Sensory Bin play has become a popular activity for therapy and for moms with toddlers. Not only are sensory bins fun and will provide opportunities for sensory exploration, but children benefit from new vocabulary (“crunch!” “hidden”, “poke!’ etc.) and chances for creative and imaginative play. Fine motor skills are also targeted through sensory bin play like grading, grasping, pincer grasping, etc. Gross motor skills are also utilized with sensory bins like stabilizing their core to stand or sit near the bins, scooping, and spreading while balancing.
Let’s get started! The possibilities are endless and you can make sensory bins easily with things you probably already have around the house. To get ready, you’ll need:
- Any bin. I’ve used rectangular shaped storage bins and small inflatable pools.
- Any surface. You can put your bins on a table or purchase a sensory bin table already made. We love our Ikea Sensory Bin table. I have also seen some on Etsy. I’ve also used my son’s high-chair or the table in my treatment room.
Tip: Use a blanket under your bin to easily shake off outside post play. If possible, you could take the bin outside and play there! I gently remind my son to please keep toys inside the bin and to not make a big mess. At least a small mess will undoubtedly happen, so my son and my clients help clean up! We make it part of the fun.
Now let’s talk about Taste-Safe Sensory Bin Fillers because the thought of watching a client put a fist full of water beads in his mouth does NOT sound fun for anyone.
I have used taste-safe sensory bin fillers for my son recently because he is at the stage of putting everything in his mouth. I also always use taste-safe bins with new clients because it keeps the focus on communication and play rather than the need to say “no mouth” 50 times in a session. Mouth exploration for sensory input (taste, sight, sound, smell, texture) is a normal developmental process and beneficial for sensory growth for toddlers. Any child with sensory deficits could benefit from taste-safe sensory bin fillers.
Here are some of my favorite Taste-Safe Sensory Bin Fillers:
- Yogurt and cornstarch mix makes edible playdough
- Homemade finger paint (mix equal parts flour and water and add food coloring)
- Cloud dough (flour + baby oil or, infant rice cereal + coconut oil)
- Oobleck (cornstarch + water in about equal parts)
- Baking soda and vinegar (add a little food coloring to the vinegar and use droppers)
- Peeled hard-boiled eggs
- Tapioca (large “bubble tea” tapioca pearls are just like water beads, but safe to eat)
- Bread dough (then, bake your creation!)
- Pudding, yogurt, applesauce, or baby food as “finger paint” on a piece of waxed or parchment paper
- Dry cereal
- Rice Krispies are a fun, contrasting texture
- Blend or roughly chop some fruit loops
- Tint vanilla pudding or yogurt with food coloring, Kool-Aid mix, or Jello mix
- Use cooked pasta as your paintbrush (bowtie pasta is a great shape for this)
- Sweetened condensed milk and food coloring make a paint that dries shiny
- Cooked grains (like quinoa) and pasta of different shapes (add olive oil for a different texture)
- Freeze juice in Jello molds or ice cube trays and build with the blocks
- Jello: hide a few toys inside before or after it sets
- Cut fruit in half or make shapes out of pieces of potato (using a small cookie cutter) to make prints with non-toxic paint
- Whipped cream or cool whip
- Mashed potatoes (homemade or from a mix) and potato flakes (dry or wet)
Tip: If you’re doing therapy, have enough of these materials on hand to toss out after each session, so I recommend using a smaller container.
And finally, objects! Preferably add easy to wash objects and objects that won’t be ruined by foods, soap, and water. My favorite are things I can throw in the dishwasher once we’re done like:
- Measuring spoons
- Toy trucks and cars
- Frozen ice cubes in fun shapes
- Plastic toys (sea creatures, jungle animals, farm animals, insects, etc.)
- Paint brushes
Therapists, since the possibilities are endless for taste-safe sensory bin fillers, it often helps to stick with a theme or materials that would go along with a book. For example:
- If your theme for the week is beach, you could use cornmeal as sand, dyed blue jello as water with sea creatures submerged in the jello.
- If you are reading The Three Little Pigs, click here to see how we recommend using a sensory bin for that popular children’s book. In place of hay, you could use veggie straws!
- If it’s near winter, you could use “snow” made from baking soda and water. Add a drop of peppermint essential oil for an olfactory input.
- Have clients or your own kids who are picky eaters? Taste-safe sensory bin fillers can help them get closer to eating. The more sensory exploration in a safe and fun environment, the more likely they are to explore with their mouths and eventually trial new foods.
You can follow @speechroomnews on instagram for photos of other Taste-safe sensory bin fillers as I share ideas as my son grows.
What are some of your favorite taste-safe sensory bin fillers and how do you use them in therapy?
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