Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Christmas Sensory Bin Checklist

I try to add to our Christmas sensory bin each year. Frankly, they spend the majority of their time filling and dumping the rice. 

The 2s love the sensory exploration, 

and the 4 and ups get more into the dramatic play  and artistic aspect.

 I'm not indicating the type of material. While I love items that are real and wood, I'm not going to put real candy canes in a sensory bin rather than plastic or wood. I know what will happen. Gross. Wood has a heft to it that isn't always welcome. The children like the small plastic ornaments. They are cheap and come in a variety of sensory-rich textures and patterns. 

You can also get creative. Gingerbread salt dough can be cut thick and, when dried thoroughly, it can make some very sturdy little gingerbread men for the sensory table. You can find a picture of a decorated fireplace or Santa through Google, print out and Modge Podge to blocks you already have in use. The children's favorite funnel is the top of a 2 liter soda bottle cut off. Almost no cost for these types of items.

Keep in mind ages and stages. A sensory bin for under 3s is much different from one for over 4s. Choking hazards MUST be minimized for any child, regardless of age, that is still putting items into his/her mouth. Or, direct supervision at all times from an adult is required.

I store my sensory bin items in large, air-tight containers and re-use the items each year for a month. The investment in time and money is well spent. If you don't anticipate this type of long-term need, then use what you have available or invest in just a few items from your dollar store.

I use under-bed storage containers for my sensory bins. These are a good size for 2-4 and, with a tight squeeze, up to 6 children. We usually use them on the SANITIZED train table, since it has a nice lip edge to keep everything contained. 

The children also wash their hands prior to sensory bin use to keep materials clean and germs from spreading in this high-contact activity. Good sanitation is especially important as the cold and flu season hits around now, along with a lot of shopping and visiting of friends, family and parent work places. Never know what is lingering around during the holiday season. 

I have a small dustpan and hand sweep set from the dollar store that I can gather any stray filler with and, since the surface is sterilized, I can plop it back into the bin so there is little waste. 

Every item has a sensory component, but they are also intended for some other aspect as well.

I also try to add items that can be
  • Sorted
  • Paired
  • Counted to 10 or 20
  • Used with a magnet
  • Stacked
  • Inserted into something else
  • Flowed through something else
  • Manipulating light in some way
  • Wrapped around something else
  • Smelled
Not sure what they were counting earlier, but there was a heated debate as to whether there were 17 or 18. I asked them to simply recount together.

3yo exhibiting a vertical schema, lining up items in a row

On to the checklist...

Here are the categories I like to cover in each sensory bin with some options listed. Make it your own. Add as few or as many items, as simple or complex, as you desire or need for the children in you care. It can also be themed down to gingerbread people, Christmas trees, Santa, stars, etc. 

𞸆 Filler needs to be something they can scoop and pour [pick one]:
  • Green, red or white rice
  • Green, red or white rice sand
  • Green or red colored macaroni
  • Lentils
  • White beans
*If your program is against using food items, then shredded paper, kinetic sand, or some other filler can be used. However, the viscosity and flow-ability of the items I listed, is much more conducive to the fine and gross motor activity I am mainly looking to obtain from this activity.

𞸆 Secondary filler something they can manipulate [pick one]:
  • Batting for snow
  • Styrofoam for snow
  • Cotton balls for snow
  • Tinsel
  • Green and/or red shredded paper
Figures for dramatic play
𞸆 Santa
𞸆 Sleigh
𞸆 Elves
𞸆 Christmas house
𞸆 Reindeer
𞸆 Snowpeople
𞸆 Styrofoam balls & toothpicks to make snowpeople
𞸆 Mini nutcrackers
𞸆 Gingerbread people
𞸆 Carolers

Themed Other items for artistic manipulation
𞸆 Pinecones
𞸆 Christmas ornaments
𞸆 Garland
𞸆 Light string
𞸆 Bell
𞸆 Jingle bells
𞸆 Stars
𞸆 Snowflakes
𞸆 Candy canes
𞸆 Bows
𞸆 Mini wreaths
𞸆 Felt shapes to decorate trees and wreaths
𞸆 Mini stockings
𞸆 Small canvas "Santa" bags
𞸆 Small toys for bags and stockings
𞸆 Black stones for lumps of coal
𞸆 Block painted up as fireplace
𞸆 Poinsettia silk flowers
𞸆 Holly silk flowers
𞸆 Mini presents
𞸆 Mini snowman hats
𞸆 Green feather "Grinch fur"
𞸆 Mini drums
𞸆 Gingerbread house(s)
𞸆 Themed buttons like snowmen, gingerbread men, etc.
𞸆 Themed erasers
𞸆 Themed confetti
𞸆 Themed fabric pieces
𞸆 Cinnamon sticks
𞸆 Christmas cookie cutters
𞸆 Pretend Christmas cookies/candy
𞸆 Icicles

Non-themed Other:
Red, green, white, gold or silver:
𞸆 Pom poms and/or balls
𞸆 String or yarn
𞸆 Straw pieces
𞸆 Pipe cleaners
𞸆 Buttons, beads
𞸆 Fabric pieces
𞸆 Plastic gems
𞸆 Glass gems
𞸆 Feathers
𞸆 Red or green craft sticks
𞸆 Red and green milk jug lids
𞸆 Silver juice lids as ornaments or cookie trays

We use the same box of accessory/manipulative items for every sensory bin. I may change out colors if I have them available, but in general, it is the same items out all the time.

𞸆 Tongs
𞸆 Scoops
𞸆 Measuring cups
𞸆 Funnels
𞸆 Tubes
𞸆 Mini rake
𞸆 Mini shovel
𞸆 Sifter
𞸆 Magnifying glass
𞸆 Magnet wand
𞸆 Buckets
𞸆 Cups/containers
𞸆 Small pitcher
𞸆 Egg cups
𞸆 Yogurt cups
𞸆 Kid chopsticks
𞸆 Kid tweezers
𞸆 Ruler
𞸆 Flashlight

Printable checklist:

Note that this post has been added to, so the printable checklist will NOT have absolutely every item included in this blog post. I hope to keep adding to this post list, so please feel free to offer your suggestions!

The small LED flashlight I attached to the bin with a retractable lanyard. We have other flashlights, but this one is specific to the sensory table. It is a huge hit.

Coloring rice for the sensory bin is really easy. It is:
1 Cup rice
1 Teaspoon vinegar
Food dye to the intensity of color you wish

Combine the vinegar and food dye, add that and rice to a plastic bag. Mix and coat the rice well. Spread out on cookie sheets to dry. On sunny days I do this outside in someplace protected from wildlife. It can be done just by letting air dry on paper towels, or it can be put in a 200 degree oven until dry. Check it every 15 minutes and stir to prevent clumping.  

My green rice was made many years ago and the color has faded a bit over time. All I would have to do to refresh it is to color it again. This green was done with regular grocery store liquid food dye, but for more intense colors and more variety, I use the Wilton gel colors. You just HAVE to make sure the coloring gets absorbed and thoroughly dried before the children use it when using the gel colors, as it could dye their hands and clothing otherwise.

Sensory bins are "play" with some AMAZING learning inherently built within the activity. It is developmentally appropriate for the under 8 age group, and enjoyed by any age.

  • Fine motor
  • Gross motor
  • Logic/reasoning
  • Creativity
  • Numeracy
  • Cause/effect
Sensory bins can be as elaborate or as simple, as costly or as inexpensive, as your program requires. Yes, they can be a bit messy, but they are SO worth the time training the children in proper use, and the clean up required, to integrate them into your environment.

Follow Connie -'s board Sensory on Pinterest.

homeschool, teaching, parenting, special needs, holiday, math, language, manipulatives, Montessori, Reggio, Waldorf, loose parts, 

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