Saturday, March 8, 2014

Simple Saint Patrick's Day Sensory Bin

We wanted to create another Saint Patrick's Day sensory bin and we have been playing with the sensory salt so much lately I thought it might be nice to take a break and use a different sensory material. I honestly wasn't sure how my son would react, as he is seriously in love with the sensory salt, and had the salt nearby in case I needed to switch it out. However, I am happy to report that this sensory bin went over quite well! 

We have not used dried beans in a while, so this was the perfect opportunity! If you have never used green split peas in a sensory bin before, I strongly recommend it! They feel amazing when you play in them. My kids had so much fun digging their hands into them and pouring them over their hands and arms. My daughter even asked if she could take a bath in them. Yeah, that's how cool they feel. They have a really great texture and are just so much fun to play with. I know these aren't getting put away anytime soon now. And if you have a toddler, they would probably love sitting in a bin filled with them (my kids usually end up sitting in all of their sensory bins - though not this one because it was in a glass pan). Wide sensory bins that are about a foot high work best for toddlers who want to sit in their sensory bins. It's a great way for them to explore with both their feet and hands (just don't leave them alone and keep a close eye on them, as you don't want them to have an accident or put anything in their mouth). 

To create your own Saint Patrick's Day sensory bin, you just need one or more bags of green split peas (we used two 16 oz bags in a 9"x12" glass pan) and some themed items. We included a green scoop, gold coins and shamrocks that the kids cut up from their Shamrock Play Dough activity. I set up the tray the night before, so this was a surprise for them in the morning. 

I had placed all the gold coins and shamrocks at the bottom of the pan and poured the green split peas over them. Then I placed the scoop on top, covered the pan (because this would be a play ground for the cats) and presented it to the kids in the morning.

They reached right in to feel the peas and quickly uncovered some gold coins!

The gold coins went so well with the split peas. They could be easily hidden and uncovered. They were fun to place standing up in the peas and they even made a few split pea sandwiches.

Because the kids are usually interested in what goes into their sensory bins, they were surprised when I told them that these were peas (like I said, it's been too long since we last played with dried peas). They didn't look like the peas they eat at dinner. So I explained to them about how some foods are dried to preserve them. Bean was intrigued and wanted to know more, so we did a quick Google search while Munchkin dug into the sensory bin. This is one reason why I love having the internet at my fingertips - because sometimes kids have questions that I don't have all the answers to. We looked at pictures of green pea plants on Google and I read about how they are grown and harvested. This led to talking about gardens and farming and Bean declared that she wanted to grow peas. Sadly, what with all the snow outside, we can't yet, but it is certainly on our to-do list this spring!

After we were finished looking up peas, Bean went back to playing in the bin and asked if we could count them. I kind of laughed and really hoped she wasn't talking about the split peas (but hey, if that's what she wants to do...), but luckily she was talking about the gold coins (phew, we'd have been at it all day). Munchkin had removed most of them from the bin, so she put them back in, mixed them up and then began finding them again and counted each one as it was discovered. I pulled out some of our laminated number cards (each number has empty squares next to it so you can see what 1, 2, 3, etc looks like) and she filled up each sheet (1-10). We only have a set of 24 coins, so she ended up having to use some of the shamrocks too.

The shamrocks were a fun addition and Munchkin used them to create his own little garden. :)

We set up the sensory bin again the next morning and added in a few extra things: an orange measuring spoon, two white funnels, and a clear toob. This provided them with some fine motor play that kept them busy for over an hour. They absolutely love pouring stuff into the funnels and seeing it come out below. The clear tube was especially fun because they were able to see the split peas through the entire way.

Another scoop was required so they could each have one. So much scooping and pouring!

Munchkin pulled a school bus out of his pocket and added it to the sensory bin so he could bury it. :)

I had chosen these items so they represented a colour from the Irish flag, since we are learning about Irish culture, their heritage and Saint Patrick's Day this past week and until the 17th (and then back to our normal schedule).

We will be sharing more Irish and Saint Patrick's Day themed activities over the next few days. 

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