Holiday-Themed Sensory Bin for Creative Play

Dec 20, 2013

The Christmas season is here! The kids are full of anticipation as we fill our day time hours with delicious baking activities, holiday crafts, and yuletide sing-song sessions. But quite often we find ourselves struggling to create holiday activities suitable and safe for the really small. You know the ones. The 20-month and under crowd. The ones who can't yet follow directions and put every little thing in their mouths at least twice! Well, today is all about them! For these small ones, I've put together a jolly sensory play bin that has kept them busy for 30 to 60 minutes at a time for 3 days now. Having a toddler busy and engaged in an activity for that amount of time is like winning the lottery. And even better than that? To put this bin together cost about the same as a lottery ticket...less than $10. The key to toddler/baby sensory play is to find items that are diverse in texture, shape, size, and purpose, but that are safe if they reach the mouth. Which they inevitably will. Here are the materials we used for our baby Christmas sensory bin...

  • Cut the ribbon in lengths of no more than 9 inches, as this is the safe and accepted length of pacifier clips. 
  • I twirled the pipe cleaners around my fingers to encourage little fingers to explore the springy, stretchy nature of them. 
  • I cut the paper straws in half to lessen the chance of the children poking themselves or others in the eyes. 
  • I also removed the hooks from the polar bear ornaments for obvious reasons. 
  • The puffed rice as the substrate is a great alternative to uncooked rice as it is easier to clean up, and soft if it goes in the mouth. It is also light and fluffy like snowflakes! 
  • Cups and scoops and spoons are a must in a baby/toddler bin, as they get so much fine-motor practice AND they can fill and dump to their heart's content. Anyone who has been around a toddler for more than an hour knows they live to dump things out! All assembled, it creates an enticing invitation to play and discover...


Little hands will scoop and pour, pinch and stir...

 Spoons will probably clack...

And you may even get a rice puff milkshake for all your hard work!

Will you have a mess? Probably. But only a little one.

Sensory play gives baby so many opportunities to practice cause and effect, to test hypothesis, to learn about the properties of weight and volume, to discover the wonders of gravity, and to lose himself in the world of experimenting. The time you gain to enjoy watching your baby explore will more than make up for the grains of puffed rice you will be sweeping up later. 

A few helpful hints for successful sensory play sessions 
1. I like to use a bowl for the sensory bin, as it fits the curve of a baby's leg much better than a box. That way, baby can get right up close with his tummy. This minimizes the spill factor. 
2. Use a splash mat of some kind. You can use a plastic table cloth, a shower curtain, a small tarp, or even a sheet. When baby is finished, you can pick up the cloth and pour all the spilled contents back in the bowl for easy clean up. 
3. Always watch baby while he plays. Even though we try our best to choose the safest materials, it's just good practice to stay close by. And besides, you won't want to miss out on any of the fun. 

Happy Holidays, everyone!


Article Author Arlee Greenwood
Arlee Greenwood

Arlee is an Early Childhood Educator, earning her degree at BYU Idaho. She runs a government accredited care center in her home in Red Deer, AB. She studied with the New York Institute of Photography and she owns her own photography studio. Arlee is a mother of 6, an aspiring yogi, a lover of books, bento box lunches, travel, good food and wine. She’s a blogger in her “spare time” and she will never say no to chocolate. Find her at Small Potatoes, on Twitter and on Facebook.

Add New Comment

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Submission Policy

Note: The CBC does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines.