Sensory Bins for Babies - SmartMom

Stimulating Your Baby’s Mind: Sensory Bins for Babies

Summer’s here! You’ve probably got a list of all the supplies to make your summer with your little one memorable. Swim diapers, sunscreen, sun hat, and sandals. Summer is a great time for your baby to explore and learn. Your little one is developing their senses through experiences like swimming, playing in the grass, and eating watermelon! Here are some ways to ensure your summer is safe, stimulating, and a sensory experience your baby is certain to enjoy!

If you’re not a preschool teacher or a mommy blogger, perhaps you’re asking “what’s a sensory bin?” Think of it as a snack for your senses. It’s frequently a contained quantity of some material that engages your child’s senses. It is designed to be developmentally age appropriate for your child, perhaps seasonal, and frequently engages multiple senses including touch, smell, and sight. Because our brains learn from experience,  sensory bins are designed to equip your child to learn through experiencing various materials. Sand boxes, water tables, and finger paints all play off this same concept. However, with summer here, sensory bins are a great way to engage your child’s mind in a exciting, convenient, and contained (usually) manner.

Bring back the kiddie pool.

I have fond memories of a bright blue kiddie pool on the concrete porch of my childhood home just outside of St. Paul, Minnesota. It may have only been warm enough to pull it out one month of the year, however, the memories of splashing in the pool of water lasted all year long. Consider helping your baby transition into the water by first allowing him/her to play with the water outside of the pool with cups or bath toys. You know your baby best, but if he/she doesn’t love it the first time, be patient. You may even try putting bubbles in your kiddie pool. Temperature, touch, and sometimes taste are all activated in the kiddie pool, so it’s a great sensory activity but initially it can also be overwhelming for your baby.

Capture those memories.

With smartphones hugging the hip of nearly every mom, capturing summer memories has never been easier. Your baby will enjoy looking through pictures of themselves and family members perhaps visiting over the summer months. Print your favorites through services like Snapfish or Shutterfly and insert into these adorable picture blocks by One Step Ahead. These blocks engage your baby’s sense of touch and sight. Additionally, they are a great way to foster conversation about family members and summer memories.

Get your toes in the sand.

SmartMoms, never fear, oatmeal or cornmeal ‘sand’ boxes can serve your little one just as well when it comes to fostering sensory experiences. Oatmeal is a great substitute and rarely causes allergic reactions for little ones. Also, eating dry oatmeal isn’t earth-shattering. However, depending on the age of your baby, be sure to supervise the oatmeal box to prevent your baby from choking. These sandboxes provide babies with a rich sensory experience integrating touch and texture. In fact, sandboxes have a rich history that dates back to the mid-1800s and were previously called sand gardens or sand tables. The founder of kindergarten, Friedrich Froebel, developed the sandbox after having received a recommendation from one of his friends. Sandboxes have been a hallmark of early education for nearly 170 years!

Each activity mentioned can be integrated into a bin for easier storage of the blocks and sand. Incorporating sensory bins adds an element of excitement, especially for toddlers as they develop an association with the sensory bin and fun, new experiences! As your baby continues to grow and explore, consider some of the sensory bin ideas mentioned here on Growing a Jeweled Rose, a site with tons of enriching activities for all ages. In addition, at mealtimes, be certain to utilize some of the suggestions from SmartMom’s previous post on “How to Develop a Brilliant Baby” to enhance your baby’s sense of taste with some of summer’s finest flavors (sweet corn, strawberries, watermelon). Engaging your little one in sensory experiences doesn’t require much planning or expense, just a little thought and intentionality. This summer, be certain not to miss the senses of summer and enjoy introducing your baby to summer’s best!

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About Melissa Elchison

Melissa Elchison is currently pursuing her clinical fellowship as a speech and language pathologist. Previously, she studied education and was an early childhood researcher at The Ohio State University and University of Cincinnati. She enjoys barre classes, traveling with her husband, and trying new recipes.