Activity for Kids: Ice-Themed Sensory Bin
By Jackie Currie
Dec 20, 2012
I'm Jackie, and I run a small home daycare. I lovingly refer to the kids that I look after as The Hooligans. We're all about play-based learning here, and I love dreaming up entertaining crafts and activities that engage the senses, spark imagination, encourage creativity and provide learning opportunities.
One of my favourite ways to do this is with an activity bin. An activity bin, or a sensory bin, is a container filled with items that appeals to the senses: sight, hearing, touch, and depending on the base material, even smell (think coffee grounds, cinnamon sticks or fresh flowers). The bins are a lot of fun for kids to assemble, and while they look like a million bucks, the bins actually cost very little to set up. You may be able to find most of the materials around your home!
So let's get to it. Here's how you and the kids can have fun making an Icy Activity Bin like the one below:
It all starts with a bin. A storage container, baking dish, cardboard box, or foil roasting pan will all work well. Next, you'll need a base material that appeals to the senses. (Base materials cover the bottom of the bin.) For this bin, I used white rice, which kids love to run their hands through! Rice is also great for scooping and sifting, and kids enjoy the sound when they pour it into little glass jars and containers. Dried lentils or pasta, shredded paper, popcorn kernels and sand all make great bases, as well. Be creative. If it feels good, and it can be scooped, sorted and poured by little hands, go for it! At Happy Hooligans, we re-use our bases. I simply store them in resealable freezer bags between uses. Now for the fun part: search through your kids' toys, your kitchen cupboards and craft supplies, even your seasonal decorations, for items that kids can add to their bin. I went with a blue and white theme, and almost every item was found around the house. I picked the snowflakes and the coloured gems up at the dollar store.
As you can see from the photo above, I also gave The Hooligans crystals and pompoms for sorting and scooping, Styrofoam for stacking, a plastic mirror for an ice patch and small animals for pretend play. A few sparkly ornaments and tinsel add visual interest and texture. You'll likely have different items at your house, so some other suggestions might be cotton balls, wood blocks, pipe cleaners, buttons, ribbon, fabric scraps, beads and costume jewellery. If you're short on animals, you could add small play figures, action figures or vehicles.
Tools are a must for activity bins, and help develop a child's fine motor control, scissor skills and hand-eye coordination. Some of The Hooligans' favourite tools include tongs, tweezers, meatball scoops, ice cube trays, muffin tins, spoons, coffee scoops, bowls, funnels and small glass jars.
Now it's time for the kids to put the bin together. Let them be creative. This is their bin! Just look at these busy little hands! They were at it all morning: building, sorting, sifting ...
Pretending, scooping, filling and pouring ...
Kids can have hours of fun putting together, and playing with, an activity bin. But don't expect it to remain picture-perfect with little hands in there. That's okay. Permitting children to build and explore the bin, with confidence, is how they'll learn best, and enjoy their sensory experience to the fullest!