Basically pour some white rice into a tupperware container, add 4-5 drop of food coloring and give it a few shakes.  Voila, colored rice.
5. Feed the cap onto the pipe cleaner sticking out of the top of the bottle and pour in the colored rice into the bottle using the funnel
6. Cap and enjoy.

Things I could have done differently or need improving:

1. The baffle is still too flimsy.  Even two pieces of this soft plastic isn't rigid enough to withstand the weight of the rice.  Maybe I used too much rice.  I don't know how I could make a rigid baffle that I could feed into the neck of the bottle.  If anyone has any creative ideas, please let me know.
2. As an alternative to a baffle, I thought about using an old pair of fishnets or even lace.  I don't know exactly how I would have secured them in the bottle but I thought with the random holes it might slow the rice down enough to make a whooshing sound

I didn't even Pinterest for this Challenge because I wanted the idea to come from my own brain so I am sure there are many creative folks out there that have made something similar with greater success, especially if you are willing to cut up and reassemble the bottle.  I only have about an hour a day (during nap time or bedtime) to craft so my efforts on most of the crafts will be whatever is easy and quiet.

This post is part of the Upcycled Crafting Challenge (#freefromtrash) hosted by Calley, The Eco Chic, and is part of a one month challenge to create from trash.  This challenge will hopefully open your eyes to the number of items that we still end up trashing every day that could be used by ourselves or our kids to create fun and useful items.  To find out more about the challenge and to see other projects click on over to Calley’s announcement post.


  1. Just googled making a rainstick toy and this how-to uses crumpled up foil balls to create the "baffles" through which the rice flows http://www.parentsconnect.com/parenting-your-kids/activities/crafts/Pitter_Patter.html and this one uses a carboard tube and a carboard baffle but opens up the tube and glues the baffle in place http://www.helium.com/items/1312732-how-to-make-a-rain-stick

  2. i've been trying to come up with a rainstick project that is simple, too... i'll let you know if i ever come up with a good one!



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