By: Natasha Griffin, M.Ed. Family Studies, Katie Beckett Medicaid Consultant, Penfield Children’s Center

Children love to learn through play. As they explore their world, they develop skills that will carry them through life. A great way to encourage your child’s love of learning is by making a sensory bin. This easy project can be created indoors or out and provides a space for your young child to develop his fine motor skills.

Since sensory bins allow children to explore and engage their senses, children typically enjoy playing in them for longer periods of time than regular toys.

How to create a sensory bin:

Purchase or recycle a clear plastic bin and fill it with sand, corn kernels or rice. Add cups, trucks, spoons, toy animals and other objects your child can use to scoop, roll and play in the loose material. You might decide to make a sensory bin with water so your child can float a toy boat, or learn to pour. These bins can also be filled with playdoh, cotton balls, dried noodles and coffee beans. Make sure to choose large fillers for small children to eliminate any choking hazards. Also, pay attention to your child’s texture preferences and sensory needs. The sensory bin should be a relaxing, enjoyable experience for your little one. If he shies away from the texture of playdoh, but likes digging in the sand, opt for the latter.

To encourage your child to experiment with uncomfortable textures, try placing items in a plastic bag and then placing that bag in the bin. Squishing playdoh inside a bag can sometimes be more tolerable at first than playing with the playdoh directly.

Benefits of sensory bins:

  • Introduce science and math concepts at a young age: Sensory bins allow children to measure, pour and weigh different items. Try hiding some of the larger objects in the sand and having your child dig for “buried treasure.” Dinosaur lovers will get a thrill out of digging for small dinosaur toys and using a paint brush to excavate the discovery.
  • Enhance fine motor skills: Your child will strengthen his pincer grasp by picking up small objects and using the cups and spoons to scoop and dump.
  • Boost his language: Talk to your child about his sensory bin. What is he doing with the toys as he plays? Ask him to identify the colors of the toys, how the different items feel and what he’s doing with each item such as, “I’m driving my truck in the sand! The tires are making tracks.”

Creating a sensory bin is also a great way to help calm your child. Classrooms often include a sensory area or bin for children who need time to focus so they can re-enter the classroom or activity.

What types of sensory activities does your child enjoy?


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