Sensory Play with Sensory Bins
Your New (Little) Kids at Home Bestie

Hi, Melissa and Dr. Maria here. Today we’re taking on sensory bins. What are they? To some parents they are a gold mine, sparking over 15 minutes of independent (but supervised) play for 1 year olds. For other parents they are a critical tool to help their little ones learn. So, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, no worries. We bet you already incorporate these at home (hello, sandbox, bubbles in the tub, etc).

We are all searching for things to do with our little ones at home. Here’s a new activity for your consideration. Grab a bin and let’s play with some food.

 

First, what is sensory play?

To start, sensory play gives our little ones the chance to explore with their senses. Think about setting up a space where it’s ok to see and touch new textures and shapes.

What are the benefits of sensory play?

There are actually quite a few. Kids get to…

  • Practice fine motor skills like pinching
  • Play independently 
  • Explore things with all the senses, something that is a bonus for cognitive development by building nerve connections. This helps with higher-level problem solving later in life.
  • Grow their language skills
  • Experience new textures and foods without the pressure of mealtime
  • Build self confidence 
  • Learn balance and body awareness
  • Experience a calming activity (seriously, it’s a stress reliever!)
 

Is your baby ready for a sensory bin?

For little kids who can sit independently and can chew small pieces, this could be a fun activity for you.

Sensory Bin with Rice noodles

Sensory Bin with Cooked Rice Noodles

It really can be this easy: Last night we had rice noodles in our dinner. I made too much. I put them in the fridge overnight and today we had some fun!

What do you need to create a sensory bin?

You probably have everything you need! At the most basic level, you need a bin plus a food.

 

For baby (10+ months)

A plastic bin is a good place to start. Plus, it’s perfect to keep the mess contained. For the little ones you can put your baby in the bin.

Next, get some food. The rule of thumb is to make sure the food pieces (or anything in the bin) is big so your little one doesn’t choke on it. Kids at this age tend to put everything in their mouth, so pick something that is edible. Again, the most important part here, you need to watch the little ones so they don’t choke. Some ideas…

  • Different kinds of cooked pasta (soba noodles, spaghetti) (with or without sauce)
  • Dried pasta (think the macaroni you use for stuffed shells) + age-appropriate toys
  • Chopped fruit like strawberries or watermelon
  • Corn on the cob husk (the green part) with corn on the cob cut up into thirds

You might want to go outside or throw down a big towel under the bin.

 

Additions for kids aged toddler and up

As you hit toddlerhood and beyond, you can up the level of complexity a bit by adding tools like plastic measuring spoons, funnels, tongs and cups. If your little one understands not to eat things, you can try new bases for the bin like uncooked rice or beans. Adding toys the mix works too.

 

As you play, ask your little one questions

Now that the fun is ongoing, you need to stop taking pictures of the cute overload and ask some questions. Talking about food and exploring food is one way to prevent picky eating. Even if your little one isn’t talking yet, try to ask questions like

  • How does it feel? 
  • What does it taste like?
  • Tell me about the smell.
  • What sound does that make?

 

Have fun!

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