DIY Sensory Busy Bins
I got creative this week and made some Sensory Busy Bins. For those non-crafty Nannies out there, don’t worry this is super easy! I mostly used random stuff we had around the house and bought just a few things, making it budget-friendly as well. This is a simple 1-day project that could even be done with your kiddos in tow.
I’ve always tried to incorporate learning into playtime. That's how I start teaching colors, letters, and sorting among others all while practicing fine motor skills and most importantly having fun doing it. The younger the kids are, the easier that is to do. Use these sensory bins to build on the skills you are already working on and keep the kids busy so you can run to the bathroom alone, wash those lunch dishes, or enjoy a few minutes of calmness together.
I put together 7 different bins, while you can customize what's inside to fit each child these are some easy ones I made for my almost 3-year-old. Some need more hands-on supervision than others, so use at your discretion. Note some of these bins have pieces that may be a choking hazard, do NOT leaving children unattended with age-inappropriate toys.
To start you need plastic bins with lids. Preferably stackable for organizational purposes. You can find these in many colors at stores like Walmart, Target, and sometimes even dollar stores. I found these from Amazon for the best price and used the extras to store random toys and crafts supplies.
1. EGG CARTON GAMES
What You Need: Egg cartons, colorful pom poms, buttons, pipe cleaners, stones.
Put it Together: Take two egg cartons, color each egg spot a different color on one and then number the spots on the other. Toss it in a bin and that’s it!
How to Play: Take the cartons out of the bin leaving behind the little pieces. Set the cartons open and sort the remaining pieces into the egg spots by colors or count pieces into the number holes. Even give specific tasks like “Could you put one stone in the purple spot?”. For less-structured play, my little one likes to fill up the holes randomly or punch the pipe cleaners through the cardboard lid. I’m not always sure what she's thinking, but it looks like fun.
What You Need: Small pink paper plates, dry black beans or buttons, green pipe cleaners or yarn.
Put it Together: Use a single hole punch to make holes around the edge of the paper plates. Optional: Write a letter of the alphabet on each plate or number up to 10. Into the bin, it all goes.
How to Play: Have your kid loop the yarn or pipe cleaner through the holes on the outside of the plates to help with fine motor skills. The green is for the rind of a watermelon. Cute right? Now you can let them count the beans/buttons onto the plates (watermelon seeds), or have them trace letters and numbers with the beans/buttons using multiple plates for spelling or count out beans/buttons for each number.
3. BEACH TIME
What You Need: dry rice, kid-friendly digging tools (think sandbox or beach toys), toy critters ( I used a plastic starfish and crab), toy treasure (think coins or costume jewelry). Put it Together: Simply dump rice and toys together in bin leaving the dig toys on top. How to Play: I lay a mat down on the floor 1st then open up the bin. Let your kiddo dig around for toys and rebury them. Have them stick their hands in to feel the rice “sand”. Rule #1 Rice doesn’t leave the bin!
What You Need: Small Styrofoam balls (mine were about 6” around), stickers that look like eyes, colorful feathers, orange pipe cleaners.
Put it Together: Cut the pipe cleaners down to the size of a beak.
How to Play: Your kids will test their finger strength sticking all the feathers into the balls then add eyes and a beak. All done! At the end pull feathers and beaks out to reuse all the materials over and over. Mine likes to make them goofy with 3 eyes or sometimes makes them all one color.
5. COOKING WITH BEANS
What You Need: Dried mixed beans (double-check that none of the bean varieties are poisonous uncooked), small mixing bowl, large spoons, measuring cups and spoons.
Put it Together: Toss in beans leaving utensils on top.
How to Play: This is another activity I lay a mat down 1st and #1 rule is no beans leave the bin. Your kiddo will enjoy measuring and mixing the dried beans to count out cups or spoonfuls to encourage learning. This will hopefully spark joy in cooking down the road. Also, encourage them to use their hands and grab individual beans.
What You Need: dry black beans, mini plastic pots, faux flowers, toy bugs, toy gardening tools or a large spoon.
Put it Together: Pour in black beans then top with remaining items. Optional, prep by sticking flowers side by side in the beans to your little one can re-pot them.
How to Play: Same as the other bean and rice activities lay a mat down and no beans leave the bin. You and your kiddo can now garden indoors without the dirt! Plant the flowers by sticking them straight into the beans then re-pot using the large spoon or garden tools to scoop beans into pots.
7. BLOSSOMING BRANCHES
What You Need: Brown and green pipe cleaners, colorful beads and or buttons.
Put it Together: No prep needed!
How to Play: Twist a couple brown pipe cleaners together with L shaped bottoms so it sits upright, then attach by twisting green pipe cleaners of different links. Finally, add beads and or buttons to the green ends creating a rainbow of leaves. Pick a color pattern to represent different seasons, or make them all one color. Disassemble at the end to reuse over and over.
In addition to the 7 bins I created, I also have one for all our finger painting supplies and another for all playdough supplies. This keeps all of our hands-on activities organized and in one spot. These bins are easy to customize to your child's interests. If you have a kiddo that's interested in bugs, then make a bug bin! You can also change out the materials for similar items you already had or for more age-appropriate items. Remember many of these bins contain choking hazards. Use at your discretion!