I love to create sensory bins related to holidays. With toddlers and preschoolers in the house, sensory bins give us many great opportunities for play and learning. This valentine sensory bin is made from materials you can pick up that the Dollar Tree. Here are the details of what’s inside and ways you can use the materials to extend learning.
What’s in Our Bin?
I used two large red bowls for the sensory bin containers. The kids loved being able to transfer materials last year for our St. Patrick’s Day sensory bin, so I knew they’d enjoy having two separate containers. For the sensory bin base I used cotton balls. They provide a nice soft texture for the toddlers to explore.
Then we added a mixture of red and pink items from the Dollar Tree. We used pink and red heart gems, small heart-shaped plastic boxes, glittery table scatter foam hearts, and the hearts pulled off of heart picks.
When I set up the invitation to play I also included three red canisters in different sizes. I thought they would be good for both pretend play and learning activities.
Ways We Will Extend the Use of Our Sensory Bin
Starting this bin a while before Valentine’s Day will give us many opportunities to use it in different ways.
First I will simply leave the bin out for the kids to explore on their own. This self-directed learning and sensory exploration is the primary focus of sensory bins. The kids will feel the different textures, observe the objects, and begin to experiment with the materials in different ways. During this time I will also watch to see what they are naturally doing with the objects so I can decide which activities we might do next.
So far the girls have been making a lot of valentine soup using the canisters.
They’ve also started their own candy shop making little chocolates for customers using the small hearts and plastic heart boxes.
Once I see that the kids are done freely exploring the bin, I will start using some of the options below for extending its use. These are more adult-directed than free exploration, but they will allow us to focus on specific skills. The bin will also remain out and available for free exploration.
- Talk…just talk about what the kids are doing as they explore the bin. This can be a great way to introduce and discuss new vocabulary. Describe what little ones are doing. Ask older children to describe what they are doing in their own words.
- Name objects in the bin.
- Name the colors of objects in the bin.
- Discuss and explore the texture of different objects in the bin.
- Play “I Spy” by describing an object using its physical description (color, shape, size, texture).
- Make up a story using some of the items in the sensory bin.
Transferring and Pouring:
- Practice fine motor skills by moving small pieces from one bin to the next. Toddlers can use their fingers in pincer grasp, or you could include tongs.
- Pour items from one container to the next. This is a toddler favorite!
- Choose a kind of object. Find all of those items in the sensory bin. Count how many in all.
- Choose two different kinds of objects. Find all of those items in the sensory bin. Count how many of each. Then compare the two numbers (more, less, the same).
- Roll a number cube (with either dots, numbers, or number words). Find that many objects.
- Roll a number cube. Decide what number is one more than the number rolled. Then find that many objects.
- Roll a number cube. Decide what number is one less than the number rolled. Then find that many objects.
- Discuss capacity and identify whether the canisters are full or empty.
- Count how many cotton balls it takes to fill each canister. Compare the amounts.
- Count how many hearts gems it takes to fill each canister lid. Compare the amounts.
Sorting: Sort objects from the bin by:
- Select some of the objects and make a pattern.
- If your child is just beginning patterning, make a pattern for the child. Then ask him or her to copy it or extend the pattern.
What other learning activities would you use to extend the use of this sensory bin?
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