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As Reagan is getting older, I have been trying to come up with more activities that will engage her mind and help her learn and explore in different ways.
I decided to make some sensory bins that we could pull out on rainy days or when we just need a little change of pace! Added bonus: sensory bins might give my ears a break from the musical tea pot, squeaking riding toy, singing toy remote control, ice maker sound effects on her play kitchen…you get the idea.
While I wanted to have some variety in the bins for an assortment of sensory experiences, we have a fairly small house with not a lot of storage space. I didn’t want to have a separate bin for each “base” item. (The bases are the “filler” items, i.e. rice, beans, pom poms). I purchased one small plastic bin that is approximately 17″ x 13″. If you are going to have more than one child (or an older child) playing in the bin, it’s probably safer to buy a larger under-the-bed bin to give more space to explore.
For now, I am including rice, popcorn kernels, plastic straws, and cotton balls as our selection of bases. Reagan is still in the phase of sticking everything straight in her mouth, so we’ll be steering clear of anything that is not “taste-safe”, and any choking hazards like marbles, beads, etc. She will also never be unsupervised when playing with her sensory bins. Please make sure this is only used as an independent activity if you are confident your child will play safely.
(Ironically, the cotton balls — which were the only non-food item I used — were the ones that went straight in her mouth. She thought it was hilarious and it became a game as I pried them out of her clenched teeth…she looked just like Buddy the Elf eating them out of the jar in the pediatricians office. So, again…please supervise.)
Between uses, we can just empty the filler back into an individual ziplock bag and tuck everything back in the bin along with any “tools” or other toys I’ve included.
I also want to start out with simple tools with our first experiences with sensory play. I included a big scoop, a little bowl, and an ice cream scoop, as well as some rubber ducks. You can include a variety of household items and toys like sand shovels, measuring cups and spoons, toy trucks, blocks, funnels, mason jars, or plastic cups.
Encourage your little to use multiple senses when playing in their bin, and even if they aren’t talking yet, ask them lots of questions! How does the rice sound when you pour it out of the scoop? How do the cotton balls feel when you rub them between your hands? Name the shapes and colors of objects as he or she uses them. Bury small object for them to dig for.
The popcorn was by far Reagan’s favorite. She dug with her hands, poured from the scoops into the bowl, looked for duckies that I buried under the kernels, grabbed handfuls and threw them back in the bin, or just swished her hands around in the bin. It held her attention for a good 15 or 20 minutes, which I call a total win for a 15 month old!
The kernels can make a bit of a mess of course if they fly out of the bin, but that’s what a vacuum is for, right? She actually was very good about keeping them in, but they kept sticking to her hands and between her little fingers, and she would shake her hands to get them off and we had some fliers.
She also found the straws to be very interesting. My mom had a great suggestion and pulled out some blocks with holes through the center for threading onto string. I tossed those in the bin with the straws and showed her how to thread the straw through the hole.
I got all our supplies from Walmart, and I spent about $25. The nice thing about these is you can probably put them together with stuff you already have in your house. Depending on how old your child is, you could use uncooked pasta, water beads, beans, sand, cooked noodles, slime, pieces of yarn…the possibilities are endless! Throw in a fun filler and add some kitchen utensils and you’re good to go!
What items do you use in sensory bins for your little ones? I would LOVE to hear more options, let me know in the comments!