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Activity and strategy

Sensory Bins

Creating interactive learning among our students creates interest, exploration, and uses a variety of skills. Using sensory bins for theme based learning touches on various learning objectives.

Butterfly and flowers sensory bin with plastic flowers and butterflies together with coffee beans in a two bin table. The other bin has small pots, scoops and small boxes. Around it are books with the theme and a caterpillar/butterfly house.

Creating interactive learning among our students creates interest, exploration, and uses a variety of skills. Using sensory bins for theme based learning touches on various learning objectives. 

Why Sensory Bins are Great Teaching Tools:

  • Using theme based sensory bins involves tactile skills practice along with other fine motor skills
  • They promote play and using imagination
  • Makes learning more meaningful than just a book or a one time activity
  • By allowing children to use the sensory bin over a course of time, they can reconnect with concepts taught
  • Sensory bins cross curriculum by integrating math, science, art, language arts, etc., depending on the theme and materials

Sensory Bin Ideas

Here are some great examples of learning bins that this mom of three, Sarah, does in her home for her young children. Sarah has a child, age nine, who has as diagnosis of CVI (cortical/cerebral visual impairment). She has bought a sensory table with two bins but you can make it with a container and items you already have in your house to make a theme your own child would enjoy.

Buried Treasure

A buried treasure sensory bin can focus on coins, small shovels, sand, a treasure container, and even some fake jewels or gold. Look for some fun books to go with it. Maps can come into play with this sensory bin.

buried treasure with fake jewels, small shovels, a little treasture chest in sand.
Buried treasure sensory bin

Farm

Lots of classes use a farm as the unit of learning so a farm sensory bin is a great addition to that learning. Items to include in the farm sensory bin can be farm animals, tractors, plastic vegetables and fruits, a small toy barn, and dried beans.

This sensory bin theme is about a farm with plastic farm animals and farm equipment, including pickup trucks. All placed in a two bin table with one having crushed coffe beans as the dirt.
Farm sensory bin

Health

A sensory bin that addresses the body is a new twist that can include a Melissa & Doug body puzzle.

Sensory bin with beads and pieces of anatomy from a wooden puzzle and a kids' books in the other bin about the human body
Health sensory bin

Dinosaurs

If you are adventurous you can put dirt in the sensory bin to dig up plastic dinosaurs. Use little shovels and brushes to be like a real paleontologist.

Sensory bin with plastice dinosaurs, rocks, and trees
Dinosaurs sensory bin

Spring

A spring sensory bin is a great fine motor activity if you use plastic eggs with “surprises” in them. Open and close the eggs and then count how many items you found in the eggs. It’s fun to use paper grass and to use tongs to pick out materials like plastic flowers.

Spring sensory bin with plastic eggs and flowers
Spring sensory bin

Butterflies and Flower

This seasonal sensory bin is great to use with a science unit about the life cycle of a butterfly and/or the growth of a flower. There are so many great books to include with this theme, including a favorite to most, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, available in braille with touch and feel pictures.

Butterfly and flowers sensory bin with plastic flowers and butterflies together with coffee beans in a two bin table. The other bin has small pots, scoops and small boxes. Around it are books with the theme and a caterpillar/butterfly house.

Sensory Bin Variations: 

Sensory bins are endless teaching tools that can include many different topics related to your theme

  • Try brailled objects that are “hidden” in dried rice or beans
  • In winter bring snow into the sensory bin
  • During warmer months make the sensory bin into water play activity
  • Practice washing dishes in the sensory bin
  • Place plastic letters in the sensory bin and a magnetic board next to the bin
  • Make a favorite book into a sensory bin like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, available in braille. PLUS- See the lesson on this book
Sensory Bin title with a picture of a treasure chest sensory bin with fake jewels in sand wiht scoops
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