An I SPY jar is a great car toy and quiet time attention-focusing activity. But making your own I SPY jars provides another element of fun and it’s great family togetherness time. And while your children are happily scooping and pouring rice, they’re also working on their motor skills and hand-eye coordination which helps them with things like their scissor cutting skills and handwriting skills.
You’ll have most of the supplies needed to make the I SPY jars at home. We made 6 I SPY jars when we made them… two for each boy so they could keep one in the house and one in the van. Making that many required A LOT of rice. So I purchased a bulk bag of rice at the grocery. My littlest guy thought the bag was great to play with. He poked it and squished it in the cart. Until… I realized that he had poked a hole in it and saw that we had made a rice trail through the store! So not all the rice made it home with us, but it was still a good choice to buy bulk (and it left us some for a couple dinners too).
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If I were to make another round of I SPY jars, I would not make all the jars the same. Why I didn’t consider this at the time, who knows. Instead, I would have made them different so that the boys could trade jars and have different things to search for in each one. Honestly, you can buy I SPY jars already made (they’re actually named Find It jars on Amazon). And they have a variety of themes (Sesame Street, At the Beach, Glitz and Glamour), but it is more fun to make them yourself if you want to be budget friendly and have a fun craft/activity for the kids to do.
A couple things I’ve learned since making these…
- When we made these I SPY jars 7 years ago, Crystal Light containers were more transparent than the latest containers I stripped of it’s plastic wrap. So you may want to consider using a glass jar instead. (Something like an olive jar would be perfect!) The process is still the same until the gluing the lid on step, but I’ll cover that in the instructions below.
- Your kids may enjoy having a list of everything in the jar. The Find It jars include a printable of everything to look for inside the jar. But you can quickly type up and print out your own list… or have your kids write the list!
What you’ll need:
- Transparent containers (we used Crystal Light containers)
- Measuring cups
- Super Glue
- Sharpie marker
- Ideas of small items to hide in the rice:
- Paper clips
- Googly eyes
- Small doll rods
- Miniature plastic figurines (dinosaurs, animals, army guys, etc.)
How to make your I SPY jars
I would highly suggest putting the rice into a large bowl to avoid spills and to keep germy little hands out of any extra which could be made into dinner. My boys loved playing in the bowls of rice (like a sensory bin) before we even started making our I SPY jars. So give ’em some time, a couple measuring cups, and boundaries that “the rice has to stay in the big bowl” and let your kids play while you get out the rest of the supplies for your jars. As long as it’s keeping your kids entertained and isn’t making a horrible mess you’ll have to clean up, don’t put a time limit on it.
Have your child use a measuring cup to scoop up rice into a funnel atop your “jar.”
Have child fill jar 1/4 of the way full of rice and add 3-4 items in their jar.
It’s time to shake, rattle, and roll! Secure the lid onto the jar and roll/shake to start getting items hidden.
Continue adding rice and searchable items to jar two more times until jar is ¾ full.
Write names on lid with marker (optional).
Glue lid onto jar. I used Gorilla glue on four of them. With its expanding properties, I hoped this would keep the lid attached. However, since it expands so much, it dripped down both the outside and inside of the jar. The foam drippings on the outside can easily be removed, but the inside drippings looked a little sloppy and gross.
I used Super Glue on the last two containers which resulted in a much cleaner seal. Needless to say, I’d suggest the Super Glue.
If using a container with a screw on lid, coat the inside rim of the lid with Super Glue so it holds tight when threaded onto the container.
And… make sure the glue is dry before playing with the jars. Seems obvious, I know, but excited little ones can make a super mess if you know what I mean!
You’ll love seeing your kiddos faces light up when they see the awesome new toy they just made! These are going to be the memories they hold onto… the time spent with you doing activities with them.
When I originally wrote this post in 2013, my boys were 4.5 and 3 years old. Even after all these years and the boys growing up, we’ve kept a few of these I SPY bottles and on occasion I’ll find my tweens picking up their jars and searching for the hidden treasures inside.
The pre-made Find It jars may look fancy and essentially be the same toy, but they won’t bring the same joy that playing in rice and doing a family activity like making their own I SPY jar will.
So forget your cleaning the house agenda and get out the rice and scoops! You won’t regret it!