Spoiler alert! I love sensory bins. Maybe more than my toddler does. they bring me back to my days with my older two kids at their co-op preschool. I was always happy to help at the station. Mess and all. The girls teacher would think up the most creative themes for the bins. And I always wanted one of those expensive, divided wooden tables. I could never justify the expense. But, we did get a sand and water table that works just the same! On days I don’t want to pull that sucker out (it lives in our bathtub when it’s not in use), I use a plastic tub we brought home from the hospital. Another great container is a plastic tub with a lid, that way you don’t have to empty it after every use. The open tub needs to be emptied unless you want rice all over your house when you’re not looking! You don’t need spend a ton to have a fun filled sensory bin for your little one. A cardboard box will work just the same for free! For the purposes of this little project, the dollar store has everything you need!
I picked up the following items from the Dollar Store
(you at have some or all of these on hand at home):
- A bag of rice
- Food coloring
- Ziploc bags
- Plastic Easter Eggs
Coloring the rice for the sensory bin is super easy so don’t let it scare you off! It’s actually so easy that your toddler can be your helper.
First, you want to color split your rice between the baggies depending on how many colors you want. If you want to use the bin as a tool to teach colors, then I suggest coloring an entire bag of rice all the same color in a large Ziploc bag. Then add play items in only that color, like all green rice paired with green spoons, green cups, green eggs, green frogs, you get the idea.
Now that the rice is portioned out, add a few drops of color to each bag. I worked on mine one at a time but I suppose you could do it assembly line style and do all the drops at once.
Now it’s time to get that sweet little one involved! Zip up your bags and let them shake away! The food coloring will spread throughout the bag and color the rice as she shakes the bag. My little Adelaide loves this part! It gets them moving and I think she’s naturally a mama’s helper.
Now that all of the rice is colored, it’s ready to use. No need to wait for it to dry out. It wont dye your hands unless you went nuts on the food coloring. If you got a little out of control adding the drops, no sweat. Just leave the bag open for a few minutes and the air do it’s job. Here is another fun part. Add the rice to the bin and stir it up! I love the mix of Spring/Easter Colors in this bin. I did go back and add some green rice just for good measure. After the rice is in the bin, decide what to put in there with it. A scoop or spoon of some sort is always fun. I added the plastic Easter eggs from the dollar store and some calico critter bunnies. Lil People are great fro these pins too! I had some neat little baskets that my mother in law passed onto me that fit perfectly in the bin.
Adelaide is 22 months and has so much fun scooping and dumping the colored rice from one place to another. the key to a good sensory bin is to include lots of items that can be filled or buried by the rice. we love to “make it rain” on her bunnies. One important disclaimer: Rice bins are not for the faint of heart as far as messes go. Rice will be flying everywhere. Breath, just breath. That’s what brooms are for! If you want to take it next level, you could put a dollar store table cloth underneath pf the table or sand/water table and just shake it out when you’re done. I love those table clothes for messy jobs. And yes, I’m cheap, and I reuse them! Just fold it back up and shove it in the drawer for the next mess.
When your toddler/preschooler is done for the day, just dump everything into a Ziploc seal and put it away. Or if you’re smart and you get a container with a lid, you can just put a lid on it and start sweeping!
I always save the colored rice. This color blend could be used with any number of items. try out animals and birthday party supplies, flowers and plastic pots with shovels, just containers work well too! It’s fun to hide numbers and letters in there too! the possibilities are endless really.
For valentine’s Day, we did pink rice with red foam hearts from the dollar store and animals out of our collection. I love black and white animals for this one like penguins and zebras. I just think they look cool chillin’ in the pink rice.
Remember, scoops and bowls are key! Any kind will do.
We skipped the rice in March and went with a funny baby washing station. It was actually so awesome that it even attracted my eight year’s attention. Best part, all free! We had the babies, the wash clothes, a little soap, and a couple of towels. Pro tip: line the floor in bath towels! This one gets wet! Something happens when you pair two crazy kids and table full of water, a super duper awesome mess! But hey, it got me one closer to clean floors, right?
Are these ideas a mess? Hell yes they are! Are they important for my little’s development? You got that right sister! I truly feel that letting kids make messes and play without boundaries of cleanliness is a vital part of developing their creativity and problem solving skills. Do I twitch a little with every mess wanting to sweep as they throw rice everywhere. or spend the time on the floor mopping up suds as they play, yes I do. I watch the messes and I think, what are you doing, keep the rice in the bin! Why cant the water just stay in the table?! The adult in me is constantly fight with my lighter childlike side, screaming, “Order! We must have order!” Luckily, I more times than not, I give into that little voice from within that says, “Fun! we must have fun!”
So, I hope you guys can have a little fun making some messes with your littles this spring! It’s almost nice enough in the Mitten to take our sensory bins outside anyway:)
If you have any awesome sensory bin ideas, feel free to post them in the comments. Any ideas you’d like to see tutorials for can be posted there too!