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The Sensory Bin, A Love Story

I know what you’re thinking already. Not another crazy mom preaching about the magic of a plastic bucket full of rice. Well you’re right--I am one of those people. I love the sensory bin so much that I own a tower of different sized buckets and an embarrassing number of plastic tables. I have a shelf dedicated to tiny, messy, nonsense for my children to dig through. And I love it, so let me tell you why.

If you’ve scoured any array of mom-grams in the middle of the night than you know the “educational” benefits of sensory play. It can help with fine motor control, language development, problem solving, and cognitive growth. These are important things to remember when your partner walks into the room and sees beans all over the floor while mom is sitting on the couch staring at her phone. Ask your husband why he has a problem with supporting your child’s brain development and he will quietly back out of the room. Of course, none of these reasons are why I got sucked into sensory bins. I just wanted to stare at my phone and sit on the couch. Or drink my coffee while it was still hot. Or not be forced into another play scenario with my daughter who always makes me be Anna and never lets me be Elsa. So one day I got a little nuts and dumped a pile of dried beans in a baby pool and there was no looking back.

Now that you know why I live that bin life, let me tell you how you can join the party.

Step 1. Find a bin. I prefer a bin on the floor with low sides so even the smallest of children can really dig in. Note that a bin sitting on the ground will result in less things falling out and onto the floor. It also increases the likelihood that your child will climb inside of it. Pick your battles.

Step 2. Choose a filler. The most popular options are dried beans, rice, rolled oats, and water. When you’re feeling confident, you can start dyeing things different colors or mixing items together. If you’re one of those people who hates waste, I hear you. I’ve had the same Ziploc bags of rice and beans for three years and that’s an investment I’m willing to make.

Step 3. Pick add-ons. These can be as simple as scoops and cups. I like to add a figurine or two. If you’re fancy, people make themed bins on the internet you can buy. They’re adorable and I envy them. You can also buy holiday junk from the dollar store and make your own. I’m not that fancy, but if you’ll remember, it’s because I’m trying to sit on the couch and stare at my phone.

Step 4. Go over the rules. You throw the contents on the floor, I take the bin away. You put the contents in your mouth, I take the bin away. You don’t help clean up when we’re done, you don’t get the bin back in the future. I started this when my kid was eight months old. They will test you, but stay diligent, Mama. Just remember the promise of sitting and phone time that awaits you. Bonus points if you have a dog or Roomba who will help in the clean up process.

Have I convinced you yet? I hope so. I look forward to seeing all the memes you now have time to send me while your child sits across the room making a mess and working on their cognitive brain development.

Our popular bin fillers:

Beans, water, rice, dried pasta, cooked pasta, shaving cream, sprinkles, pony beads, perler beads, playdough, inside of a pumpkin (seeds and all), rolled oats (pro tip: add sprinkles), foam bubbles (bubbles you make in the blender with dish soap), cloud dough (google it), sand, kinetic sand, easter eggs, potting soil, paint, ice, dyed water, mini erasers, rocks, sea shells, water beads (try freezing them), corn kernels.

Popular add-ons:

Measuring cups and spoons, old yogurt cups, scoops, syringes, droppers, race cars, frozen fruits, ice cubes, liquid watercolors, animal figurines, busy book figurines, baby dolls, muffin tins, easter eggs.