Organizing A Sensory Bug Bin
With the spring weather in full bloom, we’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors, but I wanted to put together an activity that we could do on a rainy day. All of the items that I used to organize this Bug Bin were things that I had around the house and decided to repurpose for this activity. Mac is 17 months and this activity would be good for ages 10 months through 3 years.
Originally although I was excited about sensory bins, I was a little nervous since a lot of activities use sand or beans, and at his age I was worried that he still might try to put those items in his mouth. I decided to instead use “food” as the base, so that although the goal is for him not to eat the food, if he does take a bite, it’s not the biggest deal.
For some bins the objective may be for open play or to teach one concept, but with this one I wanted to help work with him on multiple things, and it kept his attention for a full hour. Like you and I, most children need to re-focus activities every 15 minutes or so, and with that in mind, I tried to transition the learning activities every 5-10 minutes.
What’s In the Bin?
The three bins sit inside the IKEA Flisat Sensory Table. For the base of one bin I used a combo of brown and yellow raisins along with chopped dates. For Easter my parents had asked what to put in Mac’s eggs, and I suggested fruit, and they went with chopped dates, so I had a lot leftover which worked nicely for this activity.
For the base of the second bin I used Galerie Edible Easter grass which was originally used for his Easter basket. (Again the goal is not for him to eat any of these food bases but it makes it okay if he takes a nibble). I then deconstructed a eucalyptus and berry garland (similar) that I had originally purchased to make a hoop wreath for our front door (which was such a fun activity, so I’ll make sure to include that on here soon). To deconstruct it, I used wire cutters to cut off the “berries” which look like flowers. I put the “flowers” in one bin and then the garland in the large bin. Underneath the garland I placed leftover black fabric as a base.
I then added creepy crawlers (similar) which I had leftover from Halloween. I originally used them with Mac when he was 10 months to practice his pincer grasp by sorting the different bugs, and I had added them as decoration to our outside Halloween table for trick-or-treaters.
I printed and cut out the cute bug printables from Little Learning Pack, and as a parting gift had received the large grasshopper from The Little Towns. Little Towns is an awesome play museum for kids that I highly recommend if you’re in the DC area.
Our local Trader Joe’s is giving out children’s stickers again, so I included a strip of them along with two succulent pots from IKEA. (Yeah, my succulents don’t always survive).
I then used my Cricut to cut out the words “Bug Box” and “Bug House” because I wanted to focus on the letter “B” and the word “BUG.” I used removable vinyl so that I can repurpose these for future activities. I affixed those words to a box that I had left over from a Christmas ornament and a craft bird house that my niece had given me for Christmas.
Lastly I threw in some hand me down shovels and tongs and the Montessori scoop that I had gotten from a similar pack, and also added a repurposed glass honey jar.
I used these framing questions to guide his play:
-Can you take the sticker and place it on the pot? While practicing the tactile skill, I reminded Mac of how we “pat..pat” to make sure stickers are secure.
-Can you place the “dirt” in the pot? I modeled this for him, and then he did it on his own.
-Are you able to place the “flowers” in the pot? Mac really enjoyed inspecting the “flowers” close up as well.
-How many bugs can you count? I had placed 10 printouts in the bins and we had fun finding them together. Some I placed under the leaves and we talked about the word “habitat” and how bugs can be found under leaves. Although this is advanced for his age, learning new terms and schemas will help him identify them later. By hiding the bugs under the leaves and the black fabric I wanted to test his understanding of object permanence.
-Can you place the bugs in the bug box? Doing this allowed him to test sizes and we talked about big and little, and he found it funny when things such as the large grasshopper did not fit.
-Do any of your bugs fit in the bug house? We worked to test multiple creepy crawlers to see if they would fit, and Mac was very amused when the centipede-like bugs did fit inside.
-Can you pick any of the bugs up? We used the various tools to try to scoop or pinch them up.
-Can you place the bugs in the jar? This was really fun for Mac to see how many bugs fit, and he later enjoyed shaking it up.
Throughout these activities, I let Mac guide, and gave him plenty of time to just do free play and to scoop the “dirt” and feel the different textures. I really enjoyed hearing him use the word “bug” the next day, and I know that I will definitely go back to these activities in the future.
Although I’m not an expert on sensory bins, I do have a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction. Regardless though, whether you are the parent, guardian, or caretaker, you know your child best, and you will structure these learning activities for what makes the most sense.
I’d love to hear your feedback on what worked and what didn’t according to your learner, their learning styles, and age. I’m looking forward to sharing more activities, and not just the “bin” itself, but how I have created organizational systems so that I can keep repurposing and reusing items for multiple kinds of crafts and play. By having organization in place, it definitely helps so that you don’t buy duplicates of items, or so that they don’t end up in the basement forgotten about. I can’t wait to hear how this bug box worked for you, and if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below.