Sensory activities increase your child’s opportunity to learn through hands on play that prompt more than one of your child’s senses at a time. By providing sensory bin activities with materials they see everyday, you are allowing them to explore the world around themselves; and sometimes even practice real life scenarios through pretend play. Many sensory bin activities are also known for enhancing fine motor skills as they manipulate the materials provided. Try out these five sensory bin activities over the next month and watch as your child learns and grows through their play.
Button Tree Sensory Bin
- Get a small bin; fill the bottom of it with lots of buttons of different sizes and colors. Then, make some trees out of brown pipe cleaners (reference our picture). Bend and cut the pipe cleaners as needed to create the branches. Make sure that the trunk of the tree is two or three pipe cleaners twisted together so it is strong enough to stand up. I taped the base of the trees to the bottom of the container with duck tape to help keep it sturdy. Encourage your kids to use their fine motor skills to put button “leaves” on the bare trees. To extend their play and learning you could discuss what a hypothesis is and ask the children how many button leaves it will take before a branch bends.
Pom Poms Galore
- This is easy and so much fun; just fill a container with lots of multicolored pompoms. Provide cups and jumbo tweezers for the kids to work on their fine motor, eye-hand coordination, color sorting, and counting skills. The best part is when they are no longer interested in the activity, you can still use all the pom poms for art projects.
Slimy Spaghetti – Tracing Letters & Shapes
- Slimy spaghetti is a low cost, easy, sensory experience. I bet you already have all the materials that you’ll need right in your pantry. I’ve done this activity with children as young as 18 months old. When the kids are napping or at school, boil up some spaghetti or fettuccine noodles. Cook the noodles a few minutes longer than the box says and then rinse them with cool water for a few minutes. Separate the noodles into as many bowls as you want colors. Spray one thin coat of oil over the noodles and add 5-10 drops of food coloring. Stir it up and then let it dry on a cookie sheet for 20-30 minutes. The oil coating and letting it dry allows the food coloring to set into the noodles so that it doesn’t stain your hands. Put all the noodles into a sensory bin and add tongs, cups, bowls, spoons, and even jumbo tweezers for the kids to use while manipulating the slimy spaghetti. For preschoolers you can also provide letters and shapes written on paper for them to trace with the noodles (reference picture). Your children will enjoy scooping, dumping, and discussing the texture. Make sure to ask lots of thought provoking questions and encourage creative pretend play.
Help the Bird Find the Worms in the Grass
- Fill a sensory bin or large tupperware container with crinkle cut paper, also known as Easter grass. Then cut brown pipe cleaners into three or four pieces; these will be the worms. Take an old applesauce cup and draw two eyes on it. Fold a small orange diamond, cut out of construction paper, in half to be the beak of a bird and tape it on the apple sauce cup, below the eyes (reference our picture). Fit the bird you created into the sensory bin. Offer your child clothespins and have him strength his muscles as he helps the bird collect worms from the grass. If the clothespins are too hard for your child to squeeze, start slow with jumbo tweezers first. After your child has been successful multiple times, for an added challenge, ask him not to use his hands at all to dig for the worms and see if he can pick up a worm without any grass clumped in with it as well. Encourage your child to count the worms as he goes. If you want to include some early addition practice have green caterpillars and brown worms. After your child fills up the bird cup add the green and brown pipe cleaners together to see how many the bird ate all together.
Foam Sand Sensory Bin
- In a small sensory bin, mix 3 cups of play sand with a can of sensitive skin shaving cream. Add the shaving cream gradually to the sand. Let the kids get right in there and mix it up with their hands. Give them cups and spoons to manipulate the foam sand. It doesn’t form as well as moon sand, but provides a great experience. When the foam sand loses its fluff, just add more shaving cream!
As the days are getting shorter and colder, you will find yourselves getting stuck inside more often. Try out these sensory bin activities after nap or when the kids get home from school. The textures are a nice calming way to end the day. For another sensory experience, try making homemade puffy paint.
About The Author
Kelsey Dickson has over 15 years of experience working with children as a nanny, preschool teacher, and now a mother. She has her degree in Early Childhood Education and works for Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny as the eLearning Manager. Check out our online childcare classes, such as Baby Sign Language and Sleep Coaching 101! In her free time she enjoys gardening with her son, going for walks with her husband and dog, and discovering local wineries in New England.