Let me start by saying that I initially hated the concept of sensory bins. The just the idea of playing with little tidbits of dried food that could (and would) potentially end up everywhere made my obsessive tendencies flare up like a bad case of hives.
But as E started to become more interested in toys and independent play, I noticed a lack of sustained attention to one task at a time. He's a toddler, so of course that is more than normal. But I wanted to give him a play opportunity that was multi-faceted, gave him a chance to work on some fine motor skills, and wasn't super reliant on me keep his attention on.
So, with humility in my heart and neat freak self in check, I revisited the idea of sensory bins. After some research (and some major Pinterest inspiration), I learned that there are many benefits to sensory play. According to Lumiere Children's Therapy, some of those benefits include use of the five senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, and even taste - when appropriate); socialization and conversation; development of play skills and fine motor skills; and practice of cognitive tasks (like sorting, identifying, and counting).
I decided to give it a try. If you know E at all, you know he is in love with all things tractors and farm life. I grew up on a farm and my parents still live there, and that is truly E's happy place. So I thought that would be a great play to start. Enter the Farm Sensory Bin!
toy farm animals (we only had horses at the time)
a spoon or other utensils for scooping
a cup for pouring into
Pour kernels into the tray
Set out toys, tools, and spoons for play and exploration!
And that's it! It was a surprisingly pleasant experience that held his attention for a good bit of time! Of course, he was enamored with using his tractors to scoop up and dump out the kernels. He hasn't gotten the hang of the fine motor tools yet, but I'm confident that he will with more practice.
Another unexpected benefit was having the chance to teach him about intentional vs. unintentional messes and the importance of cleaning up after play. I mentioned earlier that I can kind of be a neat freak, but I was trying to keep it in check and not stress over stray kernels here and there (unintentional mess). But a couple times, E decided to dump the WHOLE tray on the floor (definitely an intentional mess). I'd ask him to help me clean it up, playing a clean up song, making it as fun as I could. He vehemently refused at first, and I'll be darned if I'm going to be the only one picking up after his intentional messes. We battled it out (time out until he complied), and he now has a pretty good understanding of clean up.
I'm going to try to do these seasonally, so I'm excited for the next! Do you use sensory bins in your home or teaching? Have you seen these benefits come into play? How do you deal with the mess? Lol. Sound off in the comments!