Sensory bins are wonderful because children learn best through play and experiencing with their senses. Sensory bins aide in building cognitive skills such as problem solving, classification, spatial awareness, predicting and drawing conclusions (Butcher, 2021). Of course, they also offer lots of language opportunities!
When introducing your child to sensory bins it is important to set boundaries that work for your home. In our house, items must stay in the sensory bin. Having a large container that you consistently use for sensory bins will help to establish this rule. Thanks to Susie Allison from Busy Toddler, we also make sure to always have a towel under the bin to help with messes (Allison, 2020).
What you need:
Bin for the play (we use a 28 quart bin or a kid swimming pool during the summer)
the base (see list below)
Ideas for Sensory Bin Bases:
tapioca (feels similar to water beads)
pom pom balls
anything you have around your house!
Invite your child to come explore with you! I like to start with minimal items and then add as the play builds. For example, when we play with colored water we start with mixing the colors. Then, I add spoons, funnels and additional cups to extend play and interest in the activity.
Speech and Language Opportunities During Play
If your child is working on specific areas, sensory bins are a great place to focus on them.
Here are some examples:
action words (pour the rice, mix the colors)
If working on a certain sound such as /d/ find toys around the house such as a dog, duck, or daisy and place them in the water for a sound rescue (your child can use a slotted spoon to scoop them out of the water for the rescue)
focus on basic concepts (put the rice in the big bowl, push the flower under the water)
label what your child is playing with
request a certain item from your child during play to practice identifying
If you need more ideas, quickly search "sensory bins" on Pinterest and you can be amazed (or overwhelmed) with all the creative ideas out there! Here are a couple of the bins I have done with my kids. I would love to hear of any more ideas you have or any questions please reach out at email@example.com
Rebecca Serafini-Dale M.A., CCC-SLP
Allison, S. (2020). Busy Toddler's guide to actual parenting: From their first "no" to their first day of school (and everything in between). Seattle, WA: The Innovation Press.
Butcher, Kittie M. (2021, Match 09). Cognitive development and sensory play. Retrieved Match 16, 2021, from https:www.canr.msu.edu/news/cognitive_development_and_sensory_play