Have you ever experienced the magic of sensory bins? I started making sensory bins when I first became a stay-at-home mom. I had been following other popular mom influencer accounts to help me thrive with my stay-at-home mom journey and I quickly became addicted to making and creating fun activities for my kids to do that weren’t the same day to day routine and that actually benefited their development in the process.
Sensory bins aren’t just a bunch of stuff thrown in a box!
Well, in a way they are, but there is so much more to them! After making my first one, I learned how beneficial sensory play is for children. It can help build nerve connections to the brain, encourages development of motor skills, and helps support language development. It also encourages independent and pretend play, and can be very calming and can help regulate emotions and behavior. There are no rules that say that sensory bins are only for toddlers; big kids can use them too! Elementary aged kids can still use them for dramatic, imaginary, and independent play. But most importantly, these ageless sensory bins are FUN!
How do you make sensory bins, you ask?
The supplies you need to make your bin are up to you and will change depending what you want to start with. You will need a large bin (31qt or 41qt); they have short sides and are long, making them perfect for this activity. Next, you will want to pick your sensory base. So far I have used rice, decaffeinated coffee beans (smells so good), kinetic sand, regular sand and corn. There are many other items you can use like cereal or dry beans, but you’ll want to make sure that what you use is safe and not a choking hazard if you are using them with smaller children because they will find a way to put items in their mouth. Then, you will want to add some things like scoops, measuring cups, small toys, etc. Initially, I got most of my items from the Dollar Tree. Over time and as I was creating new themes however, I started buying children tools that helped with fine motor skills and other fun mini figures from Amazon, Target dollar bins, or my all-time favorite, Five Below.
And that’s it! Sit on the floor with your kids and watch them play! You will need to do this in the beginning when you first introduce the bin to your younger child so they know not to throw, eat, or dump out the contents in the bin. Over time, you will be able to just whip out the bin and they will know what to do and play independently. Sensory bins are great for a rainy day or to enjoy outside and have fun using their imagination! These are also a great activity for moms who are homeschooling older kids to help keep the younger ones entertained for a bit. They can be as simple as you want to make them. I have also used kitchen items and toys that are laying around the house.
For my kids, sensory bins were amazing initially. After a while though, the newness and excitement started to wear off, especially with my oldest. That’s when you know you need to put it away for a while or switch the bin up to a new theme or activity. I like switching it up and making different themes to make it more interesting. Some great theme ideas to get you started are “garden,” “fall,” “construction,” “farm” or “oceans.” To ensure I get the most play time out of it with my kids, I usually try to center the bin around what they are currently into.
Sensory bins make a mess — a very huge mess — so make sure you play with them outside or have a blanket down to make cleanup a little easier. Also, my main bit of advice is to know your children. I have learned so much doing new activities and crafts with my kids through trial and error. I ease into new activities and try not to spend a lot of money and time creating something until I know with certainty that it will be successful with my girls.
In another blog post, I will share my sensory kits with you, which are a little bit different, but also very fun and might appeal more to the older kids if the bins don’t interest them.