Moms of toddlers know how difficult it can be to keep them busy sometimes. Have you ever tried putting together a sensory bin for them to play in?! You may have to be okay with a little bit of mess to clean up at the end, but sometimes it is worth it!
A sensory bin is just what it sounds like – a large tote/tub, filled with different textures for your little one to explore!
To be honest, my 11 year old enjoys playing in this just as much as my 3 year old! Right now, we have some elbow macaroni and some dinosaur shaped pasta (my 3 year old is a dino lover!) in her bin. We dyed the pasta with food coloring and alcohol (I’ll explain how below!) to make it even more fun. We also always has some cups, spoons, bowls and scoops in there to play with, and sometimes add paper towel or toilet paper tubes. My 3 year old can spend forever filling bowls & dumping things out, stirring, scooping and dropping pasta through her tubes. The pasta is big enough that it doesn’t create too much of a mess on the carpet, and when some do inevitably fly out, it isn’t difficult to scoop back up. In the past, we have had other smaller, messier things in the tub – then it stays in the kitchen on the linoleum floor, so it can just be swept up.
Here are some fun ideas and things we’ve had in our sensory tub in the past…and some new ones on our list to try!
- Dyed pasta
- Dyed rice
- Shredded paper
- Perler beads
- Aquarium rock
- Easter grass
- Cut up straws
- Cotton balls
- Glass gems
- Corn kernels
- Dried beans
- Shaving cream
- Ooblek (I’ll share how we did this soon!)
- Small or large pom poms
- Dried cereal
- Cut up pieces of yarn
- Pony beads
- Potting soil
- Kinetic Sand
Of course, the use of some of these materials will depend on your child’s age. Do not use anything that could harm or choke them if it were to be put into their mouth.
Another fun thing to do is make your sensory tub themed! For instance, when we had rice in over the winter, we dyed some blue and mixed in with the white, added some blue glitter and small foil snowflakes pom poms. When we were doing a homeschool unit about farm animals, we had kernels of corn, some tractors and some plastic farm animals. We had potting soil with fake flowers and mini shovels and rakes. I’ve always wanted to do easter grass with plastic eggs and plastic bunnies too, and aquarium rock or blue glass beads with plastic fish. You can theme them after a unit in your homeschool, based on the current holiday time or season, even base it off one of your child’s favorite books! The possibilities are endless.
Something that is really fun to do is dye the pasta or rice you want to use! We have done this in the past, and the kids love it. All you need is some food coloring, large baggie and a little bit of isopropyl alcohol!
You can dye everything one color, or divide things up into multiple colors (my favorite!). It is so simple…here’s what you need to do:
- Fill baggie with dried pasta or rice.
- Add 10 or so drops of food coloring into bag on top of pasta/rice.
- Add a couple drops of isopropyl alcohol.
- Close bag tightly!
- Shake it up, roll it around, make sure the dye coats everything! Depending on how intense you want the color to be, you may want to add a few more drops of food coloring and alcohol once or twice during the mixing.
- Lay newspaper down on table or counter – we usually line sheet pans, so we can spread it out without worrying about it spilling off.
- Empty baggie onto paper, spread out as thin as possible so it can dry completely. I like to stir it around sometimes through the drying, to make sure nothing sticks and it all has a chance to dry.
The best part of this is, we purchase most of our materials from the dollar store! Not only does it engage/entertain kiddos, it is inexpensive! Win/win in my book. Are you going to try a sensory bin at your house? What will you put in it? I’d love to hear some more ideas!