My little guy has been “Rawr-“ing since he was a few months old. And while he doesn’t know the exact names of each extinct animal, he does now say dinosaur (sometimes even in a deep, dramatic voice.)
What he also has been saying a lot lately is “dig, dig, dig” while playing with his excavator toys.
So when thinking about making my first sensory bin for him, a dinosaur dig seemed like a good theme to start with. The concept is that the toddler has to dig through sand, rice, water beads or rocks to uncover the dinosaurs. It allows for imaginative play, while working on fine motor skills while also learning something new.
What Is A Sensory Box?
A sensory bin or sensory box is a container that features some form of tactile material with the intention that the little ones get their hands dirty in the sense that they explore and feel. They must use their sight, tough and smell with these learning tools. It’s a great way to introduce babies to sand, or to kill time on a rainy day for toddlers.
The good thing is that tactile material is in the container to avoid messes, but parents should watch their children while playing. A good tip is to not fill the bin too much with whatever material to further prevent it from getting everywhere.
Why Make A Sensory Box?
Sensory boxes are fun. It always little ones to explore and play in a new way. They discover the feel and sight of new materials and learn fine motor skills like scooping or using child tweezers to pick up objects.
Besides being a sensory experience, it taps in to their creative side, allowing them to play print. It also is great for language. Parents can tell kids to dig, dump and fill and introduce colors, sorting, and new vocabulary words.
How To Make A Sensory Bin
- Container with lid
- Fill: rice, beans, bird seed, water beads, kinetic sand, buttons, pasta, coffee beans
- Tools: scoopers (from coffee or ice bucket), spoons, small beach shovels, tweezers, etc (Amazon sells toolkits. Just type in sensory bin tools).
- Themed toys: Theme the sensory bins and fill with small toys found at the dollar store.
Ideas for sensory box themes:
- Construction zone (rocks with small construction vehicles sold at Dollar Tree)
- Galaxy or solar system: water beads or dyed rice (food coloring) with small planets and stars (sold on Amazon).
- Dinosaur dig: Rice, beans, coffee beans or pebbles with small dinosaurs from the dollar store.
- Seashore: Sand, shells, blue marbles, fish toys from the dollar store.
Start with an empty container. The size depends on how large you want as a play space. Don’t go too small so rice doesn’t go anywhere, but oversized bins will require more supplies.
Start with the textile then bury the toys in. Some bins require a separation of materials like it making a designated place for water vs. land or sand. Get creative and explore with different layouts and designs. Maybe use rocks as a border to separate the materials.
Have the little ones use tools like a spoon, small beach shovel or play tweezers and scoop scissors sold on Amazon that is made for fine motor skills. Let them dig and uncover the hidden toys. Allow them to “get their hands dirty” too and explore the materials.
Talk about the theme of the sensory bin as they play. This one I told my little one how dinosaurs used to roam the world and how a big, big fireball came. I instructed him to dig up the ones that are here hiding. It ended up being a fun activity!