One of the most important stages in a child’s development is the exploration of the senses. Of course, we all have 5 senses: sight, touch, smell, taste, and sound.
Experimenting with all of these senses is not only fun, but it is crucial for brain development, helping to hone skills ranging from memory to problem-solving.
If you would like to help your child develop their senses through play, one of the most useful tools is a sensory bin.
In this guide, we’re going to explain everything you need to know about sensory bins, from who they’re for and why they’re important, to how to build and use one. Welcome to Sensory Bin 101!
What Is A Sensory Bin And Who Is It For?
A sensory bin is basically what it sounds like: a bin (or container) filled with substances or objects that engage the senses.
Taste is not typically a sense that sensory bins aim to stimulate, but the fillers in a sensory bin can be tactile, visual, olfactory, or auditory.
Some children are hypersensitive to the physical feeling of certain objects or substances, as well as specific sounds or even smells. A sensory bin can be a fun, low-pressure way to encourage gentle and child-led exposure to these sensory triggers.
With that being said, sensory bins are not just for children with sensory deficits. Any child of any age can use a sensory bin for the numerous other benefits they provide.
Benefits Of Sensory Bins
Sensory bins have so many different benefits, including:
Fostering Play And Communication
Sensory bins are a great opportunity to play. It’s important to remember that play isn’t just something done for fun, but it’s actually an important skill.
Entering a playful mindset is a fantastic opportunity to use imagination and, if the sensory bin is used by more than one child, communication and cooperation.
Opportunities To Use Language
Where possible, it’s best to be present when your child is using their sensory bin. This is because it gives them an opportunity to communicate about what they are experiencing, and you can introduce them to new vocabulary.
For example, when your child picks an object out of the bin, you can name the object, and this will help the child to associate the word with the sensory input.
Increased Fine Motor Skills
Playing with a sensory bin involves using the hands and arms to move around, pick up, and feel the various objects inside.
This is essential for fine motor skills and the development of musculature, both of which are things that will help them in other tasks.
How To Make A Sensory Bin
Now that you know how useful a sensory bin can be for a child’s development, it’s time to learn how to build a sensory bin.
The most important thing is to try and include as many different sensory experiences as you can by varying the items you include in your sensory bin.
Pick A Theme
First, we like to pick a theme for our sensory bins. This isn’t strictly necessary, but introducing children to different themes is a helpful way to teach kids(see also: Best Way To Use An ABC Chart For Kids) about context and categorization.
Some examples of themes you could use for your sensory bin include an ocean theme (water, shells, gemstones), a forest theme (wood chips, leaves, animal figurines), or a rainbow theme (sprinkles, multicolored objects).
Build Your Bin
Once you have chosen your theme, you can get to work building your sensory bin!
1. Choose A Container
First, you will need to choose an item for the container itself. You may want to choose something different based on the theme you are going with. Some ideas include a shoebox (or regular cardboard box), a cake pan, or a plastic tub.
2. Make The Base
The base of your sensory bin can be purely tactile, but it can also be olfactory or auditory. Depending on your chosen theme, you could use coffee grounds, beans, pasta, rice, corn kernels, beads, or even water.
If the base you choose isn’t olfactory in any way, you can sprinkle in some essential oils or spices like cinnamon to add more sensory input.
3. Add More Items
Filler items for your sensory bin can include seashells, stones, twigs, figurines, toy cars, buttons, bells, gemstones, cotton balls, or marbles.
Think about what objects best represent your theme, and also think about which senses will be activated by your base and which will need more input.
4. Think About Tools
A sensory bin (see also: Two Autumn Sensory Bins)is likely to improve your child’s motor skills more if you include tools in the experience, because this will teach them how to use their hands to manipulate objects in order to pick things up and move them around.
Tools could include tweezers, cups, magnets, eye droppers, spoons, tongs, bowls, or basically anything that they can safely use to handle the objects and substances in their sensory bin(see also: Sensory Bin Challenge).
Building a sensory bin (see also: Dandelion Soup Sensory Bin)is easy and involves picking a theme before choosing a container and filler materials that fit within that theme, as well as tools to manipulate the contents.
Sensory bins (see also: Peach Sensory Bin)are fun and educational tools for children of all ages, with numerous benefits for motor skills, communication, collaboration, and problem-solving, to name just a few areas of development.
Frequently Asked Questions
You should try only to include objects and tools in your sensory bin that your child can handle safely. However, you should also be supervising your child as they play with their sensory bin to make sure no accidents occur.
Yes, and in fact, we encourage this, since cooperative and collaborative play is really important for kids. If more than one child will be using the same sensory bin, you’ll need to make sure that the container is large enough and filled with plenty of items.
Yes. Framing sensory input as a fun and calming activity can be very beneficial for autistic children.
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