Sensory Bins – Halloween Themed
Play is the tool through which children access their world and learn about everything from cause-and-effect to spatial awareness to emotional regulation skills. Sensory play can look confusing or messy (or even spooky!) from the outside, but it is a fantastic way to activate multiple senses and areas of the brain at once for an amazing learning experience. It’s no surprise given their wide range of uses that sensory bins are often a go-to tool in occupational therapy.
What is a sensory bin?
Sensory bins are a type of multi-sensory play that encourages hands-on, child-led learning. It doesn’t have to be Pinterest-perfect to be tons of fun. All you need is a container (bonus points if it has a lid for easier storage and clean-up), base material (e.g., rice, beans, dry noodles, shaving cream, Jell-O) and some kind of filler or items of interest (e.g., letters, cars, animals, holiday-themed toys). After that, you can add spoons, tongs, cups, or funnels to add another dimension for exploration, and you’re ready to play!
- Set clear guidelines/ground rules for safety and mess management. This can be as simple as “Sand stays in the bin,” or “Toys stay out of our mouths.”
- Be prepared for a mess. Use old newspapers, cut up paper grocery bags, or a cheap plastic tablecloth on the table or floor to contain any fallout for quick clean-up.
- Let your child lead the way. Don’t focus too much on structuring play; instead, empower them to explore, experiment, and create as they feel comfortable to encourage independence and curiosity.
- Fine motor skill development:
- Work on building intrinsic hand strength and dexterity required for handwriting grasp, clothing fasteners, and more through play with tongs, tweezers, and scoops.
- Cognitive development:
- Sensory bins provide an opportunity for play-based exposure to sorting, measuring, estimating, pattern recognition, and spatial awareness.
- Sensory regulation:
- Repetitive play is often calming and beneficial for self-regulation skills. It is a low stakes, low pressure setting to explore textures, smells, or other sensory experiences your child may be feeling unsure about or even aversive toward. It’s also a safe space to practice impulse control, body awareness, and following rules/guidelines.
- Play skills:
- Sensory bins can encourage independent play, or they can be enjoyed in a social setting for peer play and social skills development.
- Language development:
- Take advantage of the opportunity for language and vocabulary expansion. Talk about everything you experience with them – what you see, feel, hear, smell, etc, and ask questions to see where their imagination takes you.
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