Sensory Bin for Bigger Kids

One of my favorite gifts to give the little ones in our life is a ready to go sensory bin. I blogged about making a toddler version as a gift here and it continues to be one of my favorite gifts to give because it is unique, yet educational but kids just think it is so fun. I was asked recently if you could make them for older kids - like a 6 year old. At first I thought, well sensory bins are usually for toddlers and preschoolers but the more I thought about it, I realized of course you could make one for older kids. I used a lot of the same ideas for the sensory fillers but then took it up a notch with alphabet, number, vowel and sight word practice. 
Sensory Bins for big kids is a great gift idea to bring sensory activities to kids in kindergarten and older. Combine it with some letter, number and sight word practice for an extra educational boost!


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I made this bin not only as a challenge to see if I could make one for older kids, but also as a gift for a family member that wanted to give one as a gift but didn't know where to start to make it. Most of the items were purchased at The Dollar Tree. Where possible I'll link to similar items on Amazon for you. The total cost was around $50 for the supplies and that doesn't include the paper/cardstock and laminating that I did with supplies I already own. It also doesn't include the bin to put it in. It mostly is just a time commitment to prep everything.

For the amount of supplies, I listed how much I used that you see in the picture but you could adapt this for the size of the bin you are using. When I make a bin for both my girls to use in our 41qt under the bed storage bin, I add more filler so that both girls can play. If it is just one child playing at a time you could use a smaller bin and less filler.

The basics of using a sensory bin

I always like to set down a vinyl tablecloth first and then set the plastic bin on top. It helps contain any mess that might spill out. You could also do sensory play outside if you are worried about a mess. I wouldn't be as worried with a 6 year old, but if you are using them with younger children, you will need to teach them the expectations and how to play with the supplies in the bin instead of spilling/throwing/etc. I have one who is totally fine playing with the materials in the bin and one who thinks it is her job to get all of the materials out of the bin. Practice, practice, practice.

Sensory bins not only allow children to work with different textures and materials, but they also allow children to work on fine motor skills by dumping, pouring, and picking up small objects. For an extra challenge with this bin for older kids, I would suggest using tweezers/tongs/clothespins to pick things up as much as possible.

To get started set out the tablecloth, put the empty bin on top and pick one of the fillers to dump into the bin. You can start with some free play and just exploring the materials, or start with the academic activity and let them "just play" at the end.

Popcorn Kernels

Supplies:
Unpopped popcorn kernels (2 bags)
Cotton balls that are colored on one side (Pompoms could work too)
Popcorn containers for sorting (from Target)
Sight Word Cards (from my Playdough Sight Word Mats Product)
Sensory Bins for big kids is a great gift idea to bring sensory activities to kids in kindergarten and older. Combine it with some letter, number and sight word practice for an extra educational boost!
To assemble, just dump the popcorn and the cotton balls in. Using the tweezers, try to pick up and sort the cotton balls into the popcorn boxes by color.
Sensory Bins for big kids is a great gift idea to bring sensory activities to kids in kindergarten and older. Combine it with some letter, number and sight word practice for an extra educational boost!
Another idea is to use my Sight Word Playdough cards and spell out the words using popcorn kernels. I printed these with 6 to a page so they were mini versions and then I laminated before putting them into the box.

Colored Rice

Supplies:
2-3 bags of white rice
A few squirts of hand sanitizer
Colored containers for sorting
Containers for vowel sort
Picture cards for CVC words

To dye the rice, I picked 3 colors of gel food coloring to match the containers that I found at The Dollar Tree. Divide the rice into three gallon size ziploc bags. Add a few squirts of hand sanitizer and a few squirts of food coloring. Close the bag and mix it all up. Continuing adding food color to get the desired brightness. Spread onto a cookie tray and let dry (this version dries pretty quickly.)

Sensory Bins for big kids is a great gift idea to bring sensory activities to kids in kindergarten and older. Combine it with some letter, number and sight word practice for an extra educational boost!
Dump the rice into the bin and set out the sorting jars. Use the tweezers to pick up the rice and sort it by color into the jars.
Sensory Bins for big kids is a great gift idea to bring sensory activities to kids in kindergarten and older. Combine it with some letter, number and sight word practice for an extra educational boost!
For another sorting activity, I printed pictures of CVC (consonant vowel consonant) words. Then I wrote a, e, i, o, u on the sorting jars. Then (using the tweezers again) you would pick up a card, say the word and decide what vowel is in the word and place it in the correct jar. 

Moon Rocks

Supplies:
Black beans (2-3 bags)
Glue
Glitter (I used silver)
Glow in the dark stars (Target)
Cardboard planets (from a kids meal at Arby's)
Space themed addition problems

Sensory Bins for big kids is a great gift idea to bring sensory activities to kids in kindergarten and older. Combine it with some letter, number and sight word practice for an extra educational boost!
To make the moon rocks, spread out the beans on a cookie sheet. Drizzle some glue over the top and sprinkle with glitter.  Mix around until all of the beans have been coated in glue. Let dry and then break apart the clumps. Add the other space decor. Leave like that and play by scooping and dumping.

To add an education twist, I created some space themed addition and subtraction practice. Each planet has a number on it and the challenge is to find the addition or subtraction problem that matches that number. I would focus on just a few at a time or maybe just addition at one time or subtraction at one time so it isn't too overwhelming for young learners.

Beans and Rocks

Supplies:
Pinto beans (2-3 bags)
River rocks (similar)
ABC Rocks (see tutorial)
Marbles
Plastic Dinosaurs
Plastic Trucks
Truck sight word cards
Sensory Bins for big kids is a great gift idea to bring sensory activities to kids in kindergarten and older. Combine it with some letter, number and sight word practice for an extra educational boost!
To assemble the dino dig, dump the beans, river rocks, dinosaurs and marbles together. Use the tweezers to pick up the dino eggs (marbles).
Sensory Bins for big kids is a great gift idea to bring sensory activities to kids in kindergarten and older. Combine it with some letter, number and sight word practice for an extra educational boost!
You could also use this bin as a truck themed activity. I made abc rocks (following our tutorial HERE) that I added to the above supplies. I found these cute truck cutouts at The Dollar Tree and wrote sight words on them. Then you just pick a truck and then dig to find the letters to spell that sight word. And then repeat! Also use the toy trucks for digging, scooping and filling.

Playdough

Supplies:
Flour
Salt
Cream of Tartar
Kool Aid
Vegetable Oil
Water
Playdough Cards
Sensory Bins for big kids is a great gift idea to bring sensory activities to kids in kindergarten and older. Combine it with some letter, number and sight word practice for an extra educational boost!
We followed THIS RECIPE for making the playdough.  It continues to be one of my favorites. It is easy and turns out perfect almost every time. There are a few times where I need to add a little bit more flour to get it to the right consistency but I really feel like the key is to just let it sit after it comes out of the microwave and you stir it. But you get bright colors and it smells so yummy!

Playdough is such a good way to strengthen the hand muscles of little learners who are writing more and need to hold a pencil for longer. They can just use the playdough for open ended play, but I like to throw in some laminated playdough cards that they can play with. Again, I used my Sight Word Mats  and printed them smaller so there were 6 per page. You just roll the playdough into "snakes" and then form the letters to practice spelling sight words.
Sensory Bins for big kids is a great gift idea to bring sensory activities to kids in kindergarten and older. Combine it with some letter, number and sight word practice for an extra educational boost!
To add some math practice in, I printed the shape playdough cards from my 2D/3D shapes centers. Now we can use playdough to try to create two dimensional and three dimensional shapes.

Salt Tray

Supplies:
Salt 
Small Cookie Tray
Rainbow design
Sight Word Cards
Sensory Bins for big kids is a great gift idea to bring sensory activities to kids in kindergarten and older. Combine it with some letter, number and sight word practice for an extra educational boost!
This is a super easy sensory activity to put together but it is really helpful for students to practice their handwriting. I printed a rainbow design out and laminated it and used magnetic tape to stick it to the tray. (Note the tray is inside the bigger sensory bin to help contain a salt mess.) Then cover the rainbow design with salt. Set out sight word cards. I used the sight word word wall cards from my Classroom Decor Polka Dot Brights version and printed them 2 sets to a page. Pick a sight word and then with a finger or a pencil (unsharpened probably works best), practice writing the letters in the salt and let the rainbow shine through.

This activity could be used for letter practice, names, vocab words, spelling words, math problems, etc. It is just another chance to practice letter and number formation in a fun way.

Putting it All Together

I got all of the above supplies to fit into our 41 qt under the bed bin. For this project, I needed to ship it so I packed it into two flat rate shipping boxes and had my aunt buy a bin instead of trying to ship it. My recommendation is to make this as a gift for people you will see in person. The supplies for sensory bins can get very heavy and it cost me almost as much in shipping as it did to buy the supplies.

I also like to make a vinyl label using my Silhouette Cameo machine to personalize the lid for the child who is getting the new sensory bin. Also, not pictured but I like to include items like measuring cups, funnels, tongs, tweezers, fine motor tools, etc. for open ended play with the materials. I also try to include a vinyl table cloth and directions for use since most people would open that and be like why did you give me a bunch of dried beans??? :-)
Sensory Bins for big kids is a great gift idea to bring sensory activities to kids in kindergarten and older. Combine it with some letter, number and sight word practice for an extra educational boost!

I hope this gives you some ideas on how to create your own sensory bin for the bigger kids in your life! Remember, it doesn't have to be just like that. These are just ideas. Check out my sensory play board on Pinterest for other ideas of fillers you could use.


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