If you haven’t seen them on Pinterest and Instagram, you may have heard of them: sensory bins. While they aren’t Montessori, they offer a way for children to explore, transfer, and feel different materials, using multiple senses through play.

Sensory bins aren’t necessary, as we use our senses everyday, but they sure are fun! There are many different bins you can create with a variety of fillers. I’ve seen many food items being used: rice, beans, pasta, etc. We prefer not to use food items. Food is for eating. When introducing foods as a play item, how can we later become frustrated at meal times when a child chooses to play with their food rather than eat it? This is one of the reasons I don’t use yogurt or whip cream to paint. Children thrive with consistency. So, in our household, we choose not to combine two things that should be kept separate. While that is our stance, you should always do what is best for you and your family.

That being said, there are many fillers, that aren’t food, that offer excellent sensory experiences; sand, rocks, leaves, grass, dirt, buttons, beads, pom-poms, and cotton-balls are all wonderful options. Many of these we can enjoy outdoors, but when the weather doesn’t permit outdoor play, a bin is a great alternative.

The girls have started to notice the Robin that has set up a nest near our sliding glass door. The weather here has been fluctuating between beautiful spring days filled with much outdoor play to waking up with inches of snow on the ground. Wanting to help our feathered friend, I had ordered bird seeds, with the idea the girls could aid in feeding them. This would give them the perfect opportunity to introduce them to pouring and the sensation of feeling a variety of seeds. I planned to store the seeds in a large, clear, container. A container that would allow supervised access to the girls and creating a sensory bin, of sorts. A way for the girls to experience the benefits of a sensory bin, but for a practical use: to fill containers to feed birds. So I call it a non-sensory bin, haha. A great way for them to hone their skills to participate in more practical life skills, like baking and more animal care.

They were not left alone and the second they showed interest in putting the seeds in their mouth, it was time to pack it up. Before providing them hands-on experience, I showed them pouring and they heard the variety of different seeds being poured on the metal, cardboard, and wood containers. The original container was a little difficult for them to reach, so when it was time for them to handle the seeds we used a Pyrex baking dish.

A few of the items we used were:

We quickly discovered that Kaida, our dog, loves the taste of bird seed, haha. This is not something we will do regularly, only when needing to feed the birds, but it was a great sensory activity to include them in. I originally planned to fill our bird feeder or cardboard egg carton to hold the seeds, but following the idea of another Montessori momma, we used two halves of an orange. This way we could put them in multiple locations allowing us opportunities to few birds form different locations.

Does your child enjoy sensory bins?

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