Sensory Bins are just all the rage around here right now. The boys LOVE them, they practice so many skills while playing with them, and they’re fun for me to put together! As an added bonus, they’re forced to share a small space which helps them practice that ever-so-difficult task of learning to share and work together!
Our latest bin was a desert themed sensory bin. We’re able to see the desert close up and I wanted to bring that experience into our home. There’s nothing like being able to see and feel the real thing, but with the abundance of real cacti, I wanted to give them someplace to play without the risk of getting prickled!
Here’s what’s in our bin:
Brown rice for the base Amber colored gems and marble from JoAnns White Funnels (Dollar Tree) Cardboard tube Plastic Scoop (from baby formula can perhaps?) Green plastic shot glasses (grocery store) Desert Animal Toob (JoAnns)
Here’s how I laid it out for them. I tried to hide some of the animals in the rice to act as camouflage, just as the animals really would hide!! The green shot glasses are meant to represent a cactus.
I spread the beads out evenly…
The first thing they did was spread the cacti all out and explore the different animals.
They did a lot of scooping and pouring, and even separated all of the beads into the plastic shot glasses, and the animals onto one side!
This bin was definitely a hit! It’s still our current bin, so I’m sure there will be much more play going on with it!
With all the cold weather (and even a bit of snow in Texas!) we had to do something fun with arctic animals! The boys are all fascinated by snow and animals that live in the snow, so this bin was right up their alley.
In The Bin: Snow Cloud Dough (recipe from Imagination Tree) White Funnels (from Dollar Tree) Blue plastic shot glasses (from the grocery store) Orange ice cream scoop (Dollar Tree) Metal Spatula (Dollar Tree) Blue and clear gems (JoAnns) Arctic Animal Toob (JoAnns)
Here is how I set it up before I gave it to the boys to play with. It did NOT last long this way. But they were very excited when they saw it all put together!
In the end, this bin was a hit. All 3 boys played with it at the same time, and there was minimal arguing. They made a bit of a mess and the snow dough isn’t the easiest to clean up. We were able to take the bin outside though!
I chose the Snow Cloud Dough for this because I wanted to be able to make animal tracks with the Toob figures. The dough packs together nicely for snowballs, little snowmen, and animal prints!
Sensory bins can provide a lot of opportunity for understanding different concepts. For younger kids, simply scooping and pouring can help them understand volume. While transferring beans from one cup to another they might think “these cups are completely different heights, but the beans fill up the same amount of space”!
For older kids, the opportunities to understand advanced concepts are endless, depending on what is in the bin! They might test rolling marbles down a small ramp (a ruler perhaps?). Maybe they will mix dyed ice cubes to see what color mixtures they can come up with. They might separate a bunch of gems into equal piles and get a head start at multiplication.
Vocabulary: I talked a bit about vocabulary in the language section, but I wanted to cover it a bit more (and frankly, vocab fit so well in the V spot that I couldn’t ignore it!) I’ve found that a lot of new vocabulary words for my kids are glossed right over. Unless I give them a lot of examples and show them real world application, they just don’t get it. But sensory bins help to solidify it. Some words I may never have a chance to show them in the real world, but in a small, pretend sensory bin or small world scene, we can act it out in a fun way! And they retain this information much better than most other methods. So the next time you’re having difficulty with a vocab word, think about how you could mimic it in a sensory bin!
Who, what, when, where, why?: Who are sensory bins for? Everyone! Pretty much all children can benefit from play with a sensory bin!
What are sensory bins? Small bins (tubs, boxes, etc) that provide an opportunity to explore the senses.
When should I use sensory bins? Whenever it works for you! I like to pull ours out when I’m in need of some quiet play, like during naptime!
Where should we play with our sensory bin? Tough question! If the bin is particularly messy, I suggest bringing it outside or using a large drop cloth or table cloth. If it’s not messy, but there are a lot of small parts that could potentially be spilled, play in an area that you can easily sweep up the contents. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve swept up sensory bin contents and dumped them back in! (That’s not as easy with a vacuum)
Why make a sensory bin? I think of sensory bins as an easy way to provide a great sensory experience! Our kids learn through their senses and providing them with ample opportunities to explore will just assist them more!
eXamine: Sorry, I had to cheat a bit here. I know examine doesn’t start with X.
However, my X word IS examine. I’m going to encourage you to let your child really examine the parts of a sensory bin. Don’t try to rush them to perform a certain activity or notice a certain item. Let them take their time to notice and examine each individual piece! They are learning! We might see a pile of beans or sand or water, but they see the effect of pouring water over the sand! Give them time and they will teach themselves!
You: You! Are sensory bins for you? Maybe! and Maybe not! As much as I love sensory bins, I’m not above admitting that sensory bins are NOT for everyone. Some kids just don’t like them! Some parents cannot stand the mess. Don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed if they don’t work for you! There are many many ways to explore the senses that don’t involve bins or mess.
But maybe sensory bins are for you! I highly recommend giving sensory bins a shot, at least one, and seeing how it works. If it works for YOU, that’s great! If it doesn’t work, no harm no foul – just move onto the next project!
Sometimes it’s fun to throw in an unexpected item into a sensory bin – like a zipper. Zippers can be pretty inexpensive at a craft store like JoAnns (espcially if you have a 50% off coupon!) and they would make great tools in a sensory bin! They are bumpy and have moveable parts!
If you have something unusual lying around, throw it in a sensory bin and let your kids learn about it from all angles! Zippers, old fabric, buttons, and scratched CDs/DVDs are great examples!
If you have something to throw away, look at it first to see if you could turn it into a sensory material! You never know what you might find!
At the end here I just have to say that I really enjoyed doing this 5 day series. It was a good bit of work to get each letter covered and to find these awesome examples of themed sensory bins. I hope everyone enjoys the series!