Get ready for some awesome Valentine’s Day sensory play with this easy to make sensory bin. And the best part is that you can find everything you need at the dollar store! Sensory activities like this are always a big hit at our house and can be at your house, too.
A themed sensory bin is an awesome way to incorporate holidays and celebrations into the life of young children. So add this fun sensory bin to your Valentine’s Day activities!
Benefits of Sensory Play
Sensory bins may just seem like a mess waiting to happen for parents with young children. However, these bins are not only so much fun, but great for fine motor practice. Young children need opportunities to engage in messy play and practice pouring, scooping, squishing, and mixing.
A sensory activity is anything that engages a child’s senses, allowing them to experience the feel of different textures, various smells, and even possible tastes.
Fine motor skills are a major part of child development and a precursor for important functions like getting dressed, writing, and eating. Activities like this build the muscles of the wrist, hand and fingers as well as improve coordination and control.
Build Your Own Valentine’s Sensory Bin
First, you’ll need a container to make your sensory bin in. We like to use the bins that are larger but more shallow, but really any bin you already have at home can work. You can use a small container inside of a larger container to help contain the mess like we did as long as there’s enough room for your child to play.
Sensory Bin Filler
After you have your container, you’ll need a filler for your sensory bin. Choose something that’s easy make or buy, but that’s also safe for your child, especially if your child is still at the age where they put things in their mouth.
For our Valentine’s Day sensory bin, we chose to use red and pink rice. Starting with white rice, you can use red food coloring to create colored rice ranging from light pink to red, depending on how many drops of food coloring you use. Here’s the recipe we use.
We love to use rice as a sensory bin filler because rice is easy to pour and dig in for young children. The feel of the grains also provides tactile stimulation that children love. And for parents it’s easy to buy and clean up, and rice is safe if it accidentally ends up in someone’s mouth.
Valentine’s Day Add Ins
After you make your sensory bin filler, you’ll want to head to the dollar store to find some small Valentine theme objects. At the Dollar Tree, we found all kinds of fun, small items that are great ideas to add to a sensory bin including white and red pom poms, red heart gems, wooden hearts, and pink and red garland (that we cut into small pieces).
You can also try your local craft store! You want to look for valentine themed items (often labeled ‘vase fillers’) that are small enough to scoop and pour but also safe and age appropriate for your child.
Now, that my son is a little older, he also likes to add animals or characters into his sensory bins for pretend play. Even though this is a Valentine’s themed sensory bin, you can still make it to your child’s unique interests.
If you would rather order the supplies online, we suggest something like these heart rhinestones or pom poms. Please be aware that if you choose any of these small parts it can be a choking hazard to young children.
Sensory Bin Tools
Next, after you add the Valentines items to your sensory bin, you’ll need the sensory bin tools. You can also find some great tools like spoons, bowls, funnels, and scoopers at the dollar store. Or you can just use what you already have in your own house.
Look for tools that will allow children to scoop and pour such as varying sizes of spoons, shovels, or cups. Then, add in smaller containers to pour into such as bowls, pots, buckets, or cups.
A lot of items you can easily buy for pretty cheap. But first, check your own kitchen for some of these items or check your child’s play kitchen if they have one.
Using Your Sensory Bin & Helpful Tips
Sensory bins can be intimidating for parents and teachers because of the potential mess or just having to put them together. But we’re here to tell you that you can do it!
As far as putting sensory bin together, don’t stress about making the perfect themed bin. Yes, they’re nice to look at on Pinterest, but, really, your child would love to play in just a plain bin of rice with a few spoons and cups.
Often times the mess part of sensory bins is what holds parents back from doing them. However, messes are a part of the learning for young children and actually a benefit to their development through messy play. But don’t worry, there’s many ways to minimize that mess!
Minimize the Mess
First, we want you to know that you should just expect some level of mess, especially if your child is young or not used to using sensory bins. That’s why our best tip is to teach your child how to use sensory bins. While sensory bins are a type of free play, you can teach them, and we have a whole guide to help!
Another great way to help with the mess is take your sensory bin outside! This may not be an option for everyone, but, if you can, the clean up is much easier.
If you’re using your sensory bin inside, place your sensory bin in a larger container to catch anything that falls out. You can also put the container (or both) onto a bed sheet while your child is playing with it. When they’re finished, you just have to clean up the sheet.
Build Your Own Sensory Table
When my son got a little older, he preferred to stand while playing with his sensory bins, especially when we would bring the sensory bins outside. And when his little sister was born last year, we had to get the sensory bins off the floor more often.
Unfortunately, most sensory tables you can buy are pretty expensive. The cheaper and simple way to get a sensory table is to make your own from PVC pipes. Follow our complete, step-by-step guide here.
More Sensory Bin Ideas
Happy Valentine’s Day!