25 Fun Sensory Bin Ideas!

25 Fun Sensory Bin Ideas!

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
  • Lentils
  • Birdseed
  • Shredded paper
  • Perler beads
  • Aquarium rock
  • Easter grass
  • Cut up straws
  • Cotton balls
  • Glass gems
  • Corn kernels
  • Dried beans
  • Buttons
  • Sand
  • Shaving cream
  • Ooblek (I’ll share how we did this soon!)
  • Small or large pom poms
  • Dried cereal
  • Seashells
  • Flour
  • 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.
    That’s it!

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!

Our Nature Backpack

Our Nature Backpack

I’ve mentioned in previous homeschool posts that we use baskets for some of our subjects. I will share those once all of our book orders are in (hopefully next week!). We are actually waiting on another nature book too, but for now I wanted to share how we utilize our nature backpack!

We live in a small-ish town, and while we have a grassy yard and some trees and a field right next door, when we want to *really* get out into some nature, we have to go to the nature park that is in town, or out to one of the lakes outside of town.

Because of this, we have put together a nature bag to take with us.

It contains:
1. Two clipboards(from the Dollar Tree) with printouts from their nature journals (I will link those below!).
2. A pencil bag with crayons, colored pencils, markers, and pencils & sharpeners.
4. Plastic organizers (from the Dollar Tree) to put in all their nature finds…mostly rocks, so far.
5. Magnifying glasses.
6. Our nature books.
We also have a small first aid kit, some snacks and always bring our water bottles with us.

It is so nice to have it all in one spot, gathered in a bag for us to just grab and go when we are heading outside! We use a few Fun-Schooling journals in our homeschool, and this Nature Journal is one of our favorites! I got the PDF so I could make two copies — one for each of my girls — but you can also buy a bound version. I also have a binding machine and a laminator (and we use HP Instant Ink!), so I print everything we need, and then will laminate the cover, punch and bind. We started with this journal before I had the binding machine, so for now we are using their clipboards. I just print off a few pages, stick them in and we are off. We may actually continue to use the pages this way, and bind them when the journals are complete because it gives them a nice hard surface to write on when we are out of the house. My girls love finding little treasures to put in their boxes, and they especially love using their magnifying glasses!

We love having books with us to look up different trees, bugs and anything else we come across. These are our favorites!

Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World by Julia Rothman is my absolute favorite of our nature books. It is full of tons of information, from rocks to plants to weather to even the moon cycle and layers of the earth. The illustrations are gorgeous too. This is one we read often, even when we aren’t looking stuff up.

Exploring Nature: Activities for Children by Kim Andrews has some really fun activity ideas to do. We loved doing the map activity! It happened to tie in nicely with our universe/world/country/state/city/neighborhood unit we were doing at the same time.

The Big Book of Bugs by Yuval Zommer is my 3 year old’s favorite! It is another book full of beautiful pictures and a lot of explanations about bugs, what they do, where they live, etc. It is also another one we read a lot even when not “in school”.

The journal we use for this subject is a Thinking Tree Fun-Schooling journal. Nature Study and Outdoor Science Journal. We LOVE Fun-Schooling journals and use them for a lot of different subjects. They are fairly open ended, encouraging kids to do their own reading/research and writing. My oldest loves them, and they are also nice in that if it’s a rough day, and your child only completes a page or two…it’s okay. If they are super into it and complete ten pages, that is great too!

Our nature journal is one of the things we love to do! I hope you can find some inspiration in some of our favorites. What kind of things do you love to include in your outside studies?

*Post contains Amazon affiliate links. I may earn a commission for products purchased, at no extra cost to you.*

Current Events

Current Events

I don’t want it to seem like I’m ignoring all the unrest in our country these days, and post blogs that are happy and making no mention of the current unrest all over. But I just have no words. I barely have the words to write this, because there’s so much I want to say…but in the end it doesn’t even matter, and nothing is enough. I just know that something needs to change. And I hope that THIS time, it does.

Tour Our Homeschool Space!

Tour Our Homeschool Space!

With our country in a bit of chaos lately, a lot of people have been schooling their kids at home the past couple months. We just finished up our second year of homeschooling, and as time goes on, we figure out more and more what works (and doesn’t work!) for us. I’ve seen a handful of Facebook posts from people who have decided to truly homeschool the next school year, and leave public school. I wanted to share an updated post about our homeschooling space/organization, as it has grown quite a bit this year!

Our bookcase is about the same, with the addition of some cubes to organize (read: hide) the mess a bit.

The top shelf is art supplies, the second shelf is too. The third and fourth shelves are books, journals, notebooks, basically everything my oldest (11) uses every day. The lowest shelf has more books, and play doh/accessories.

My oldest typically works at the dining room table, and my youngest (3), works here. I love her little space! She has her little table with crayons/paper on it always. On the shelf above her table is typically what we are working on at the moment – currently it is the alphabet. She has some writing pages, coloring pages, ABC activities, her ABC journal and books. She also has a little tabletop easel with a roll of paper we put up so she can paint. In the bottom cubby to the left of her table, are some dot painters and colored pencils. The middle cubby holds her sorting bears, and some card games. The top cubby holds more themed activities for whatever we are learning, and some more workbooks.

This is the other half of my youngest’s space. We use her large dry erase board every day. She has magnetic letters and animals that we use to learn the alphabet, and practices writing letters and her name on there daily. The rolling cart holds our morning basket, and a couple baskets that we are putting together for my oldest next year. We are getting new books for those every day it seems, so once those are all in I will make a separate post explaining how we use our baskets!

This big cubby is new in our space, and it is my new favorite thing. I love having a spot for my laminator and book binder to sit out and ready to use! Prior to this, they were on a shelf in our hall closet and I had to bring them out into the kitchen when it was time to use, and it was really annoying. So this part alone totally made my day! The cubbies below hold the binding combs, laminating sheets, my supply basket, a bunch of books and some Picasso blocks. We use the dry erase board for our daily schedule. Usually every night I will prep all the things we need for the next day, and write out the schedule for each of my girls on the board. My oldest will write out her day in her planner, too. For now, we are on a lighter summer schedule so that won’t change until we start our regular school in August. The bulletin board usually holds art projects and small reminder posters.

Our last new-ish thing is this felt map. We are starting a state study, and have little felt pieces to put on each state once we finish. We are going to try to get through a state a week, but its slow going lately, ha! We also have a hanging file folder holder that holds our artist study books, and other random papers to be put away.

When we first started homeschooling, it was just my oldest and most of the things she was doing was online. It seemed like we barely had any “supplies” and all of her stuff for the day fit into a bucket she would carry back and forth from the hall closet. That has clearly changed! I am loving our homeschool space, all of our supples, I love all the books – I love it all!

Speaking of books, I wanted to share a new thing in my life! As a homeschool mom, we are always looking not only for books, but especially educational books that relate to things we are studying at the moment. We absolutely love Usborne books, so I finally decided it was worth it (even for the discount alone!) to become a consultant!

Hop on over to my Usborne Books page for all the info you need, or feel free to shop now through this link!

As I mentioned earlier, I am in the process of putting together baskets for my oldest for next year – so far there will be/is a Space basket, US History basket, a Money basket and a Cooking basket. Once we receive all of our books for that, I’ll share how we use baskets in our homeschool!

Scavenger Hunt Fun!

Scavenger Hunt Fun!

Our world is a bit chaotic at the moment, and I know we aren’t the only ones going a little crazy not being able to get out of the house much. A few weeks ago, I set up a little scavenger hunt for the girls. It was such a hit, I’m planning another one for them!

I surprised them with this – and managed to get them a pretty awesome treasure for the end – but that isn’t totally necessary. For their next prize, it will probably be a coupon for a movie night with treats and popcorn, or something along those lines. We haven’t done that in awhile, so I think they will be pretty pumped about it!

Looking for a clue under a shoe…
…found it!

I started the night before with a list of 10 clues. The first one I handed directly to them to start, and then hid the rest around the house.

Since there’s an age difference between my girls – they are 11 and 3 – I wanted both to be able to figure out where they were going. Some clues you had to “solve” and some just were a poem with the “answer” right in them. My 11 was super sweet and made sure to read each clue out loud, and decide with her sister where they had to go next.

They ran around so excitedly, it made my mama heart so happy! They were super excited with the end treasure, too! FYI, anyone with an 11ish year old….perler beads are a BIG hit! She is obsessed lately and making tons of projects!

Here are some fun prize ideas to get you started…

1. Small craft kit.
2. Coloring book & pencils/crayons.
3. New storybook.
4. Glow in the dark stars & planets for their bedroom ceiling.
5. Small toys, matchbox cars, barbies.
6. Homemade tickets for an at home movie night, popcorn & treat.
7. Fixings for homemade pizza to make together (it would be fun to leave their treasure to be found in the fridge!).
8. Play dough(homemade is great, too!)
9. Seeds, pot and planting materials.
10. Rocks, brushes & paint.

Feel free to grab the PDF copy of the hints we used here!

Have fun planning & surprising your kiddos!

xo, Cait

Single Mom Talks: Missing Out

Single Mom Talks: Missing Out

I come across a lot of articles or blog posts about single moms that highlight so many things about our lives. Stress, possible loneliness, money worries, parenting struggles. However, one thing I never see (or have yet to) is any of them mentioning things we may miss out on, and why.

Wrangling kids – for any mom – can become overwhelming and stressful, especially in a place away from home. For a single mom, clearly, the element of another partner is missing in the equation. That usually turns something fun – like a weekend getaway – into something stressful.

My girls and I have the opportunity this weekend to spend a couple days at a hotel with our extended family. I ended up declining, and I’ll tell you why.

One issue – budget. For most single moms, budget is one of our top stressors. I personally budget weekly, about a month ahead of time. This usually means that any extra money we have gets allotted into other needs for the month. Spontaneity basically goes out the window at this point, and there just wasn’t money left over for gas, a hotel, food, etc.

But the real main issue – that kind of breaks my heart if I dwell on it – is the fact that I would be going alone. The hotel has a pool, as well as a casino attached to it. The casino is obviously out for the kids, but it is an entertaining attraction for the adults. Without a partner to tag team the kids for out of the room adult activities, I wouldn’t see the inside of the casino once. My kids would most likely want to spend the majority of the weekend in the pool, which would be fine – but again, no extra person to help out when 11 wants to stay swimming, but 3 is completely done & about to melt down if we don’t leave right. this. instant. Which becomes stressful, but also unfair for my oldest. After the kids are in bed for the night, the adults hang out in others rooms, or the casino, restaurant, etc – again, no one else to trade places with to be able to get some adult time with others periodically. Even trying to get lunch or dinner at a huge buffet restaurant…11 is old enough to go get her own food, but if she needs help, who knows if I’ll see or hear her & be able to get to her (this is maybe a strange one, but the restaurant is huge at this place). I can get 3 her food, but then I need to get mine – have you ever tried to hold two plates and dish up food at the same time? While simultaneously wrangling a 3 year old who just wants to run off & explore, or is having a hangry melt down? Not for the faint of heart.

Not only would we have the actual time away to think about, even getting there is a lot of work to do alone. I alone am responsible to make sure laundry is done so I would have clothes to pack – for all three of us. I would have to make sure to pack things for the kids to do in the car, along with snacks and drinks. I would have to haul everything outside and pack up the car. I’m the one that has to check the oil and gas up the car before we leave. And then when we come home, I am the one who has to get the kids inside, unload the car, unpack the suitcase, do laundry again.

Having said all that, I do need to add that I am very lucky to have an extremely helpful & loving family, who would no doubt help out if I needed (and they have). But at the same time – and another thing I struggle with – is the fact that they are MY children. They are MY responsibility. I would never expect someone else to delay their meal to help my child (or myself) get settled first. I would never expect someone to change their plans to be able to watch one of my kids in the pool, or take the other one off somewhere because swimming isn’t what she wants to do at the moment. I would never expect someone to give up their night out to watch my kids so I could go do what they were going to.

However, if I had a partner, we would share that responsibility. It would be a given that would take turns getting our own food & getting the kids settled. If both kids didn’t want to do the same thing at the same time, we could separate and keep them both happy. After the kids were in bed, we could take turns going down to the casino, hanging out with friends/family, etc. I wouldn’t give a second thought to asking – or even expecting – help from their father. It would just be a given.

This is also the perfect example of “do as I say, not as I do” in my case. I’m always encouraging my mom friends – single or not – to reach out and ask for help. I would never want any of my friends (or family) to feel like they couldn’t ask for help if needed, or like they had to miss out on something because it would just be too much.

In the end, for most things that come up like this, I just try to power through, maybe suffer a little if it would be fun for my kids, & move on. I obviously don’t know how it is for every single mom, but in my case, I’m so used to life being this way that I don’t even think about the fact that I’m doing it all alone very often – I just do it. In this case specifically, I know that if I needed or wanted to, I could ask my family for help to make the weekend easier on myself, and they would not hesitate to jump in wherever I needed them. I very much appreciate them, and am grateful for that – especially because I know that is not the case for many other moms.

I don’t always feel great about making this decision, but it’s been done. We’ll be at home this weekend, making our own fun memories.

7 Tips To Conquer Breastfeeding As A Single Mom

7 Tips To Conquer Breastfeeding As A Single Mom

Woo, took a little bit of an unintentional hiatus there! Life gets in the way, you know? Either way…we’re baaaack!

Today I wanted to talk about something that is very near and dear to my heart – breastfeeding! I am very thankful that my journey (x 2!) was something that worked for me the way I wanted it to. In the end, fed is best for your babes, however it gets done! Breastfeeding is something that a new mama needs a lot of support with, and that can be hard to come by when you’re going it alone. These are some things that helped me.

1. Make sure your doctor knows you intend to nurse your baby.

During your pregnancy, the topic of how to feed your baby will come up, especially towards the end. Make sure your doctor knows your intentions! They can help you on the clinical side especially by connecting you with lactation consultants, support groups, and they can encourage you along the way as well. When it’s time to have baby, letting the hospital know your intent will help in the same way.

2. Take advantage of the lactation consultants in the hospital.

Especially if it is your first little one. You can read all the books, buy all the things, but you don’t ever know how it’s going to go until you get that new babe in your arms. The lactation consultant will be able to guide you on different nursing positions, how to get your baby to latch, things to look for to make sure they are getting enough, and just be a supportive person in general for you.

3. Read all you can on the subject.

Before heading to the hospital, it is so helpful to read all you can about breastfeeding. A website I referenced a lot was Kelly Mom. That site is full of articles, tips & help on probably every subject relating to nursing. Go to the library and check out some books. Having knowledge before starting this journey can make a huge difference & be incredibly helpful.

4. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed.

Nursing a newborn was one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my life. Some terms to know that may help a lot:

cluster feeding – baby will want a bunch of short feedings in a long period of time – it may feel like all you are doing is nursing for hours, and not every satisfying your babies hunger. While frustrating & even a little scary, it is normal!

waiting for your milk to come in – this doesn’t happen until 2-3 days after birth.

colostrum – a thicker, golden substance that baby will get for the first couple days (so don’t panic about your milk not fully being in! This is enough for them).

latch – this is very important. If baby isn’t latching properly, they won’t get enough (if any) colostrum, and you will end up in a lot of pain. This is something that a nurse or lactation consultant can and will help you with in the early days. It is not always something that comes naturally to mom or baby, it will take time to get it down. Do not let that discourage you.

engorgement – once your milk does come in, you will feel it. Your breasts will seem to double in size overnight, and even become hard & heavy. This is a good sign your milk has come in! It is important to make sure to nurse babe at least every 2-3 hours (newborns will probably want to eat closer to every 2 hours), and if the little one is sleeping for a stretch longer than that, it may be necessary to pump a little or hand express some milk out. If you go too long between feedings, your breasts will become engorged (too full, swollen and sore) which can lead to mastitis and plugged ducts – something you want to avoid at all costs.

Plugged ducts – initially, babies will nurse often enough that this shouldn’t be an issue. But as they get a little older, sleeping longer between feeds, or even preferring one breast to the other may lead to a plugged duct. You may feel a hard spot on your breast, it may be a little red, and very sore/painful. It is important that you massage the area, apply heat, take a shower and hand express to get rid of the plug. Having baby nurse as much as possible on the affected side will help too. I had this happen a couple times with each baby, and thankfully was able to get it resolved on my own after some time & effort. If you can’t, it may turn into mastitis (when the plugged duct turns into an infection in the breast tissue, which can make you feel very ill and need to see a doctor for antibiotics to clear it up), which is not something any new mama wants to deal with!

That is quite a bit of info in a short time, and there is plenty I didn’t include. While it seems like too much, or too overwhelming, just remember – knowledge is power! Issues you may come across will not seem as scary if you are aware of the things that can happen.

5. Find some support.

As a single mom, the typical partner support did not exist for me. Thankfully, I have some incredible friends who were always there for me, my mom as well. Even my oldest girl was a huge help when her little sister came along. It is very important that you have people on your side who will help encourage you when times get tough, and be there to support you no matter what. It helps to have other nursing mamas in your corner too, who can relate to things you may be going through. Even if you can’t find this “in real life”, there are a lot of Facebook groups or other online forums that will end up being there for you just as much as someone nearby.

6. Have a nursing area set up.

In the end, this may not be something that works for you, or you will find a different comfy spot instead of the one you set up initially. But the most important thing is to have a basket (or something like it) that will always be nearby for you to grab what you need without having to move too much or get up & disturb the baby, especially when you are still getting the hang of things. Also, the breastfeeding hunger (& thirst!) is real! I don’t think I’ve ever been so hungry or thirsty in my life as the times I was nursing my newborns. Things I always had nearby in my basket were nursing pads, a tube of lanolin, burp cloths, an extra outfit or onesies at least, a couple diapers and small package of wipes, a couple pacifiers if your baby uses one, chapstick, a box of crackers, a few granola bars or other small snack (I’m not kidding about the hunger!). I always had a big water bottle to use during the day, or I would’ve also included a couple little bottles of water in there. It is also helpful to have a phone charger & tv remote nearby. It’s no fun getting stuck under a baby you don’t want to disturb and nothing to do in the meantime. Sometimes I had a book nearby too, for after the baby was asleep & I didn’t need both hands. Eventually you may find yourself needing to pump some as well, and a “pumping station” will help as well. I didn’t pump often, but when I did I made sure to have nursing pads, milk bags and wipes in there too.

7. Be easy on yourself!

Nursing is a difficult thing to master(if it ever is truly mastered!), and no matter what anyone may tell you, it is NOT easy! It will be frustrating at times, you will worry about your baby getting enough, you may fight with latch issues or comfortable positions, you may feel like you are failing and want to give up. In the end, nursing isn’t something that works for everyone. And that is okay! Making sure baby is fed is most important, along with a (physically & mentally) healthy mama. Do not be hard on yourself for not making it work immediately, & don’t beat yourself up for deciding to go with formula instead. Every mama does what is best for her & her baby!

I hope these tips are helpful & make things seem a little less overwhelming!

xo, Cait