Sensory bins are a really cool way to keep your toddlers and young kids engaged and entertained!
Hot tip: they don’t have to be complicated or fancy
I would see different types on Etsy or Pinterest and think “that’s beyond me” but it isn’t! They’re super approachable and there’s pretty much no wrong way to go about it. Basically, if I can do it- you can do it.
What even ARE sensory bins?
Typically a sensory bin is a tub, big bowl, or box of different feeling items to stimulate the senses. Mostly tactile, visual, auditory; sometimes olfactory. You could add some taste in there- if you’re feeling brave. I like to keep taste out if it, so the girls don’t get used to putting bin stuffs in their mouths. Bleh. I recommend filling most of the tub with something cheap and fun to touch- rice, lentils, dried beans- or non edible items like shredded paper, puff balls, small pebbles, etc.
Ok but, why?
They’re fun! And great for kids’ development. They’re engaging in cooperative play (sharing) fine motor skills (lifting, scooping, sifting) cognitive tasks (I spy, searching for specific colored items or shapes) Sensory bins also a very calming, centering, and soothing. Imagine scooping up two full hands of coffee beans from a giant barrel and letting them fall through your fingers, picture the smell. Think of the zen practice of sand raking, the trending ASMR videos. Sensory activities are a human experience you never outgrow.
ASD Hot tip: Sensory bins or boxes are great for autistic & special needs kids for the same reasons they’re great for everyone else! An added bonus: they allow kids a safe space to participate in play; without being fully immersed/overwhelmed. This is especially poignant for my youngest, Lela. She often gets overloaded when there are too many choices in front of her, like at snack time or play time with blocks. This type of play allows her the freedom to indulge in throwing/scrambling pieces, and also help her get used to multi-tiered input.
Bottom line, it’s hard to keep your kids busy with something that isn’t a screen. When you need some time to finish dinner, check your IG, or just sit and drink your cold coffee- go for the bins. You can also sit and play along with them of course! But it’s also a really nice, guilt-free way to free your hands up. Does unsupervised bin play make more of a mess? 100 percent. Laying down a blanket can help, or setting up a play area outside! It’s gonna get a little crazy either way.
I’ve added some links for ideas and to help anyone get started! I would like to make a space kit with black beans next! Where can I find these astronauts?!