I am sure you have seen sensory bin and sensory play ideas floating around on Pinterest. If you don’t come from an early childhood education background, you may be wondering “what the heck is a sensory bin?”. Sensory bins are so much fun and so educational and I am here to show you the why, how, and what of sensory bins and give you some tips and fun ideas to get started.
Why are sensory bins important?
Young children learn about their world by exploring and experimenting using their senses.
By observing a young toddler exploring their environment you will see this in action. They look at, touch, smell, and taste just about anything they come in contact with- this is how they learn. When their senses are stimulated, messages are sent to their brain which builds neural pathways that are needed for future learning.
Sensory bins are a great way for children to learn using all 5 senses at once. Child development theorist Jean Piaget described the way children learn by calling them “little scientists“.
Through sensory play and sensory bins children are using the scientific method and are also building pre-math skills, fine motor skills, language skills, imaginative play, and much much more. Not only that but sensory bins are so visually appealing and fun!
For more reading Not Just Cute shares the Importance of Sensory Play for Young Children.
How do I create a sensory bin?
To create a sensory bin you must first have a container to put you sensory materials in. I use one similar to this clear plastic container, that is a 6 pack and you only need one.
Next, you must decide on the theme of your bin and gather your supplies You don’t have to have a theme but making themed sensory bins can be a lot of fun. I love doing them for holidays.
Most sensory bins have a base which is usually made with rice or another sensory material. Next you add other items including scooping materials such as spoons, measuring cups, etc for scooping and pouring.
What do I put in a sensory bin?
Here are a list of some possible bases:
- colored rice
- cooked spaghetti or other pasta
- dry pasta
- popcorn kernels
- cloud dough
- snow dough
- shredded paper
- water beads
- cotton balls
- easter grass
- shaving cream
Any of these would be great by themselves but it is fun to add manipulative items which adds extra learning and experimenting opportunities.
Here are a list of some manipulative items:
- small shovel
- measuring cups
- cookie cutters
- wire cleaner
- themed objects depending on your theme
- small figurines for small world play
- potato masher
Sensory Bin Tips
1.Be mindful of choking hazards.
Sensory bins are supposed to be a closely supervised activity. Only put in what you are comfortable with your child handling. When I had a toddler I stick with things that are edible and that won’t be hazardous if ingested.
2. Take sensory bins outside or use a “mess mat” when indoors to contain the mess.
I use a plastic shower curtain liner for the dollar store as my “mess mat” that I put under the sensory bin.
Don’t worry, you can’t go wrong with a sensory bin. You can be as elaborate or as simple as you want to get and it will still be very beneficial for your child.
4. Get in on the fun
Help your child get even more out of sensory bins by playing with them! Some sensory bins I enjoy playing with just as much as my child. They can be very relaxing to run your hands through! You can help them expand their knowledge while exploring. Talk with that and introduce new vocabulary words.
5.Store the materials in a large ziplock bag until you want to get it out to play again.
Most of the materials can be stored for many months and used whenever you want.
Here are some of the themed sensory bins we have done. Just click on the picture to see the details!
Dinosaur Fossil Excavation with Edible Dirt
Valentine’s Day Sensory Bin
Christmas Sensory Bin
Witch’s Sensory Brew
Fruit Loop Colorful Sensory Bin
Rainbow Spaghetti Sensory Bin
Easter Sensory Bin
4th of July Sensory Bin
You might also like The ABC’s of Learning Through Play
For more sensory activities, follow my sensory play board on Pinterest!