If you're familiar with the Montessori approach to raising/educating children, you've probably heard of sensory bins or sensory play. The idea of a contained activity that invites and stimulates a child's senses during explorative play is quite brilliant. And, if you have children and have ever created an "invitation to play" (that's the Montessori phrase) via a "station" you probably will have noticed how thrilling and satisfying it is for your child.
I love sensory bins because it is something I can bring out for one (or more) of my younger children when I need to start dinner or give attention to another child. Sensory bins invite digging, scooping, setting up, arranging, rearranging, imaginative play, and so forth. There is definitely play and learning happening at the same time for young hands and minds.
I'm excited about out fall sensory bin because it can be set up based on the child and their interests/developmental level. I'll be sharing the basic fall sensory bin with a fall fairy version and a toddler version. Come check it out...
Assembling the basic fall sensory bin:
Recently after we hulled sunflower seeds and found ourselves with a bowl full of beautiful seeds, I knew the seeds could be perfectly used in a fall sensory bin. Sunflower seeds + birdseed (which adds another dimension of texture) would be perfect together.
And since I like having a variety of colors and textures in our bin we added one of our favorite means of sensory play: colored rice. Have you ever tried it? It is so easy to make and stores beautifully.
Here's how to make colored rice:
Two methods for coloring rice:
1. The easiest way to color rice is to scoop a cup of rice into a ziplock bag, add a few drops of food coloring, seal, and shake. After a minute or so of shaking, your rice will be colored! Now continue the process with individual bags for individual colors until you have the variety of colored rice you want. (I store my colored bags of rice in their baggies in a plastic container in my pantry.)
2. For this fall sensory bin, I simply colored the rice all in one bowl to create multi-colored rice. I wanted the rice to resemble the variety of colors from the changing leaves. Simply add a few drops of red and mix with a fork. Then add a drop of orange and mix. Lastly, add a few drops of yellow and mix.
As you can see, you will get a beautiful range of fall-colored rice to add to your fall sensory bin.
Now for the tools.
Choosing the right tools greatly depends on the size of your bin. If you are using a small shallow bin then your tools need to be smaller. If your bin is a deep container then you can use larger buckets, shovels, and so on.
Our tools for our fall sensory bin include:
Fall Fairy version:
- a mini pumpkin house
- fairies that live in the pumpkin house
- cinnamon sticks (for tracing letters or numbers in the rice/seeds)
- big leaves
- wooden trees + mushrooms
- different size spoons + measuring cups
Toddler version (I put less "things" in this version):
- our favorite multi-purpose wooden stacking bowls (for scooping and pouring)
- different size spoons + measuring cups
- cars + trucks
- toy animals
- bark (for scraping and pushing)
- cinnamon sticks (for doodling in the rice/seeds)
- any small toys that can be manipulated, played with, or serve multiple purposes
*You might want to put a table cloth under the sensory bin for your toddler to keep the seeds/rice in one place. After your toddler is finished playing, simple shake the bitty pieces back into the bin for next time.
Note: Older children are more inclined to keep the sunflower seeds, rice, and bird seed in rows but forget it with toddlers. If you have older and younger kids, let the older kids play first with the sensory bin after you set it up so that they can enjoy the separate rows of seeds and rice. Then your younger kids can freely mix up the seeds and rice. Once all mixed together, the bin remains perfect for play, scooping, and other play.
What would your children love to have in a sensory bin?
Leaves they've collected? Acorns?
Or miniature toys?
Make your fall sensory bin personalized to your kids. They will return to the bin over and over again and love adding all of the little "reminders" of fall that they find outdoors.
Continue the fun of Fall Time with Kids with:
the sleepy time gal