Sensory bins are such a fun and hands-on way to get students learning in your kindergarten classroom. It gives young children a chance to touch and explore different sensory objects and sensory materials with fun themes. With that said, you may still be wondering how to use sensory bins in kindergarten to help aid little learners with their learning experience. I'm here to tell you that it's so simple to integrate sensory bins and sensory activities with your kindergarten learning goals!
Sensory Bin Set Up
First and foremost, you need to get your very own sensory bin or sensory tub. This can often look like plastic tubs but you're certainly not limited to that option. You can get these at a variety of locations like Target, Wal-Mart, or the dollar store. You don't need anything too fancy; a simple sensory bin will do. Then you need to get your sensory bin basics in order before your kiddos can start their sensory bin play!
Before you get ready to use sensory bins in your classroom, you need to have some sensory bin fillers on hand. Typically, I use a themed sensory bin and its theme to help me decide what kind of filler I am going to use. I find this is a fun way to get students engaged in a sensory activity. For instance, if I am creating an Easter sensory bin for my students, then I will use Easter grass (typically used in Easter baskets) as a filler. Using different textures like this is a simple way for kindergarten students to engage in sensory exploration.
If I want the base of the sensory bin to look like dirt, I might use a dark colored dry bean. You can even use other commonly found supplies like pom poms, shredded paper, or even uncooked rice to fill your sensory bin. The internet is full of other awesome sensory bin ideas. These are just a few! Of course, the best sensory bins are the ones you put time, care, and thought into. This is a great opportunity for you to have fun and get creative too!
Using Sensory Bins for Science
After finding an appropriate filler for your sensory bins, you might also want to use small toys or printed items to add to your bin. For example, if I am making a science sensory bin that focuses on a theme like insects, I could include tools like magnifying glasses and small insect replicas. Then, students could study the insects, notice the body parts of insects, and notice the similarities and differences of assorted insects. This is just one of the many benefits of sensory bins.
Similarly, if my class was already learning about flowers, I could include fake flowers in a sensory bin so that students could take a closer look at different flowers and their parts. You can also include small figurine farm animals and explore their body parts, what sounds they make, etc. A themed, plus scientific, sensory bin activity is super helpful to enhancing academic skills but also too much fun!
Sensory bins are a great way to help students observe things that they might not ordinarily get to observe in the classroom, making them a great tool for science!
Using Sensory Bins for Literacy
As mentioned before, you can also choose to print items to put in your sensory bins. This is one of my favorite ways to use sensory bins in literacy centers! You can print sight words for students to find within the sensory bin. After finding a word, students can record each word they have found on a recording sheet.
In a similar way, students can find cvc pictures within a sensory bin, and then record the written word on a recording sheet. You can make activities like this even more fun by having the cvc picture overlaying a carrot, and then plant the “carrots” in a dark brown dried bean filler to be the dirt! You can even focus your bin on rhyming words, counting syllables, and more, depending on which printed activities you decide to use! Essentially, most literacy centers can be made a little more fun and hands-on by bringing sensory bins into the mix!
Using Sensory Bins for Math
When printing items for sensory bins, it is also really simple to address math skills. Think about how fun it would be for students to be able to dig in a fun sensory material in an Easter-themed bin for pictures of baskets of eggs that they can count and record. Or for them to practice a skill like counting on after searching for the first number to use. Like literacy-based sensory bins, there are many math skills you can bring a little more excitement to by integrating them into a sensory bin.
Using Sensory Bins for Dramatic Play
Don’t have room for a dramatic play center in your classroom but want to give your students the dramatic play experience? No problem! You can still get many of the same benefits of dramatic play centers within a sensory bin. In an earlier example, I mentioned that students could observe toy bugs within a sensory bin. Add a few more things like notepads for students to take notes on the bugs and a simple classification chart then suddenly, it becomes an entomologist dramatic play center!
Students could also play restaurant with sensory bins. By using chopsticks, students could pick up different pieces of sushi out of a rice bin, which would be great for their fine motor skills! Like with full dramatic play centers, students will practice key vocabulary terms and skills that are associated with different occupations and places in a fun and playful way. Imaginative play like this will have your little learners having tons of fun without even realizing their learning!
Using sensory bins in kindergarten might seem like pure and simple fun at first glance. Of course we know about the important sensory aspect they bring, but it is also important to consider how we can use them to enhance our students’ learning. We can do this by being intentional about the types of materials and printed activities we make a part of our sensory bins, so that students can continue practicing literacy, math, and science skills even when they feel like they are playing!
Sensory Bins Wrap-Up
As you can see, sensory play bins and sensory play activities are a great thing. The use of sensory bins have so many benefits. Including but not limited to giving the gift of curiosity and having fun while learning! Do you have sensory bin filler ideas you want to share? I'd love to hear about your best ideas in the comments below!