Spring time is full of opportunities to engage your child’s senses. From the feeling of fresh dirt between your fingers to the smell of newly blooming flowers to seeing bugs and birds begin to emerge again, there are so many ways to take in the season. Take full advantage of all it has to offer with these easy and fun, spring 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.
Spring Sensory Bin Ideas
1. Mud muffins
There isn’t really any better tactile experience than playing in the mud. For this sensory “bin”, set out a bowl of fresh dirt, a watering can and a muffin tin. Encourage your child to make “mud muffins” using gardening tools and items like flowers, rocks etc. to decorate them. Will they be a muddy mess by the end? Possibly – but I bet they enjoy every minute of it!
Fill a bin with birdseed and a variety of different sized containers, scoops etc. Watch as your child builds their fine motor skills and their understanding of concepts like capacity, less, more, etc. as their scoop and pour the seed. For added fun, toss in a few “eggs” and a “nest”. I made ours by rolling down the edges of a brown paper lunch bag.
3. Insect Hunt & Match
This idea from Mrs. Plemon’s Kindergarten provides a great opportunity to build vocabulary by exploring bugs! To put it together, first, fill a bin with dry black beans. Then, add in an assortment of toy critters along with tools like kid friendly tongs, a magnifying glass etc. Print out small images that match the insects inside the bin and set them alongside it. Ask your child to “hunt” for each insect and match it to it’s photo.
4. Easter Egg Puzzle Bin
Give your child’s Easter basket another purpose by using it as a sensory bin. For this activity, fill up the Easter basket with your favorite paper grass or filler. Then, fill plastic eggs with pattern blocks or small puzzle pieces and place them in the basket. As your child opens up each egg, ask them to place the piece where it belongs on the store bought or “DIY” puzzle sheet (option pictured below).
5. Flower Exploration
April showers bring May flowers. And flowers make for excellent sensory play. For this activity, purchase a few flowers at your local market or snag a few from your yard. Set them out in a bin or on a tray in front of your child. Let them explore, pull them apart, etc. As they do so, build their vocabulary by taking some time to talk about the different parts of the plant.
6. Dirt Play Dough
Play dough never goes out of season. In fact, it can be jazzed up to create a fun sensory experience for just about any occasion. And what better way to embrace spring than with a little “dirt” colored dough. Set it out on a tray with a few rocks, sticks, flowers etc., and let you little one set to creating their own garden scene. Find this play dough recipe at my “All Natural DIY Dirt Play Dough” post.
7. Recycle Bin
Celebrate Earth Day with this “Recycle Bin” from Busy Toddler. Start by filling a bin with rice or another pourable filler like oats, sand, etc. Then toss in a variety items you can pull straight from your recycle bin – cardboard tubes, egg cartons, bottle tops, etc. Give your child a few items for scooping or even toss in a toy recycling truck and watch them work.
8. Edible Easter Basket
Turn snack time into a sensory experience with this edible Easter basket. That’s not grass filler, friends, it’s shredded carrots. And they make for a great (and nutritious) sensory bin filler. For this bin, line your child’s Easter basket with parchment paper. Fill it up with shredded carrots or other shredded veggie. Then, add in eggs with various snack foods for them to open up and enjoy. Using bins like this with materials kids can put in their mouths really taps into that gustatory (taste) system! Plus, it gives them a chance to play with their food!
9. Leafy Number Match
One of my favorite parts of springtime is watching the leaves begin to bloom. It feels so refreshing after our long Minnesota winters. For this sensory bin, you will need a good handful of real or store bought leaves. On each leaf add dots to represent specific numbers you would like for your child to practice. We did 1-5 for my 3-year-old, but you could do larger numbers for older children. Place the leaves in a bin of dirt with a shovel. Then, ask your child to scoop up the leaves and place them next to the number that represents how many dots are on each leaf. For younger children, you could have them match by color or simply enjoy playing with the leaves in the dirt.
10. Gardening – The Real Deal
There is no greater learning opportunity or sensory experience than getting kids out in the garden. They can help scoop, measure, count and plant tiny seeds, water them, weed etc. Not only does doing a real sensory experience like this give kids a chance to build skills that will last a lifetime, but getting in the dirt actually is really GOOD for keeping our kids healthy too! It is full of beneficial bacteria for kids to dig their hands into!
Looking for more sensory play ideas? Check out these posts:
15 Hands-On Letter Formation Activities