If you haven’t been using sensory bins with your kids, you are missing out on great learning and play opportunities.
Sensory Bins provide children with tactile stimulation and exploration. The fun of manipulating the materials in the bin is simultaneously engaging and relaxing for kids.
Preparing a sensory bin for your child to play with is actually very simple and inexpensive.
Find a plastic or metal bin. Fill it with tactile materials such as dried macaroni, rice, bird seed, popcorn kernels, dried beans, buttons, sand, water, dirt, or packing peanuts. The list is endless of what you can fill sensory bins with. Check out this site for more ideas.
Then add other age appropriate objects such as milk jug caps, yarn, Popsicle sticks, toy cars, pipe cleaners and other small toys.
To make the most of your children’s sensory bin experience, follow the guidelines in this article.
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1) Include your kids in preparing the bins
Kids love to help and when they are included in preparing sensory bins, they will be more invested in learning from it and treating the materials with care and respect.
Here are some ways your kids can help prepare a sensory bin for fun play:
- Pick out a bin to use either at home, online or at the store. You can buy plastic bins with lids in bulk here.
- Choose which filler material to use
- Help prepare the filler material if necessary (like coloring pasta or sand).
- Pour the filler into the bin.
- Find small objects around the house to use in the bin. (You make the final decision whether an item is appropriate to use. You don’t want to include an object a baby or toddler could choke on).
- Look outside for objects to include in the bin.
- Help pick out items at the store if you decide to invest in some inexpensive items.(The dollar store is a treasure trove for sensory bin ideas).
- Locate containers, scoops, cups…to use in the bin.
- Put the small objects and containers in the bin.
2) Provide items that can scoop and pour
Children love to experiment with spooning, pouring or dumping ingredients in a sensory bin like this fall sensory bin.
Consider these items to encourage and promote exploration:
- Small bowls
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Small shovels
- Anything else you can think of that kids can scoop or pour with.
3) Contain the Mess
Recently, my kids played on the floor with a sensory bin filled with birdseed. Before they were allowed to play with the bin, we placed a plastic shower curtain on the floor that they sat on while playing with the sensory bin.
After they were finished playing, we folded the shower curtain so that all the birdseed went to the middle of the curtain. We then positioned the curtain so that we could pour all the birdseed back into the bin.
A sheet or a tablecloth will also work if you don’t want to invest in a cheap shower curtain. Trust me when I say that this tip will shorten and simplify the cleaning up process immensely!
4) Allow kids to help clean up
The shower curtain we used did wonders in containing most of the bird seed. However, there were a few stray seeds on the rug beneath the shower curtain.
My four year-old-son loves to help clean up so he was assigned the duty of vacuuming any seeds he saw. He loved it and it helped him feel part of the process.
It also helped teach him the importance of trying to keep as much of the bird seed in the bin next time he plays, so that there won’t be as much to clean up.
Kids can also help put supplies back in the bins and put the bins back where they belong. Make your children part of whatever clean up routine you have after sensory bin play.
5) Make several bins at once
“I’m Bored!” The next time your kids say those two dreaded words, tell them to go pick out a sensory bin to play with.
It will be easy if you already have them made ahead of time. Set aside a few hours to prepare the bins.
Enlist your children’s help so they will be invested in the bins and you will have more hands to help you finish the project faster.
6) Organize and store bins
Once you have several bins finished, you will want to store them in a manner that is organized and accessible.
There are several possible ways of doing this. Our kids’ closet is the location that works best to store them.
I affixed a large label on the front of the bin with a picture of everything that’s in the bin.
When my kids are finished playing with the bin, they look at the picture to make sure they put everything back in the bin.
7) Refresh and restock periodically
Over time, the filler material in the sensory bins can become dirty and perhaps even moldy. Make sure you periodically check the bins to make sure the material your children are interacting with is clean and fresh.
Replace any material or other play items or tools that may have gotten ruined or misplaced.
Remember to let your children help you with this if at all possible. It is so important that they are part of the process from start to finish.
It helps them understand where the materials and bins come from. They also will be more inclined to treat the bins with care and respect.
It All Makes Sense!
If you have hesitated with using sensory bins with your kids because it seemed too messy or overwhelming, incorporating these tips will help it all make “sense!”
In order to make the process simple and beneficial for you and your children, remember to:
- Include your kids in making the bins
- Provide items that scoop and pour
- Contain the mess
- Allow kids to help clean up
- Make several bins ahead of time
- Organize and store bins in an accessible manner
- Refresh and restock bins periodically
Once you have had a chance to use sensory bins with your kids, let me know how it went. What other tips would you recommend I share? Are there any materials and tools that you recommend or have used that your kids really enjoy?
Have fun exploring with your senses!