Sensory Rice bin

A million ways with Sensory Bins

Sensory Rice binSensory bins give you a BIG bang for your buck.  Using things you already have in your house, a new bin and some materials for the kids to dig in, you can create a sensory bin for less than $10. From helping children develop skills and resiliency, to pattern recognition to social skills, one bin can provide a lot of learning, cognitive development and processing for children. But how do I create a bin, and what should I add to it to give the best experience to the children in my care?, you might ask!

To begin with, having the materials all in one space, the bin, gives small kids a framework which they can focus in on.  They have defined physical limits of the materials they are working with, and so this helps them focus.

If you are concerned about mess, or kids crawling (and spreading) materials everywhere, place the bin in a kiddie pool, and put kids in the kiddie pool!  This will allow them to expand their sensory bin experience to more than just their hands and arms.  You can also place the smaller bin in, or on, a larger container, such as a cookie sheet, or a rubbermaid bin.

Some different bins you can create are:

  • Water beads (if you are concerned about kids tasting the water beads, use tapioca instead)
  • Rice (coloured or plain), dried bean, seeds, pasta
  • Goop (cornstarch and water)
  • Cloud dough (flour and oil)
  • Ice and or Water
  • Sand

What can children do and learn with sensory bins?

  • Pouring and scooping, which is something children will naturally do, engages the mathematical side of the child’s brain; they are learning about capacity.
  • As children play in the bins, introduce new objects to the bin over time.
  • Search and find and identify specific objects in the bin.  Or, find a specific number of objects in the bin – this contributes to mathematical processing, sorting, building, literacy (different language)
  • To help prompt the learning of connections: How did you sort?
  • Water beads can be used with huge extension- light, freezing, physics, texture
  • Add foam letters or numbers. As it is age appropriate, children will develop letter recognition
  • Put Magnetic letters in a rice bin, for older kids, have them practice their spelling! Providing a metal cookie sheet for this is a great way for them to create words
  • Add animals – Sorting, identifying, classifying,  create a dino dig, sing old MacDonald as children pull out different animals. A Dino dig works really well in “goop”. Put objects in the night before, it will harden and they can dig it out.
  • Science ideas: colour mixing, drop food colouring in goop – encourage guessing, use scientific language- “What happened? What did you see?”
    • Teaching kids that ANY guess is a good guess gives them confidence in their learning.
  • and so much more – allow the children’s curiosity to lead you.

So what can you put IN the sensory bins to encourage all this learning and discovery?

  • Buttons –  you can get at the fabric store-just ask as they often have mismatched buttons they are happy to get rid of.
  • Construction toys – digger, trucks, shovels
  • Sand toys
  • “Jewels”
  • fishing rod and fish (use magnetic if you can find it!)
  • Magents
  • Alphabet
  • Any kind of possible animal
  • Cars
  • Plastic Easter Eggs
  • Blocks
  • Shapes
  • Small objects and provide a magnifying glass
  • Any kitchen tools good for mixing, pouring and measuring
  • Cookie cutters – especially in Goop and Cloud dough
  • Anything that floats
  • empty containers from yogurt, shampoo, apple sauce, etc)
  • Egg cartons

If you want to add colour or scents,  you can purchase Liquid Water Colours from Scholars Choice (it is non-staining), or add food flavourings, essential oils, spices, etc.

Sensory bins can also be used as non-threatening therapy for kids. Sensory Processing Disorder, children on the spectrum, very shy or reluctant children; they can all benefit from Sensory and Messy Play.


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