Why a sensory bin?
Young children learn through play and the primary way that they learn through play is through their senses. A sensory bin engages most, if not all, of the senses: sight, touch, smell, hearing and perhaps even taste. The best thing is that these bins can be made using items you already have around your house, which means they're cheap to make, fun to use and enriching for your curious toddler's mind.
In addition to engaging the senses, sensory bins also provide ample opportunity for transferring, which is a skill that toddlers love. Transferring also has so many educational benefits. It allows practice in hand-eye-coordination, concentration and both fine and gross motor skills.
You can make a sensory bin out of almost anything. You can make it themed or not. There is no pressure and really no right or wrong. As your making your bin think of your child's interests. Try to find things that meet at least the sight, touch and hearing categories.
What do I need?
- A box or bin. I bought the colored bin you see at Target in the dollar section for $2.50 but you can use anything you have at home! A pie tin, shoe box, bowl, whatever you have on hand.
- Some type of medium to put in your bin. This can be rice, dried beans, unpopped popcorn, shredded toilet paper, shaving cream, pasta, sand, etc.
- Objects. Think of different textures (shiny, dull, scratchy, smooth, hard, soft, etc.) I know we all have "junk drawers." Go through your junk drawer, your craft stuff, your garage. You'll be amazed with what you can find, I know I was! Some specific examples, in case your still at a loss: nuts and bolts; foil; coins; cotton balls; sand paper; rocks; tissue paper; bubble wrap; packing peanuts; tape.....
- Tools and containers. Although not pictured here, you'll want tools and extra containers. The tools can be as simple as a spoon or as complex as child chopsticks or mini tongs. For the extra containers, it is great to have various materials, such as metal, plastic, wood, glass, etc. Much of the hearing aspect of a sensory bin comes from dropping one object into another and differentiating between the sounds.
- If you have older children playing with the sensory bins, hide some of the objects inside the bin. Create cards that have the hidden objects and ask them to find the objects and match them to the cards.
I made the bin, now what?
Now it's time to play! Choose a spot where you want your child to play with it. Remember it will get messy and you're not going to redirect your child so that they don't make a mess. Choose somewhere where you can clean it up with some ease. You can even use trash bags or an old sheet or blanket to cover the area where they will play.
If your child is like mine and is a little apprehensive about getting her hands dirty, sit down and ooh and ahh over the box. Play with it yourself. Point out the different items in the box. Once your child is playing with the box, allow them to freely explore without interruption, unless they're putting something in their mouth they shouldn't be! This is a time for them to "work." I think you will be amazed by how focused your child will be and how they have put themselves to the task of playing. I just marvel at Makenzie and wonder what is going through her little brain.
REMEMBER: THIS IS NOT THE TIME FOR YOU TO LEAVE! There are small objects in the box that you want your child to explore but not to choke on. While you shouldn't interrupt their time, you also shouldn't be using this time to get a task done. Just sit back and watch them play and marvel at the amazing little person that they are. If they seem to tire of it quickly, offer some suggestions, show them another way they can play with it. This is a fun experience!
I know, this post is like forever long and there's not a lot of pictures but I just wanted to break this box down for you. It is ocean themed in preparation of our trip to Sea World in a couple weeks. Here's what I used, along with how much I spent. This is based on what I already had in my house.
rocks ($1.50 - IKEA)
Fish stickers, placed on a piece of paper and cut out so they aren't sticky anymore. ($2 - Toys-R-Us)
Ocean bath toys (already had these)
Walrus and coral (from the ocean set I already had)
Glitter foam starfish (traced stars on leftover glitter foam from Makenzie's Birthday Party)
Come back tomorrow to see how much Makenzie loved the box!
If you'd like to see some more great ideas check out...you guessed it...1+1+1=1. She has made some great sensory bins.