Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Toddler Adventures: Bean Sensory Bin

This post is part of my Toddler Adventures series. This series will capture unschooling activities, free play, park and playground visits, Montessori style learning activities like sensory bins and busy bags, and whatever else we get into.

This week, I decided to tackle the sensory bin again. My initial attempt at a sensory bin included rolled oats as the base. My son ate the oats, which I did not mind. However, I wanted him to focus on playing in the sensory bin, not eating rolled oats off the (somewhat dirty) kitchen floor. I learned that I needed a bigger container for him to play in and something that he would be less inclined to eat.

Off we went to Big Lots to purchase a big plastic container. Yes, this eco-friendly, no-plastic girl purchased a big plastic container. Two of them! I strive to do the best I can to reduce our family's negative impact on the environment and on ourselves. However, certain items just cannot be replaced or are not readily available in a non-plastic option.

Today's activity was a Bean Sensory Bin. I took the glass jar with dried black beans, placed it next to the sensory bin with random items thrown in. I had one measuring cup in my hand and gave my son another cup. I scooped out some beans and poured them into a container. He followed my lead. After a while, he emptied the whole glass jar and I put it back on the counter. We continued to play with the beans in the bin.

My biggest aversion to sensory bins is that they are messy. As adults, we have been trained to not make a mess. Making a mess is part of the learning experience for children. If you are introducing sensory bins to your child, let go of whatever mess-free mindset you have.

There were dried black beans all over the kitchen floor. I was panicking, but kept telling myself that dried black beans are pretty easy to clean up and this is a good learning opportunity for my 21 month old son.

I did set the rule: "beans stay in the kitchen." Of course, I had to repeat myself every 30 seconds and clean up some beans in the living room. Discipline is always a work in progress.

Thoughts on dried beans vs. rolled oats? I decided that I can wash the dried beans and reuse them for cooking, while the oats went straight to the compost bin. My son did try to eat a few of the beans. Black beans are small enough that I was not afraid of them being a choking hazard.

The container I purchased has a lid on it, which allows me to cover the Bean Sensory Bin for later use. Any container, big or small will work for this purpose. Let the child play. The mess can be cleaned up quickly with a broom, vacuum, or a piece of paper (great for scooping beans).

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