Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Our First Sensory Bins!

I've been lusting after some of the ideas for sensory tables that I've seen on Pinterest and various blogs, but alas, a sensory table isn't very practical for us. Sensory bins, on the other hand, can be manageable for any budget, skill level, and space! I picked up a couple of large, shallow storage bins with lids, then took a trip to the grocery and craft stores to find things to fill them with. Dollar and thrift stores are other great places to find items for sensory bins on a tight budget!

The first bin I made was so simple, I was afraid Delilah would be bored with it. The theme for this bin was "scoop, measure, and pour":

Scoop, Measure, & Pour Sensory Bin
This bin contains 4 bags of dried beans, a large liquid measuring cup, a set of dry measuring cups, and a set of measuring spoons.

It doesn't look like much, and I was skeptical about how much fun Delilah would have with it, but she had a blast using the spoons to scoop beans into the measuring cups, and then pouring the cups into the larger liquid measuring cup. Of course, the very first thing she did was to scoop up a spoonful of beans, toss it in the air, and then watch them hit the floor around the bin. All I did was say "Uh-oh! We want to keep the beans inside the bin!" and from that moment on, she was great at keeping her play within the boundaries of the bin. Any time a bean went astray, she'd exclaim "Uh-oh!" and immediately put it back in the bin.

Despite my fears that this bin was too simple to be much fun, she requests to play with it frequently, and it keeps her happily occupied for upwards of half an hour. She even added muffin cups to it for another item to pour into!

For the second bin, I was going for an "In the Garden" feel:

"In the Garden Sensory" Bin
This bin has rice as the "base", and contains silk flowers and leaves (pulled off of the larger stems), mini terracotta pots, plastic bugs, decorative birds (like you'd put on a wreath, if you were into that sort of thing), garden tools, and a magnifying glass.

 She loves shoveling and raking the rice, putting flowers in the flower pots, and looking at the bugs with the magnifying glass. This bin is perfect for "playing in the garden" when the weather makes playing outside in the actual garden impractical.

I'm certainly not an expert, but now that I've got a couple of them under my belt, here are some tips for making sensory bins:

  • Keep it simple! While I was afraid that the "Scoop, Measure, & Pour" bin was too plain, it was perfect. On the other hand, the amount of stuff in the "In the Garden" bin was almost overwhelming for Delilah. When I get my hands on another bin, I might take out the bugs and birds and do a separate "Birds and Bees" bin to simplify the garden one.
  • Offer guidance, but not too much. Rather than instructing kids on how to play with the items in the bin, let them be creative! Limit instructions to guiding safe play, such as "Please keep the beans in the bin" "This rice is for playing but not for eating", etc.
  • Play with the bins on a hard surface such as a table or non-carpeted floor for easier clean up. I found that the rice was messier than the beans, since beans are easier for little fingers to pick and put back in the bin when they find their way out.
  • Involve your kid(s) in creating the bins! Delilah picked out the flowers and birds at the craft store and was excited to see them in her garden bin. Also, let kids add appropriate items as they sit fit! In the middle of playing with the "Scoop, Measure, & Pour" bin, Delilah got up, went to the kitchen, and got some muffin cups to add to it. I would have never thought of them, but she loves having them in there for another option to scoop beans into.  
Have you made sensory bins? What have you put in them? I'd love to hear about them or see photos! :)

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  1. I recently made a rice sensory bin and Jesse loved it, he played with it consistently for nearly two weeks (up until all the rice had been lost - we played outside). I am definitely going to try the bean one, although Jesse really likes to put things in his mouth still, so Im not sure if that will work. Thanks for the tips, I agree with all of them! :)

  2. I really need to start doing this, and I think sensory bins will be especially helpful for keeping Baby busy when his little sister arrives. We play with sensory tables at a play space that we visit regularly and Baby LOVES them. Today he played with bird seed and real plants in dirt. It was a big hit!

    Pinning this post to make sure I get started on this!

  3. Those are really sweet. I love your second point, about providing simple and sparse guidelines, and about keeping it simple.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. My friend has one with beans that Peanut loves to play with when we're at her house. I love your idea of scoop, measure, pour too. I'll definitely have to make her one like that.

  5. With sensory bin children learn fast.
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