If you’ve searched for anything kid-related on Pinterest, you’ve probably had your feed instantly flooded with “sensory bin” setup ideas, and there’s a good reason why!
Kids love bins filled with different small items (like this 5-minute rainbow rice) that they can either scoop into bowls or tubes, pour back and forth, and play with animals or cars in the mixtures.
Related:For more kids activities and printables check outChildhood Magic!
While we’ve had lots of kid projects that we’ve loved making over the years, it’s crazy how much some toddlers love to play with these and I think you’ll find that it’s pretty fun for the grownups too!
The Sensory Table:I saw online that a few people have converted thisIKEA desk into a sensory table and it’s still my favorite idea so far, so it’s the one that we went with. I bought two of these bins and lids to fit on one side and a larger bin to fit on the other side so that gives us three different areas she can play in.
We also got her a little stool to use at the table, and since it slides under the table when not in use, I think I’ll get another one for us or a friend to sit on as well. We live in a relatively small house (that my husband and I both work out of, so it feels extra small at times), so I didn’t really want a table that was only for sensory place.
So, I love that we can put the lids back on the desk and it’s also a table for coloring, eating, whatever she wants to do at her height.
The table is also pretty light, so if you wanted to take it outside on a porch or something on a nice day, you totally could. I just wouldn’t leave it outside overnight to prevent moisture from invading your bin contents.
Just make sure to keep in mind what might be a choking hazard size for younger toddlers and wait until they are past the age of wanting to eat the dried food items if using those. For extra fun, you can also make rainbow ricefor your play (there are ways to dye noodles and beans as well).
I love these wooden nesting bowls and scoops for the bins, andtongscan be fun too, but really you can use any measuring cups/spoons/bowls you may have handy. Lola also likes to fill up toilet paper tubes as well, so those are free and you can recycle them when you are done.
The Activities:There are tons of things you can do with your sensory bins! Just the act of scooping and pouring or moving items from one location to the next is enough for most toddlers, so they can have fun with just bowls and scoops.
Lola learned to use tongs recently by picking up pom poms one at a time and moving them to another container, so it can help kids learn fine motor skills by practicing tasks like that.
It’s also fun to color coordinate your dyed rice to create a blue waterscape for marine animals, green grass for farm animals, etc., or just use whatever colors you want to bury little cars or figurines to find, dig out, and rescue one at a time (little wooden animals like these are great for sensory bin play).
It’s amazing how excited they get to spot a tail or head of an animal peeking out of the rice! There’s also lots of fun ideas online where people use their bins to paint watercolors on snow mounds or foam bubbles—it can get pretty magical!
The Cleanup: OK, OK, I already know that a lot of you are thinking, “I bet that is fun for kids (and a lot of cleanup for me!)” and I totally get your point. It’s true that it’s probably impossible to do a sensory bin activity without some cleanup involved, so here are a few ideas to help you keep the cleanup session afterwards to a minimum:
1. Take individual bins out of the table for water/dirt/sand play in the tub and then rinse the kid and tub out after.
2. Take the table outside for messier play (use a leaf blower to blow away dirt or sand play).
3. Use a splash mat or drop cloth underneath the table for faster cleanup.
4. Only use pom poms and balls rather than smaller/finer grain materials.
5. Seal off any small gaps between the bins and table with duct tape so the finer grain materials can’t fall through to the floor.
And the best one in my opinion …
6. Have the kid help you clean up! It’s great for kids to learn to put away their own toys because it not only helps you in the long run, but if you’ve ever seen how proud a toddler can be because they helped you like a “big” kid, it can be a good confidence booster for them, too. Maybe a little cleaning set just like the grownups use would be helpful too?
Like I said, I love that we choose a sensory table that we can convert back into a tabletop easily for other kinds of play, so it’s great to have that level of multi-functionality.
Whether you are new to the idea of sensory bins or not, hope you found some ideas to help make playtime a little more fun for everyone at your house! xo. Laura
P.S. Check out 100 Activities to Do With Kids for more ideas!
Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts
As an expert in sensory play for children, I can confidently say that sensory bins are a fantastic way to engage kids and promote their development. The concept of sensory bins involves filling containers with various small items that children can interact with, such as colorful rice, animals, or cars. These bins provide endless opportunities for kids to scoop, pour, and explore different textures, colors, and objects.
One of the most popular ways to create a sensory table is by converting an IKEA desk. This allows for a customized setup with multiple bins and compartments. By using different-sized bins and lids, you can create separate play areas within the table. This versatility ensures that children have a variety of sensory experiences to engage in. Additionally, investing in a stool for your child and one for yourself or a friend ensures that everyone can comfortably participate in the play sessions.
When it comes to the contents of the bins, the options are virtually limitless. You can fill them with dried rice, beans, pasta, pom poms, wool balls, dirt, rocks, water, sand, or any other age-appropriate items that spark creativity and exploration. It's crucial to consider choking hazards and avoid using small food items until children have outgrown the habit of putting things in their mouths. For added excitement, you can even dye the rice, noodles, or beans to create a vibrant rainbow effect.
There are countless activities that can be done with sensory bins. From simple scooping and pouring exercises to practicing fine motor skills with tongs, children can have endless fun while also developing crucial skills. You can also create themed experiences by coordinating the color of the rice with different scenarios, such as creating a blue waterscape for marine animals or a green grassy area for farm animals. The joy of discovering little treasures buried in the rice, like wooden animals, adds an extra element of excitement to the playtime.
Now, I understand that the thought of cleaning up after a sensory bin activity might seem daunting. However, there are several strategies to minimize the mess. For instance, you can take individual bins out of the table for water, dirt, or sand play in the tub to contain the mess. Alternatively, you can take the table outside for messier play and use a leaf blower to clean away dirt or sand. Placing a splash mat or drop cloth underneath the table can also make cleanup faster and easier. Additionally, opting for larger items like pom poms and balls instead of smaller grains can reduce the amount of cleanup required. Lastly, sealing off any gaps between the bins and the table with duct tape prevents smaller materials from falling onto the floor.
Lastly, involving your child in the cleanup process is beneficial for their development and confidence. Encouraging them to put away their own toys not only helps you in the long run but also instills a sense of responsibility and accomplishment in them. Providing them with a cleaning set similar to what the grownups use can make the activity even more enjoyable for them.
In conclusion, sensory bins are a fantastic way to entertain and educate children while providing them with a sensory-rich experience. By utilizing an IKEA desk as a sensory table, customizing the contents of the bins, and engaging in various activities, you can create a stimulating and engaging playtime for your child. Remember, the cleanup can be manageable with a few simple strategies, and involving your child in the process can be a great learning opportunity for them. So go ahead and explore the world of sensory bins to enhance playtime for everyone in your household!