Sensory bins are a fantastic and easy way to stimulate your child’s senses, play, and development while also providing you some relaxing or productive time.
Case in point, I am writing this as my 3 year old stomps a mommy and baby elephant through his mud bin.
We love pom poms around here. They are the perfect restaurant companion to occupy your toddler while you wait for your food. They are the perfect solution for a toddler who likes to throw things (always keep a pom pom in your pocket and anytime s/he gets the urge to throw something, give him a pom pom and he can throw it to his heart’s content without hurting anything or anyone). They create absolutely no mess at all (it takes seconds to scoop up pom poms from the floor). Our favorite companions to this bin are pretend dishes and an ice tray. We also use these pom poms for our Joy Jar, which I encourage you to read all about.
Rice is probably the most requested and used sensory bin in our collection. You can feature any set of toys in it and it makes for a whole new play adventure: cars, dishes, animals, bugs, etc. One upside is that it is not “messy” however it does get everywhere. On a carpet I would set down the roomba and hit the spot setting. On wood we sweep it up. It’s really not hard. Also, it’s heavy. But so worth it!
Frozen Dino Eggs
This is a fun one, especially with a baster and water sprayer of warm water. You can freeze anything in an ice tray really, so this a nice choice for a hot day. Outdoors you don’t have to worry about water splashing or you can simply throw a towel down and when s/he’s done you just pick up the towel and toss it in the towel hamper.
Feathers provide a unique and soothing texture. It is fun to hide things under them and drop them from up high. The feathers themselves are easy to put away but they do leave wispy bits behind that are hard to collect.
We live in San Diego so collecting sea shells on the beach is a staple of our lives but no matter where you live, it can be a part of yours too! These all have their own unique textures and shapes and make for great conversations and learning. We like to alternate between sand and water (sometimes both).
These slippery little suckers are pretty cool. They are so bizarre to the touch that they make for a unique sensory experience. Pretend dishes are the go-to for us with water beads. But be warned, if you play with these outside and they get spilled on the ground, they squish and get very slippery. I prefer this sensory bin indoors, where they keep it inside the bin.
Magnets make for a great science sensory bin. Magnet wands, magnet balls, magnet discs, paper clips, horseshoe magnets, and magnet cars are a few of our favorites. Lakeshore Learning Store has the best collection I’ve seen. Notes of caution are to keep this bin away from any electronic screens and out of a toddler’s mouth.
This sno wonder stuff is quite a fun simulated snow experience.
You may have noticed that I like to use a wide, shallow bin much of the time but a kiddie pool makes for a great outdoor sensory bin.
This is another one of those trippy textures that didn’t exist when I was growing up. This stuff allows for amazing earth based play that sand can’t achieve. The only disappointment I have with it is that it is pricey and does dry out (despite what the various brands claim).
Here is one example of my 5 year old’s kinetic sand play with dinosaurs. The sand was level and the dinos were roaming around Mexico. Then the asteroid hit (the mound) and the dirt was thrown over the dinosaurs (the stegosaurus can be seen through the side of the bin under the layers of Earth in the KT Boundary). Then the paleontologist is digging out the dino’s fossil. Homeschooling little boys win!
Obviously for outdoors. Consider using unconventional wands like a whisk and a stick with yarn.
My kids’ favorite thing to do with shaving cream is cover their little plastic outdoor table in it and drive cards through it. Another fun homeschooling strategy is to have them write out vocabulary words in shaving cream on a cookie tray.
Homeschool beyond the worksheet. Live beyond the electronic toy. Play, experience, and have fun!
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