Welcome to day two of my learning through play series. Yesterday, I wrote about what learning through play really looks like, and how to encourage it. Today, I’ll share with you a 180 degree change that I went through concerning sensory bins.
I’ve spent the last year fighting an internal battle with all of the cute sensory bins I see on Pinterest.
No, you can’t.
But they’re pure learning fun!
They just don’t fit into a Charlotte Mason home.
After learning about object lessons, I realized that I needed more of these in our preschool at home. Charlotte Mason recommended that young children observe- closely observe with all of their senses- about 50 objects a day. 50 objects? How does a mama think to draw their little one’s attention to 50 different things a day? That’s when I realized that all of those sensory bins that I see online, filled with rice and plastic figurines, can be adapted to fit into a Charlotte Mason home.
Letters, book parcels, an apple, an orange, a vegetable marrow, fifty things in the course of the day, give opportunity for this kind of object teaching…” Parents and Children, page 184
A Multi-Sensory Bin
For Charlotte Mason inspired sensory bins, I decided that I wouldn’t buy any special items for them. (That makes it easy, right?) If the whole point of targeted observation is to get to know the world around them, I didn’t want to introduce any items that aren’t usually in their environment. Next, I decided that I wanted to include objects that appealed to all of the senses, not just sight and touch. I want to get my children into the habit of using all of their senses, so I’ll need to give them opportunities to use them all. The hardest sense to integrate is taste: we are still working with Baby E to not put things in his mouth, so this is a fine line to walk. I also decided to have a theme. This helps to make the bins more visually appealing and less random. The themes I thought of are different than you’ll find on Pinterest (more on themes below!)
Obviously, be careful about which objects touch each other if you’re going to encourage exploring the sense of taste!
What’s the Point?
Before realizing that these could be adapted for a Charlotte Mason home, I remember seeing sensory bins and thinking, “That looks like a huge hassle, and a huge mess!” But, it turns out that sensory bins have a a lot of benefits.
- Encourage creative play
- Engage the senses
- Allows children to practice fine and gross motor skills
- Teaches children the properties of different materials (soft, hard, fragile, etc.)
- Helps your child have a better understanding of the world around them
I used a pretty cake plate to hold Valentine’s day items from our kitchen. You can adapt this for any season- I just happen to have a lot of heart shaped cookie cutters and silicone baking cups (that I never use- not even once a year! The kids just love playing with them!) Here’s what it entailed:
- Foil cupcake wrapper (sight/touch/sound)
- A container of pink sprinkles (sight/taste/sound/smell)
- Marshmallows (sight/taste/smell/touch)
- Heart-shaped cookie cutters (sight/touch)
- Heart-shaped silicone baking liners (sight/touch)
- Spatuala to play
My two little ones LOVED this! Baby E was more interested than I would have thought. He touched all of the items, and after the pink sprinkles were dumped on the bottom of the cake plate, he “painted” with them, pushing them around to make designs. Miss H was just as interested. She was very into tasting the marshmallows and sprinkles! When she tried to describe the foil cupcake wrapper to me, she needed help with the word, “ridges.” This is exactly like Charlote Mason described. She asked for help explaining something new, and I offered a new word.
- Bowl (sight/touch)
- A roll of tape (sight/touch)
- Cheerios (touch/smell)
- A circular jar for the Cheerios (sight/touch/sound when the Cheerios are in them and you shake it up!)
- Cotton balls with a drop of vanilla, almond extract, etc. (sight/touch/smell)
- A rolling pin (sight/touch)
- Rubber bands (sight/touch/and they smell kind of funny!)
This one is great for those days when it’s too cold to go outside and observe!
- Pine cones (sight/touch)
- A small pine branch (sight/touch/smell)
- Instant snow that we just happened to have around! (sight/touch). I keep Insta-snow away from anything my children will put in their mouths. It says it’s non-toxic on the package, but it is too mysterious.
- Scraps of wool or a cozy mitten (sight/touch)
- Cinnamon sticks (sight/touch/smell/taste)
- Hot cocoa powder, sprinkled on the bottom of a cake plate. This is also fun for writing letters and numbers! Of course, I’m always extra cautious with powdery things like this so they don’t get airborne and inhaled! (sight/touch/taste/smell)
- Marshmallows (sight/touch/taste/smell)
- Plastic cups (sight/touch)
- Spoons (sight, touch, and sound when stirring with it!)
- Cinnamon sticks (touch/smell)
Rainbow Food Plate
Make a snack platter of fruits and vegetables in all of the colors of the rainbow. Before your child digs in, ask them to observe the foods. Since Miss H is almost four, I gave her a plastic knife to cut the fruit. This allows her to observe in a different way, and practice fine and gross motor skills. Encourage your child to listen to the crunch that the fruit or vegetable makes when it is being sliced, and the sound the knife makes when it hits the cutting board.
Fill a bin or bowl with items of similar colors. Include things that appeal to all the senses.
This would be good for a rainy day in the spring or summer! Otherwise, just take your child outside 🙂
- Dirt or rocks (touch/sight/smell)
- Flowers. Just a little side note: Charlotte Mason doesn’t recommend dissecting flowers (touch/sight/smell)
- Garden tools (touch/sight)
- Edible seeds (sunflower seeds, maybe?)
- Small flower pots or buckets (you can put the seeds in here so they don’t get gross next to the dirt or rocks!) (sight/touch)
Tomorrow in this five day series on play, I’ll be addressing what to do when you don’t like to play with your kids.