Fall is full of opportunities to engage your child’s senses. From the smell of apples and cinnamon to the sound of crunching leaves to the feeling of fresh pumpkin between one’s fingers, there are so many ways to dig in to the season. Take full advantage of all it has to offer with these easy and fun, fall sensory bin ideas for your little one.
What is a sensory bin?
A sensory bin is generally considered to be a container or “bin” of some sort filled with materials intentionally selected to stimulate a child’s senses. Sensory bins almost always engage a child’s tactile system (sense of touch), but often engage their auditory (hearing), visual (sight), olfactory (smell) and gustatory (taste) systems as well.
What are the benefits of using sensory bins?
In addition to meeting a developing child’s sensory needs, the following are some benefits of using sensory bins:
- Fine motor skills are improved as children grasp and manipulate small objects, scoop, pour, mix etc.
- Creative and critical thinking skills are enhanced as children receive this open invitation to explore, create and use their imaginations with the materials in front of them.
- Language skills develop as children describe their play experiences.
- Beginning science and math concepts are observed as children measure, experiment and see laws like cause and effect before their eyes.
- Focus, attention and independent play skills blossom as children are immersed in all the fun that sensory bins provide.
Fall Sensory Bin Ideas
1. Apple Pie
Nothing smells more like fall than a hearty dose of cinnamon and apples. For this sensory experience, use oats as a base. Toss in items like ground cinnamon, cinnamon sticks and apples. Set out different kid-friendly pans and utensils alongside your bin. Then assign your child the task of making apple pie! Watch as they mix, pour and sample their creation until their heart’s content.
2. Nuts and seeds
Acorns, pinecones, sunflower seeds, bird seed, etc. will work for this fall sensory bin inspired by Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails. Pair your seasonal nut and seed mix with shovels and pails so that your little one can scoop and fill as they play. Encourage them to examine the seeds, describe them and even open them up to explore what is inside.
3. Fall “Soup”
Take a walk around your neighborhood and ask your child to collect “ingredients” to make fall “soup”. Fallen leaves, sticks, bark, etc. all work for this one. Place all ingredients on a tray, and give your little chef a large bowl of water and some cooking utensils to set the scene. Then, let them set to work creating a soup fit for the season.
4. Fall Colors
For this idea from Mrs. Plemons Kindergarten, you will need to gather small items that represent the colors of fall. Think brown, red, orange and yellow. Mix all of the items together in a bin and encourage your child to sort them by color as they play. For added support, create a color sorting mat or set out pieces of construction paper for each color in the bin that your child can use as a guide.
5. Fall Produce Bath
I am all about sensory experiences that simultaneously teach real life skills. And this is one of them. Set out a bin with fresh produce that needs a good washing. Fill it with your favorite, all natural veggie soak and some water. Then, give your child a scrubbing brush, and let them go to town to make that produce shine. A bowl with fresh water for rinsing, a strainer for placing clean produce and a towel are also helpful additions to this activity.
6. Cranberry Bog
This idea from View from a Step Stool could not be any simpler. Combine water and cranberries in a large bin, and voila, you’ve got your very own cranberry bog. Ask you child to “harvest” the cranberries by giving them a mesh scoop to capture and transfer them to another container. You can also talk about the concepts of “sink” vs “float”, practice counting the berries, squish them to change the color of your water, sample them and more. And when your done, make your very own homemade cranberry sauce.
7. Popcorn Letter Hunt
Popcorn kernels are a useful sensory bin addition year round, but they are my favorite for the fall season. Not only are they easily reusable, but they work wonders for hiding magnetic letters, puzzle pieces, and more. Hiding letters and asking your child to find them and match them to their counterpart gives them an opportunity to practice letter recognition while simultaneously engaging their senses. Have them work to match capital and lowercases letters, those in their name, or even a phrase like “Happy Fall” to embrace the season.
Pick a scarecrow-themed book from this list from Pre-K Pages. Then, fill a bin with straw, doll/baby clothes, corn kernels, leaves, feathers etc. and encourage your child to create their own. This gives them a chance to think critically and problem solve, while simultaneously engaging their senses.
9. Spiderweb Rescue
If you have a child that loves a good creepy, crawly friend, then this bin from Happy Toddler Playtime is sure to be a hit. Cover a large bin with a fake spider web. Hook it around the corners and under the bottom, if possible, to keep it in place. Then, create a few holes around the web and place various play insects inside. Next, add a hungry spider or two to the corner. Finally, give your child a set of kid-friendly tweezers or tongs and ask them to use them to “rescue” the insects from the web before the spider eats them.
10. Pumpkin seed “harvesting”
Let’s be honest. There is nothing quite like the feeling of pumpkin “guts” between your fingers. So if you are looking for a festive and easy sensory play opportunity – pumpkins have you covered. Open one up and let your child squish, pull and explore what they see. Challenge them to work those fine motor skills by “harvesting” the seeds and separating them from the pulp. And the best part is, once they’ve finished, you can bring your play materials to the kitchen to create a variety of fall snacks too!
Looking for more sensory play ideas? Check out these posts: