Simplifying Sensory Play

Simple Sensory Play Collection



After years of themed sensory bins, I have gotten to a stage in life where I need to simplify.  We still do the occasional themed bin, but I need to have our sensory materials more easily accessible both for Ladybug and for me!  She still really enjoys sensory materials, and so do my boys.

Earlier this year I reorganized our supplies and we have been using them this way since September.  It has made it so much easier!

I listed out all of the “base” sensory materials we normally use and a few I wanted to add to our collection.  I got out small bins we already had {these are from Target} to store them all in one place. I also got a set of gallon sized zipper bags for the items that wouldn’t fit in my bins.

Sensory Item Storage

 

I also purchased 5 small bins that rotate through our All By Myself Preschool Boxes.

All By Myself Preschool Boxes - Mini Sensory Bins

I put one of these small pink bins in each of her All By Myself Preschool Boxes, so each day she will have a new sensory material to play with. I chose these bins because they have lock tops but she can open them independently.  The small slim size was also a part of my purchase decision!

I store the baggies and clear bins in my storage room on a shelf. You can see the bag section on the left is overflowing! I would have used all baggies but I had these bins that were empty.  So, I use both.

Sensory Bin Supplies

I also have an area that I keep open to prep the bins each week.  Although, it doesn’t always look like this.  Reality is, the area often gets junked up and I sit on the floor.  But this was my original plan and if clean I do this.  Thankfully it’s clean again since I cleared it to take pictures for you!

Sensory Bin Supplies-4679 Sensory Bin Supplies-4722Sensory Bin Supplies-4725 Sensory Bin Supplies-4730

 

Here is a visual version of our current sensory items…

Sensory Bin Supplies

Sensory Bin Supplies

Sensory Bin Supplies

Many items listed would NOT be good choices for independent play for most tots.  Ladybug is 4 1/2 and has never been one to put anything in her mouth.  She is always close by me and I feel comfortable with what I have chosen for her.  You’ll have to make that decision based on your own child{ren} and your comfort level with certain items.  I am aware that some of the items I listed are not considered “safe” by some people, the decision of whether or not to use an item is yours.

Helpful Links ~

All By Myself Preschool Boxes

 

See how she uses these sensory items in our Learning with Ladybug blog posts.  Click on an image to see the post, this is a collection of a majority of my posts from this school year!

Home Preschool January 2014  All By Myself Preschool Boxes Aug 2013  Learning with Ladybug Home Preschool January 2014

All By Myself Preschool Boxes Sept 2013   Learning with Ladybug Nov 2013  Learning with Ladybug Age 4

Home Preschool Nov 2013  All By Myself Preschool Boxes October 2013  Home Preschool Oct. 2013

A Surprise a Day Christmas Sensory bin

A Surprise a Day Christmas Sensory Bin

We have had a Christmas Sensory Bin for years now, but I have never written a full post about the part my kids enjoy the most. The new surprise each day! The bin itself begins with only the red/green base of items. The fun little Christmas additions come out one a day until they are all in the bin!

Christmas-Sensory-Bin-5009_thumb

The Base:

  • red and green pom poms, jewels, and other small items
  • red and green tongs, spoons, scoops
  • sorting tray {ours is red}, ice cube trays, etc.
  • stockings {for playing feel and guess games, what’s missing, etc.}

Listen Carefully Sensory Bin Game

 

The Daily Surprises

    When adding one item per day, I also add in my little special containers. They love to play with the containers almost as much as the little stuff!
    Christmas Sensory bin -5266
    Getting a new item an a new container each day is really cool!
    Christmas Sensory bin -5195
    I collected most of my little items from craft stores and dollar stores.  I hit the after Christmas sales each year for new additions at really low prices!
    Christmas Sensory bin -6471

 

Ideas for daily items to add in…

  • pretend mini candy canes, candy
  • small bells
  • scented pine cones
  • small Christmas toys
  • red and green stars
  • mini Nativity figures
  • red and green glittery balls
  • mini gifts
  • mini drums
  • mini trees
  • mini lights
  • mini stockings

Christmas Sensory Bin-5145

Curly Hair-5272

Curly Hair-5274

Curly Hair-5277

Christmas Sensory bin -6477  Christmas Sensory bin -6479

I start in early December and add surprises one per day until they are all in.  The full bin then stays out through December to play with! This year the kids {all 3 of them} were so excited to see the bin again!  The boys insist on still being involved when the new item is revealed each day! 


Christmas Theme Pinterest Board

Colored Wheat Berries for Sensory Play

Colored Wheat Berries

{disclaimer ~ affiliate links used in this post}

It’s been many years since I have colored pasta or rice for sensory play, but the process hasn’t changed!  The materials have though!  I was inspired by this post on dyeing barley for sensory play.  We didn’t have barely but I am obsessed with wheat berries {and order them in bulk from Amazon} so I gave it a try!  The results were awesome!

There are a few methods to dyeing stuff, but I chose to use the method I had used years ago as a teacher. All measurements are totally guesses, I didn’t actually measure anything.

  1. put uncooked wheat berries in Ziploc bag {approx. 1 C}
  2. add about a teaspoon of white vinegar
  3. add a drop of food coloring
  4. seal bag and shake/mix it up
  5. add more coloring if desired.
  6. mix well
  7. put parchment paper on cookie sheets {not necessary, but what I did}
  8. dump damp colored wheat berries onto trays
  9. allow to dry {we left ours overnight}

Here’s a bit of a visual version…

Colored Wheat Berries -9895

Colored Wheat Berries -9855

Colored Wheat Berries -9872

Colored Wheat Berries -9874

You can see I did some macaroni noodles on the same day…

Colored Wheat Berries -9890

 

She played on the trays the day after they dried, I just forgot to take any pictures!  The next week I surprised her with her new mini sensory bin for her All By Myself Preschool Box time!

Home Preschool -0488

She loved her rainbow wheat berries and played with them for hours!  They will now be put in the sensory item rotation for her boxes each week!

Home Preschool -0493

 

See more sensory play ideas on my Pinterest board!

Sensory and Messy Play Pinterest Board

All By Myself Preschool Boxes

All By Myself Preschool Boxes

Part of our new Preschool plan is the use of our new “All By Myself Boxes.”  I have seen the concept of Quiet Time Boxes for many years but not until now did I think the concept was a good fit for us. As I evaluated Ladybug’s list and prayed about following her lead, I kept coming back to this idea.  So, I created them! It seemed to be perfect timing for her, I will share our first week in another post, and in this post I will share the behind the scenes management and set up process! There’s a video at the bottom for those of you who want an even deeper look!

{disclaimer ~ there are affiliate links in this post}

Our Current Plan…

We homeschool 5 days a week, M-Th and Saturday {our family day is Friday}, so I got 5 of the same boxes. I chose these from Walmart because they are big enough {15 Qt} and she can open and close them independently.

I made labels for the bins, you are welcome to use them too, here’s the PDF file.

Daily Box Labels

Credit for the beautiful Chevron goes to Emily Wean Graphics!  I printed ours on cardstock, laminated, cut out, rounded corners, and used plain old tape to stick them on the outside.

All By Myself Preschool Boxes -5703

 

Knowing her love of all things small and sensory related, I also got 5 small boxes which fit inside of the bigger boxes.  I got these, also from Walmart. I have another post in the works that will share how I plan to rotate these items and what is on our long list!

Note ~ she is old enough to have access to tiny items independently, and I am comfortable as a parent with our choices. Use your own discretion as a parent, as many of these items would NOT be a good choice for young tots without supervision!  Do what works for you and your child{ren}.

All By Myself Preschool Boxes -5648

 

I bought 2 big boxes of zipper baggies and began dumping the toys that would be good for these boxes into them. I then took the bagged up learning materials and put them all in bins, like this…All By Myself Preschool Boxes -5681

You can see a master list {with links} of almost everything I rotate through in the boxes here!

My Filling the Box Procedure…

I line up the bins on Sunday evening and add materials, with this loose plan in mind:

  • 1 different sensory item per day in the small pink boxes
  • a few small animals
  • a puzzle
  • 2 small books
  • 3-4 learning toys/tools I have no weekly, bi-weekly set plan, that all depends on life.  I know she would love it if they were new each week, but some weeks won’t allow for that.  My goal is to try to change them up each Sunday evening, we’ll see!
      Her Quiet Time Area…

All By Myself Preschool Boxes Always Available-5636

I have her in the living room for now, which is right off our school room. It is close enough so I can help if needed and run in to peek at her {which I love}, but far enough away so she doesn’t interrupt us and we don’t bother her.

      I created a little shelf in our living room, where she will be using these boxes, to keep the “

always available

    ” materials, which include…
  • a cookie sheet {for anything magnetic}
  • a bin to help contain the sensory mess
  • a wooden board {mostly for puzzles, or things that need a solid surface}
  • a box of sensory bin tools {spoons, cups, tongs, etc.}
  • various supplies that I think she might enjoy using every day

All By Myself Preschool Boxes -5640

 

How I am Managing our Routine…

She gets a new box each school day at the beginning of her quiet time.   During this hour I am working one on one with Krash and PacMan is doing independent school.  I give her the bin, sit with her as she opens it in case she has any questions or needs help.  Then I leave her to play! I obviously check back periodically, but mostly she plays alone.  Her absolute favorite part is the small pink box of sensory goodness. She plays with that alone each day {so far} for about 75% of the time from what I can tell!

After the time is done, I stack the boxes in the corner like this, so she can go back to them if she wants to. This photo shows the END of the week, each day only one is added after she plays with it.

All By Myself Preschool Boxes -5636

At first I wasn’t going to do this {I had planned on hiding the other boxes away after the day was over}, but she got very upset and I decided my way wasn’t that important.  On Saturday evening, I put them all away in my storage room to be filled up on Sunday evening and ready for Monday. But during the week, she is free to go back to any items she really enjoyed {which is mainly those pink bins}.

For those of you who wish you could come over and see it, I made a little video for you.  I always love peeking into other people’s homes, I hope to do this more for you in the future!  This video shows her play area, the basic set up, and inside one of her boxes. The video is just a bit over 2 minutes.

 


This is just a portion of our new preschool routine, I am ironing out many more details to simplify our plan and make it more joy-filled for my Ladybug!  Stay tuned to see more about how I am following her lead with our home preschool!

See our first week’s box contents and our webpage showing what rotates through our boxes!

All By Myself Preschool Boxes

Cloud Dough ~ A New Outside Favorite

Cloud Dough

I am certainly not the first one to share this and I honestly cannot remember the very first blog I saw it on.  Cloud Dough is floating around Pinterest everywhere {here’s the search for Cloud Dough so you can see the various ideas}!  I ignored it for a LONG time.  Why?  The MESS!  Then one day I decided it would make  great outside fun. 

We have a seasonal campsite for our camper this year, so I brought the ingredients and we made it together up there! Look how excited they were!

Cloud Dough -4297

What are the ingredients?  Get ready, it is SUPER complicated {joking}.

  • 8 parts flour
  • 1 part oil {we used baby, but you can use others}

Isn’t that tough?  We used 8 cups flour/1 cup oil for what you see below.

Cloud Dough -4301

 

All 3 kids played with this for hours!

Cloud Dough -4302

Cloud Dough -4304

Cloud Dough -4325 Cloud Dough -4330

 

These two have continued to play.  We made this batch back in May and now in July it is still up at our camper and we get it out whenever we go!  Cloud Dough -4336

 

Krash usually adds cars to play with, Ladybug adds Little Pet Shops!

Cloud Dough -4343

Cloud Dough -4418

Cloud Dough -4423

 

I wish I would have tried Cloud Dough sooner, a BIG thank you to whoever came up with this idea long ago. If you haven’t tried it, I recommend trying it, but do it outside!  It’s a mess!