Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Exploring Valentine's Day and Emotions- Sensory Bin

Sensory bin is a term I never heard until a few weeks ago, and now, I am planning about five or six of them in my head for the next units we are going to do. You can find hundreds of resources on line for sensory bins, and I have read through the majority of those. The main points of what I learned are that a sensory bin should be a self-contained area for a child who has outgrown the need to put every object in his or her mouth to have free play focusing on textures, fine-motor skills, exploration of objects, and being creative.

When I went to initially pick out our bin, I wanted something relatively large, so I went with the lidded Sterilite 35 quart container. I'm not a huge fan of messes or messy things, so I knew there would need to be a balance between having interesting contents and being able to clean them up quickly and easily. As many of the internet resources suggest, I put down a large tablecloth under the bin to easily gather the small pieces (in this case rice and beans) that fall on the floor. So, if you don't' have a tarp, blanket, or table cloth to use under your bin, be sure to pick one up.

When I went out shopping for the contents of the bin, I knew lots of people use fillers like beans and rice as the base, then add in objects from there. I wanted this bin to be Valentine's day colors, so I used dried white beans (2 medium bags), rice my daughter helped me color pink (take 4 cups of rice, a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol, and food coloring-- mix in a large bowl or bag, then lay out to dry overnight on a foil covered cookie sheet). I plan to save and eventually reuse these filler items.

I also wanted to gather an assortment of "tools" for the bins. For this bin I purchased tweezers, tongs, magnifying glasses, and pieces of PVC pipe which will be kept to be used only for these sensory bins. I don't want to have an eyebrow emergency and have to go digging through rice to find my tweezers, so I spent the dollar for E to have her own! Also, I probably won't let her play with these items outside of the bins to keep them fun and fresh when she does get bin time.

Here is what the bin looked like preplay! Other items include plastic heart ornaments and the plastic bottom they came in, a shoelace, a feather rose, a heart-shaped touch light, an empty salt shaker, a potato masher, red metallic fill, a pink ball, conversation hearts (she doesn't know they are edible, so they worked out just fine as a toy...if she finds out they are candy, I will probably have to take them out) in a pink plastic container, white silk flower pedals, and a mouse that says phrases about how much he likes you.

Before allowing E to start playing, I set two ground rules: 1) All items need to stay in the bin or on the tablecloth, and 2) Nothing from the bin goes into your mouth. I turned her loose, sitting on the ground with her for about the first 10 minutes. She asked a lot of "what is this for" questions, to which I would give answers such as, "This is what I can think of to do with it. What can you think of?" I then went to work on other things for a while and allowed her to keep playing. I liked how she came up with ideas for the object I never did (used the rose as a bean stirrer). I loved that aspect of this bin!

The only rule we may need to add for the next bin (depending on the contents) is that feet do not go in the bin. E wanted to step into the bin to see how the rice and beans felt on her feet, and I allowed it. She loved having her toes buried in the filler and wiggling them out.

Since I initially put the bin out for E, she has asked to play with it numerous times. I can't wait to plan and introduce the next bin!


  1. Love this idea! Can you talk a little about storage/organization of all the "stuff" for sensory boxes, busy bags, exploration activities etc etc. (since I know that is your strength and my weakness ;)

  2. Storage is a real pain for all this for a lot of reasons. Honestly, I am definitely a learn as I go mom on this one. For the sensory bins, my plan is to use a 3-drawer storage unit. One drawer will be for fillers, one for untensils, and the other for "stuff." I am sure I will start using the items in the drawers for other activities or projects, but they aren't items I want E to get into or that I need every single day. I will keep you up to date if I figure out anything awesome!