Sensory bins are all the rage, for children and adults alike! These containers (typically a bin or a box) offer highly tactile materials that you can manipulate in various ways. Think the beach or mud pies in a box.
A sensory activity is anything that involves touching and manipulating objects and engaging more of the usual five senses. Sensory bins offer the perfect open-ended child-driven play like those discussed in How to Encourage Child-Directed Play and the beauty of these boxes is that it generally stays put and can become almost anything! Here are some tips for making your own:
Anything that will hold an amount of material can serve as a bin. You could fill a shoebox or a dresser drawer. I appreciate the convenience of plastic containers that have a cover. This allows you to move it around, keep the contents clean, and keep small fingers out when they need to be. I’ve seen beautiful pictures of families that have several different sensory bins stacked in a closet. While I’ve never been that organized, I love the idea.
Almost anything can go into a container to create a fun experience. It can be a common and cheap material like water, sand, and shredded paper. You can take a more interesting approach with water beads, popcorn kernels, or shaving cream. My newest favorite is to add a bright spot with color. Any white substance like salt or rice can turn bright if you soak the material food coloring or liquid watercolor. Consider texture and appearance as you fill the bin. For an extra sensory touch, you can add scents with essential oils.
While the materials tend to take center stage, what you put in with them can make things more fun. Spoons, measuring cups, and bowls will work. Also consider funnels, sifters, tubes, or muffin tins. A very popular activity is to hide small items in sand where kids can sift them out little by little.
My favorite part of making a sensory bin is choosing a fun theme and deciding on a way to use it. You can add any sort of small toy or manipulative to create an idea. If it’s a Spring theme, add brown pinto beans, flower pots, and fake flowers. If you want a water theme, add objects that sink or float and slotted spoons to fish them out. If you are having trouble on where to start, some of the easiest themes are animal environments. You can use grass and sand, rocks to build caves, and several animals that live on the African Savanna. Or throw a bunch of ice and water into an Artic bin with polar bears and beluga whales.
This activity brings fun and relaxation along with learning.The possibilities are endless. I hope that you embrace your imagination to create a fabulous new experience for your young ones, and those young at heart!