Born and raised in Colorado, I spent my summers hiking in the mountains and my winters playing in the snow. I was in for a bit of a shock when I first visited my potential college in Edmond one hot 100-degree day in LATE SEPTEMBER.
As Oklahomans, we don’t exactly live in a state where the weather promotes outdoor activities. But, in the heat of summer or in the bitter cold of winter, or even camped out in the bathroom waiting on an impending tornado, one thing that has never failed me as a parent is a good sensory bin.
I was first introduced to sensory bins a couple of years ago, and my first thought was, “wow, that looks like a huge mess waiting to happen.” At that point, I only had one child and wasn’t as desperate to find him some entertainment.
Two years later I had newborn twins and a very bored 3-year-old. My mom suggested making him a construction themed sensory bin. He and I quickly learned the rules and boundaries for successful play and less mess.
Now that I’ve become a sensory bin believer, I can honestly say that I would rather vacuum up a pile of accidentally spilled rainbow rice than pick up one million tiny legos.
Here are our five favorite sensory bins, tested for success on some of our best friends and my own kids, ages 1-4.
This stuff is just COOL. It sticks to itself making it less messy than other sand. It comes colored, or plain brown. We bought ours and some miniature sandbox molds on Amazon. It is easily made into balls and shapes and keeps its shape for a long time! It is our most pricey, but also our most played with sensory bin option.
A little gravel and a little sand picked up from our own backyard, and a 5 pack of mini trucks from Walmart, and we quickly made a sensory bin any construction truck lover will enjoy!
For this sensory bin we made moon sand by mixing 4 cups of flour and 1/2 cup of baby oil. I found a pack of tiny dinosaurs at Target, added in a magnifying glass and some paintbrushes to brush sand off of the “fossils.” Construction trucks added by my son who thinks anything is not worth playing with if it doesn’t involve a truck. But letting them explore the bins with other toys is one of my favorite things about sensory bins!
Rainbow rice is perfect for dumping, mixing, and pouring. To make rainbow rice, find a container with a lid. Add 1 cup of long-grain white rice and mix in a small spoonful of gel food coloring. Add 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar to the rice, put the lid on your container, and shake! Make as many colors as you like! We mixed ours because I just felt like it was inevitably going to happen anyway.
Yup. Just plain old water. Indoor water play is the perfect sensory bin for babies or young toddlers. I usually put towels down to minimize the mess. I do recommend getting heavier pots or pans for this, and not plastic Tupperware that your children can easily just dump on each other.
At this point you might be thinking, but where does this lady keep all this rice and dirt? We have a huge under-the-bed storage box we use for our sensory bin. I have found that the bigger the bin, the less you have to clean up off the table or floor. We keep each sensory bin item in a gallon ziplock bag inside our big bin. We simply dump out the bag, play, and scoop back into the bag, and give the bin a quick rinse. When friends come over and we want to play multiple sensory bins at once, we get creative with pots and pans or Tupperware.
Do your kids like sensory bins? What do you put in yours?